You've no doubt heard a lot in recent years about hybrid vehicles. Well, over the course of the next few months - maybe the next few years - you're going to hear a lot about hybrid NFL offenses and defenses as well.
You'll hear those terms here in Tampa at least, because that's the best way to describe the systems the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are adopting on both sides of the ball.
On defense, the Bucs reverted late last season to what generally was described as a one-gap, Cover 2 scheme in which the linemen were assigned a single gap and the secondary played in a zone, calling for the safeties to split the deep secondary into halves.
To simply say, though, the Bucs reverted to playing the Tampa 2 is not altogether accurate. In fact, Bucs coach Raheem Morris loves when it's said he's gone back to employing the Tampa 2 defense, because claims like that have the potential to throw his opponents way off track.
While the Bucs will play some zone-based Tampa 2 now and then, they also will be more inclined to split the deep secondary into three parts and play Cover 3. Or they could go man and play Cover 1. Or they could drop seven defenders back and play a quarters coverage.
This is nothing new, really. The Bucs started this a couple years ago when Monte Kiffin was the defensive coordinator. Morris intended to continue the trend, but the plan didn't work quite the way he envisioned it.
Former coordinator Jim Bates never really bought into the hybrid approach and so Morris' plan was inadvertently shelved. With Morris back in charge of the defense, though, his hybrid is back on the grease board, with the chief objective to make the defense less predictable.
By putting anywhere from three to six players at the line, blitzing more and using a greater variety of blitzes and coverages, Morris hopes to produce a defense that will keep opponents off balance.
That also is the primary objective behind the offensive hybrid the Bucs plan to employ. The difference is the offensive hybrid will basically come as a result of what the Bucs do up front.
A year ago, under former coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski, the Bucs installed a zone blocking scheme in which the line moved as a unit on an angle while the running back found a hole to cut upfield.
The Bucs didn't have a whole lot of success with that scheme, but didn't give up on it either. Not totally. But they did go back to using more of the man-blocking schemes they were accustomed to, and the running game improved slightly.
The plan for 2010 is to continue what the Bucs did late last season, which is to use a mixture of the zone- and man-blocking schemes in an effort to keep opponents off balance and improve production.
Again, this is not out of the ordinary. A lot of teams refuse to be tied down to one system and regularly use a combination of looks and schemes to stop opponents or move the ball.
What's going to be different in 2010 is the Bucs will be among those teams.