Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano first broke into the college coaching ranks as a secondary coach at Penn State and has always considered that end of the field to be his area of expertise.
That’s why it pained him to have the worst pass defense in the league last year and pained him even more to watch the breakdowns all over again while evaluating the Bucs 2012 season.
Schiano was eventually glad to have suffered through the pain, though, because his research revealed that there was a lot more to the Bucs porous pass defense than an inexperienced and leaky secondary.
“It was a combination of personnel, scheme, coaching, luck - it all came into play,’’ Schiano said of a unit that allowed quarterbacks to complete 65.4-percent of their passes and throw for 297.4 yards per game in 2012.
“And as a coaching staff what you have to do is keep tweaking it in each area until it all starts to jell. It did start to jell in some areas (near the end of last year), but in other areas it didn't.’’
One area that never did quite jell was the pass rush. The Bucs finished 2012 with 27 sacks, which tied for 30th in the league in that category, and Schiano says that figure was the result of a combination of factors as well.
“Sacks come as a combination of coverage and rush and we needed to cover a little longer to help the guys up front (secure the sacks),’’ Schianoo said. “That was part of it.
“Another part was we lost (right DE Adrian Clayborn to a knee injury) early in the year, and so we were trying to get whatever the best combination of personnel was. And then of course we missed some sacks, too.
“We had some opportunities where we just didn’t get the quarterback on the ground. So you add all that up and … we certainly could have been much better in that area.
Now, if we do all those things better are we going to be the top sack team in the league? No. But it’s all a part of that pass defense component, and we have to get better at that, that’s obvious.’’
The Bucs made their biggest splash ever in free agency a year when they signed WR Vincent Jackson, G Carl Nicks and CB Eric Wright all on the first day of the signing period.
Anyone expecting an encore performance of that nature this year may be disappointed. Though the Bucs currently have $30.1 million worth of salary cap space to work with, they pool of talent isn’t as deep as it was a year ago.
“In general that was the biggest free agent class that ever hit the market,’’ Bucs GM Mark Dominik said. “This class isn’t that size. “It’s not the same overall class that it was last year.
“There are some really talented players in free agency, but there are 31 other clubs that may want them and one that already has them so it’s going to be difficult (to match last year’s take).’’
Thank you, sir
During his introductory press conference last year, Schiano thanked a lot of people for the opportunity he was given to coach the Bucs but he left one very important person off the list.
Schiano made up for that this week at the NFL scouting combine when he thanked former Oregon and current Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly, who was offered the Bucs job before Schiano and turned it down.
“I have to say thank you to Chip, because had Chip not decided to do what he did last year I wouldn’t be standing here right now,’’ Schiano said. “I’m happy for Chip. He’s going to do a great job.’’