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Pro Football

Bucs issues

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Published:   |   Updated: March 23, 2013 at 04:33 AM

Coach Raheem Morris

The Bucs are taking a chance handing the reigns to a 32-year-old former secondary coach with six years of NFL experience. The Glazers are going with their gut on this one. What kind of game-day coach will Morris be?

Can he get his message through to 53 players the way he did to the eight he dealt with as defensive backs coach? Morris has hired experienced and mostly successful coordinators in Jim Bates (defense) and Jeff Jagodzinski (offense). He's off to a good start. But can he maintain the momentum?

A new offense

Jeff Jagodzinski's offense is much less complicated, and therefore easier to learn, than former coach Jon Gruden's. That's noteworthy because one of the things that kept Gruden's teams from capitalizing offensively was an inability to quickly plug new players into the scheme. Jagodzinski's offense is player-friendly and puts a greater emphasis on running the ball, which figures to be a team strength. The concerns are the young offensive linemen adapting to the zone-blocking scheme Jagodzinski has installed and finding a capable quarterback among Luke McCown, Byron Leftwich and rookie Josh Freeman.

New leadership

Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn and Jeff Garcia are gone. Fact of the matter is, the Bucs might miss them more in the locker room than on the field.

Those guys were leaders and will not quickly be replaced.

Leaders usually emerge over time, so the Bucs can only hope players such as Barrett Ruud, Chris Hovan and Earnest Graham have earned the kind of respect that makes players look up to them and follow their lead.

A couple of members of the old guard such as Ronde Barber, Jermaine Phillips and Jeff Faine remain, but if the Bucs are going to make a successful run this season, new leaders will have to emerge from a new group of game-day regulars.

A new defense

The Bucs began weaning themselves off former coordinator Monte Kiffin's famous Tampa 2 scheme even before Kiffin left last year for the University of Tennessee. As a result, the change to Jim Bates' blitz-heavy, man-to-man coverage scheme won't come as much of a shock to the players' systems. But the personnel remains best-suited for a Tampa 2 style of play. Bates' job is to squeeze a lot of square pegs into round holes, particularly at defensive tackle and cornerback. If Bates can make the right fits, the pass rush should improve and the transition should go smoothly. If not, a Bucs defense long among the league's stingiest could become a glaring weakness.

The fan base

Time was, heat, humidity and crowd noise gave the Bucs a huge edge in home games at Raymond James Stadium. The heat and humidity will be back this season, but what about the crowd noise? Though every game sold out last year, attendance was clearly down. The Bucs face the possibility of not selling out some games and having them blacked out on local TV. Enthusiasm for the Bucs is still high, but a slow start and the prospect of a disappointing season could quell it to the point the Bucs can no longer count on their fans to help make opponents miserable.

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