Return of Tampa 2 excites Bucs' Gerald McCoy

Gerald McCoy, right, taking down Bills quarterback EJ Manuel for one of his 91/2 sacks last season, hopes to play the role of Warren Sapp in the Bucs’ Tampa 2.
Gerald McCoy, right, taking down Bills quarterback EJ Manuel for one of his 91/2 sacks last season, hopes to play the role of Warren Sapp in the Bucs’ Tampa 2.
Published April 16, 2014

TAMPA — The uniform design is contemporary. Some players still need directions to One Buc Place, and the coaching staff is new.

But as disruptive as the changes might be, the Bucs and tackle Gerald McCoy hope a nostalgic return to the Tampa 2 will create more havoc on defense.

"It's definitely going to be different," McCoy said. "We're playing the old-school, traditional Tampa 2 defense, and all we've been watching is old Chicago tape when (new Bucs coach Lovie Smith) was there. When (the Bucs) were in their prime, from 1996 to 2002, we've been watching all that tape because that's when the Tampa 2 was really thriving and took over the league. I'm excited about it."

Smith, who began his NFL career as a linebackers coach with the Bucs in 1996, carried the scheme to the Rams as defensive coordinator and Bears as coach.

In their second week of the offseason training program, players have spent many hours watching the vintage Bucs defense as a visual aide of the dominance they hope to create.

"The first day, before we even stretched or anything, I pulled the defense to the side and told them, 'We have to have a different type of mind-set if this team is going to get to where we want to be,' " McCoy said. "The Buccaneers teams of the past were known for their great defense. We have to do the same thing."

From the moment he became the third overall pick in 2010, McCoy has drawn comparisons to Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp. McCoy earned consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl and was named All-Pro after recording a team-best 91/2 sacks last season.

But until now, McCoy has not played in the identical scheme as Sapp, which he has wanted to do since coming to Tampa Bay.

"The undertackle is the guy," McCoy said. "He's the piston that drives the engine.

"I'm a get-off-the-ball, get-upfield and hit-anything-moving type of guy. That's kind of what they want me to do. Now I just have to perfect it.''

McCoy has some pieces to work with. Linebacker Lavonte David was an All-Pro last season. And the Bucs signed end Michael Johnson, a Simeon Rice clone in body type and pass rush potential.

McCoy said of the old Tampa 2 Bucs: "It wasn't just the talent, their relentless effort. You could see how they played together. There wasn't a selfish attitude by anybody. They were fearless and put fear in everybody else, and they just were relentless."

McCoy said there is much more the defense can accomplish.

"I haven't been a defensive player of the year," McCoy said. "I've never played in a playoff game. I haven't been to a Super Bowl. My defense hasn't finished in the top five. There is so much more that I can do, not personally, but just helping my team go to the next level."

NO CHANGE: New Bucs starting quarterback Josh McCown met some of the quarterback draft prospects who visited One Buc Place last week. He said even if one is taken at No. 7, his approach to the season won't change.

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"My focus is whether it's me or Mike Glennon or Mike Kafka or somebody else for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterbacks to play good football and to help their team win football games," he said. "That wouldn't change."

Last week, the Bucs brought in Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel. Fresno State's Derek Carr is scheduled to visit this week. McCown was in the same rookie quarterback class as Carr's brother, David, in 2002.

COMING ALONG: Five months after a promising rookie season ended with a broken left ankle, running back Mike James said he's pleased with his recovery and is running and cutting.

"The healing process is going well," James said. "I've got a good opportunity to do what I need to do to get back in the swing of things and get acclimated with everything."

Asked if he has been cleared to participate in the first minicamp (April 22-24), James said the team is still "taking everything day by day." His focus is on getting back to full strength and full speed.

He said the injury is a risk that comes with football.

"It's the game," he said. "It's a tough game, a brutal game. We all know what it's for when we sign up, and we take it in stride."