Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano has more talent, depth to work with

Published June 16, 2012


That's a wrap.

One of the craziest Bucs offseasons in memory is in the books. With last week's minicamp concluded, the next time you see players on the practice fields at One Buc Place it'll be training camp and the season will be fast approaching.

So, now that this offseason of far-reaching change has ended, it's a good time to take stock of what we've learned about the 2012 Bucs.

There's simply more talent on the roster

Not to be obvious, but this clearly is an improved team. Say what you want about former coach Raheem Morris, who certainly shoulders much of the blame for last season, but the 2011 roster had significantly less talent and depth.

The importance of upgrades and additions at receiver (Vincent Jackson), running back (Doug Martin), offensive line (Carl Nicks) and in the secondary (Eric Wright, Mark Barron) can't be overstated.

There's also competition in areas that were paper thin in 2011 (linebacker, defensive tackle). The team was long overdue for an infusion of talent, and finally, it has arrived.

Players on board with new coach

If you wondered how coach Greg Schiano's hard-line, disciplinarian approach would go over, a number of examples provide the answer.

For one, consider the consistently impressive attendance at offseason workouts, from rookies to veterans. Look at the effort level during offseason practices, which have been run with training camp intensity.

Players are already parroting some of Schiano's oft-used refrains with total agreement.

"Coach Schiano says the sooner we buy in, the sooner we'll win," defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said, repeating one of the coach's popular lines.

Vincent Jackson can be a star

The eight-year veteran got the biggest contract of any free agent receiver on the market in the spring. Watching his fluid routes and sure hands in practice tells you why. Those who don't know Jackson well probably consider him mostly a deep threat, but he has had success running a variety of routes, short and intermediate.

What he has shown strongly suggests he will be quarterback Josh Freeman's No. 1 target by a long shot. Meanwhile, third-year receiver Mike Williams should be a beneficiary of the attention Jackson will command from defenses. But that has not been as obvious in practices since Williams, because of the way the team's offense and defense are structured, often has been matched up with cornerback Aqib Talib, the top cover man.

There's room for two at running back

The decision to draft Martin, while in part driven by the fact LeGarrette Blount has weaknesses, is just as much about the team's devotion to the running game as anything else. In other words, Martin's arrival doesn't have to be detrimental to Blount. There's clearly going to be a role for both.

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In fact, the presence of the two backs allows coaches the flexibility to use each in situations that ideally suit their skill sets. Whereas Martin is seen as a good option on passing downs, using Blount on first and 10 or in clock-eating situations is appealing.

"(Schiano) loves to run the football," Blount said. "He stresses that. I don't know how (the carries) are going to be divided, but I feel like everybody's going to have their chance to get their carries."

Different schemes on both sides of the ball

Schiano said the team has installed 85-90 percent of its offensive and defensive packages, with the rest to be dealt with early in training camp.

What will they look like? There have been hints. For as much as Schiano has stressed the intent to run the ball, the team has worked extensively on the passing game, and it seems there will be a fair number of downfield throws. There will also be perimeter runs on tosses from the quarterback, likely an effort to take advantage of the increased speed in the backfield. That's largely a new element for this offense.

On defense, the Bucs will show a lot of variety. During minicamp, they worked extensively on a dime package, not historically a staple in Tampa Bay. There will also be a mixture of fronts used, including one where linebacker Dekoda Watson is down in a three-point stance as an edge rusher.

One constant: Sixteen-year veteran Ronde Barber, though he's now playing safety, will roam on third downs, continuing to do what he does best.