Bucs' Schiano eager to see Patriots, even if they're too familiar

Head coach Greg Schiano watches practice Monday, the final day of camp in Tampa.
Head coach Greg Schiano watches practice Monday, the final day of camp in Tampa.
Published Aug. 13, 2013

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Temperatures are expected to be in the 70s and refreshing for the Buccaneers during the next three days when they practice against the Patriots before the teams meet Friday in a preseason game.

But it will be difficult for their defense to feel too comfortable against New England quarterback Tom Brady once his arm gets warmed up.

And Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano is counting on it.

"I think he's one of the most accurate passers out there, so unless you have perfect coverage, it's getting in there," Schiano said. "I think that's something that will be really good for our secondary. We're not going to be tackling, it's not going to (be) a fierce pass rush on him in practice. So it'll be really challenging, which is exactly what we need right now."

Tampa Bay, last in the NFL in pass defense a year ago, got a sampling of that when the Patriots worked out at One Buc Place before their preseason game at Raymond James Stadium last August.

Schiano has a friendship with Bill Belichick that dates to when he coached the Patriots coach's son, Stephen, at Rutgers.

Perhaps that's why, though the teams meet again in the regular season Sept. 22 at New England, they are taking the unusual step of conducting joint practices again this year.

"Certainly, we'll be guarded with things and so will they, right?" Schiano said. "We're just trying to get better. They're trying to get better. That part of it, that's the big advantage.

"What we do up there, what they do and what we do Friday night and what they do, it'll be some of the same things we do against them in the (regular) season. But there will be a lot of different things as well. I think some of that may be overrated at times."

The benefits, such as measuring the progress of a rebuilt secondary against a three-time Super Bowl champion quarterback, are invaluable to the Bucs.

"To practice against them is really good because Tom Brady is the best at what he does," said Bucs linebacker Jonathan Casillas, who worked in practice against Brady and Belichick while with the Saints. "Going against him, the rhythm he has, the precision he has, is only going to make us better."

Defensively, the Patriots present a different scheme and collection of players than the Bucs see every day in practice. New England is still anchored by hulking 350-pound tackle Vince Wilfork. But because the practices will be coordinated and no tackling to the ground will be permitted, there is reduced fear of an injury.

"Doug Martin can run the ball against a really good defensive front but not have to be slammed into the ground," Schiano said. "So we get seven-eighths of a real play for Doug and that's just one example, right? So to be able to go against that kind of speed in a different team for three days, that's all good."

Guard Carl Nicks, who missed nine games last season after a foot injury, will participate in workouts and said he expects to see action in about 10 plays Friday. Guard Davin Joseph, however, did not accompany the team to Foxborough and remained home to work on strength training. Joseph suffered a torn patellar tendon in a preseason game against the Patriots a year ago.

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"I do happen to agree with a lot of the things they do so it's great to be able to have a guy who has been through it and experienced a lot of things to bounce things off sometimes, that's certainly a huge asset for me and an opportunity for me," Schiano said.

Between breaks during the three-day workouts, Schiano said he will get Belichick's evaluation of some Bucs players.

"Personnel really. 'What did you think of that guy? What did you think of that guy?' " Schiano said "That's really where you discuss most."

But by far, the biggest task will be seeing of the defense can keep its cool against Brady.

"As I've said, we've gotten our hands on more balls this summer, in the 13 or 14 practices we've had, than we did maybe since we've been here," Schiano said. "We had two tipped balls Thursday night (against the Ravens), those (have) got to be takeaways. But I like to complain about not catching the tipped balls. At least we're tipping them now and we weren't before so we've just got to keep doing that."