Bucs will begin to unveil new offensive scheme in preseason opener

Jeff Tedford, 52, is in his first season as the Bucs’ offensive coordinator, after two decades as a college coach.
Jeff Tedford, 52, is in his first season as the Bucs’ offensive coordinator, after two decades as a college coach.
Published Aug. 8, 2014

JACKSONVILLE — Bucs offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford will call plays tonight from the coaches' box high atop EverBank Field. But his vantage point will be different in other ways.

The former University of California head coach hasn't been a part of a pro football game since 1991, when he was an offensive assistant for the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League. Much is known about Tedford, who produced many NFL quarterbacks with the Golden Bears. But less is known about the kind of offensive scheme he will begin to unveil in the preseason opener.

"There's a lot of things to like," backup quarterback Mike Glennon said. "We really mix it up. We do a lot of different things. We get the ball in playmakers' hands and let them do their thing, and that's what I like about it. The ball is out of (the quarterback's) hands quick, and we're letting the playmakers do what they can."

Coach Lovie Smith has said the Bucs will be fairly vanilla offensively in the first two preseason games. They don't game plan for an opponent until the third preseason game Aug. 23 at Buffalo. Most of the offense has been installed and the Bucs have to run a version of it. But some of the up-tempo and matchup-specific components will be held back for the regular season.

"There's 15 to 20 percent that's more game-plan oriented that we haven't gotten to yet because they really have consumed a lot of information in a short amount of time," Tedford, 52, said. "So now it's time to get back to basics a little bit. They understand the concepts and now we can move onto game planning as we get into the season.

"It will be nice, it always is, to go in, hit new bodies and execute against different people. It will be pretty exciting."

Perhaps no player is as excited as quarterback Josh McCown, who enters the preseason as an NFL starter for the first time in a decade. McCown and the first-team offense will play no longer than the first quarter, Smith said.

"They're painting the field, turning on the lights and we're putting on jerseys, so it's special," McCown said. "And to go out there the first time with these guys … it's special and it's humbling and it'll never, ever get old. It will be fun to watch all those guys play, but especially our higher picks that we expect to contribute early."

Rookie receiver Mike Evans and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins figure to play prominent roles this season. But getting rid of the first-game jitters might be as important as making plays against the Jaguars.

"I was so nervous, man. I didn't want to mess up," second-year defensive tackle Akeem Spence said of his preseason debut. "I didn't want to jump offsides. I didn't want to mess up any calls. My brain was nerve-racking. But as I got to playing, running around and making plays, I got more comfortable, and by about game three, I felt real good what I was doing. If you mess up, do it at 100 percent."

So what exactly can fans expect from Tedford's offense tonight? Quarterbacks will get rid of the football quickly. There will be a lot of spread formations, receiver screens, passes in the flat to running backs and plenty of play action. Running backs and tight ends will be a big focal point of the passing game.

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"In this system, you definitely need to be versatile in your game, whether it's pass catching or pass blocking, running the ball inside and out," running back Doug Martin said. "So you have to be very diverse as a running back to be in this offense."

The game also will be good for evaluation, especially the offensive line where Jamon Meredith, Oniel Cousins, Kadeem Edwards and Patrick Omameh will battle for two spots.

"There's time," Tedford said. "We've been practicing but now we're ready to go into our preseason games. Game time is when people really need to step up. I'm really anxious to see guys step up in the preseason."