TAMPA — Whatever kind of scheme Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford is concocting over at One Buc Place, it remains under wraps. And the Bucs hope it stays that way until the regular season starts.
As for the new defense, that secret is already out.
Under new head coach Lovie Smith, the Bucs are resurrecting the defensive system that bears their name and once made them a Super Bowl champion. And the leader of that defense couldn’t be happier about it.
“We’re playing the old school, traditional Tampa 2 defense,’’ two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said during a break in offseason workouts at One Buc on Tuesday. “In our meetings, that’s all we’ve been watching.
“When they were in their prime here, from 1996 to 2002 or 2003, we’ve been watching all that tape, because that’s when the Tampa 2 was really thriving, and I’m excited about it.’’
Perhaps too excited.
Football is, as much as anything, a game of deception. The team’s desire to keep a lid on its offensive scheme is proof. The Bucs, though, don’t seem to mind that everyone already knows they’re going back to playing the Tampa 2.
“With the Tampa 2, you don’t want to surprise nobody,’’ McCoy said. “You just let them know what’s going to happen to them and you go do it. With the old Bucs D, they let you know what they were going to do and there wasn’t anything you could do about it. That’s what we plan to do.’’
That plan started taking shape a week ago when the Bucs began their offseason workouts. It will move into a higher gear next week when the team takes the field for the first time for a voluntary minicamp.
Neither McCoy nor right defensive end Michael Johnson, the former Bengal the Bucs brought in via free agency, believe their work days can be geared up much more than they already have been.
“This is a lot different,’’ Johnson said when asked about the intensity level of the workouts so far. “We’re working really hard here. I wasn’t used to getting started at that tempo this early.
“But Coach Smith said he wanted four days (each week) with four good hours out of you and, well, they’re getting it. But that’s good, because you’re going to get out of it what you put into it, and we’re putting it in.”
The input of time and effort is necessary. As Smith has consistently reminded both his team and its fans, the Bucs were 4-12 last year, and that was due in part to a defense that ranked 17th overall, including 24th in sacks with 35.
The Bucs teams McCoy and Johnson have watched on tape in meetings the past two weeks regularly ranked among the 10 best in the league, so this group has a long way to go to catch up.
McCoy, though, is confident the new Bucs defense can reach that level.
“First day we got started here, I pulled the whole defense together before we even started to stretch or anything and told them we have to have a different type of mind set this year,’’ McCoy said.
“I told them that if this team is going to get to where we want to be, then (just like) the Buccaneers teams of the past, we have to be known for having a great defense.’’
The key to making a Tampa 2 defense great is the play of the under tackle, the spot McCoy will play in the scheme. McCoy has already reached out to the greatest under tackle ever — Hall of Famer Warren Sapp — for some advice.
“I talked to Sapp the other day, and I told him, ‘I can see now why you loved this defense so much,’’’ McCoy said. “I said, ‘This is going to be fun,’ and he said, ‘Well, it’s not going to be easy, because you have a lot of work ahead of you. You have a lot of responsibility as the under tackle.’
“What he meant was, this defense is going to run how I run, so I have a lot of responsibility. I’m going to see most of the one on ones. And when you depend on four guys to get to the quarterback the way we will and the under tackle is supposed to be the key guy, well, I have to get there. But I’m still excited about it.’’