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Martin Fennelly Columns

Fennelly: Dungy says Bucs building defense backward

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Published:   |   Updated: August 28, 2013 at 01:46 PM

TAMPA — It's hard not to appreciate what Darrelle Revis could bring to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' secondary, simply the worst in the NFL last season.

But how much difference can he make without a pass rush?

Only so much of one, if you ask me.

Better yet, ask Tony Dungy,

The architect of the Tampa 2 defense, who laid the groundwork for real Bucs history, who won a Super Bowl with Indianapolis, is here to tell you: It's kind of backward, building a defense from back to the front, rather than front to back.

“I don't think you can do it that way with the rules the way they are,” Dungy said. “Having good corners and all that helps, but I don't know you're going have many Hall of Fame corners who didn't have good rushers in front of them.”

Dungy talked about it one day while discussing Warren Sapp's Hall of Fame credentials. Dungy said the great Bucs defenses, even with Hall candidates John Lynch and Ronde Barber, began up front. He won't get an argument.

“We all started looking real good when you put Sapp and them up front,” Lynch has said.

Dungy has nothing against Revis and his towering skill set, or against Bucs coach Greg Schiano. Still, the Bucs' plan ...

“I guess their thought is they'll get more with more coverage,” Dungy said. “But to me, it starts with the rush. You have to disrupt the quarterback. It did for us.”

That brings us to the Bucs' pass rush, which has disrupted little for years. As good as the Bucs were against the rush in 2012, No. 1, in fact, they had just 27 sacks last season. The defense hasn't had a 30-sack season in five years.

“I'm hoping it works, but it will only work if those guys can create pressure,” Dungy said. “They must have faith in them.”

Warren Sapp is on board.

“It's still going down to those guys up front,” Sapp said a while back. “I happen to believe in those guys ... (Gerald) McCoy, (Adrian) Clayborn ... I think they'll get there.”

Dungy played in the secondary for the iconic '70s Steelers defenses ... Hall of Fame linebackers Jack Hamm and Jack Lambert, Hall of Fame cornerback Mel Blount ...

“It was still about Joe Greene and those guys up front,” Dungy said.

A pass rush, in the modern-day NFL, beats a lock-down secondary any day, because the nature of the game, and how it's called, has changed.

“I just look at (the Colts),” Dungy said. “When we were on offense, we never thought, 'Oh, if Darrelle Revis is covering Marvin Harrison,” or “If Champ Bailey is covering Marvin Harrison.' If we had time enough to throw … someone was going to get open.”

“The rules have changed. I always talk to (Lynn) Swann and (John) Stallworth … they say let me play now, where they can touch me only once. ... Back then, those were shut-down corner, no rules, you could do whatever you wanted, you could just kill guys until the ball was in the air, Willie Brown, and Mel Blount, big, physical guys. … Then the league went to one bump, then one bump inside of 5 yards, then calling it closely …”

And Dungy had this thought in passing:

“So you pay Revis and (Dashon) Goldson. And (Mark) Barron when he gets a new deal. And then you do get a great rush — how are you going to pay those guys?”

A great pass rush is like great starting pitching in baseball. Everything flows from there — not the other way around. You don't jump start a defense back to front.

Or do you?

We'll know soon enough.

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