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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs notes: Defense could go basic out of necessity

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Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2013 at 04:20 PM
TAMPA -

You have no doubt heard of vanilla offenses. Well, with MLB Barrett Ruud jumping ship and joining the Tennessee Titans, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may be forced during the early going this season to run a vanilla defense.

It all depends on how quickly Ruud's projected replacements, second-year pro Tyrone McKenzie and rookie Mason Foster, can pick up the hybrid defense that Bucs coach Raheem Morris has installed.

Both have experience running defenses in college, and they are getting a crash course in the Bucs' defense now, but the Bucs won't ask them to do more than they're capable of at the start.

"We're going to do as much as we can do well,'' Bucs linebackers coach Jimmy Lake said. "It's no different than what you would do on offense with a young quarterback. You just do as much as you can do well.''

What the Bucs have done best over the years is play the Tampa 2. Morris has tweaked that scheme by adding more blitzes, three-man fronts and man coverages, but without Ruud he may have to go back to basics for a while.

"The Tampa 2, we want to make sure we do that well first because if we don't do that well then we don't have a foundation,'' Lake said. "But then we'll build off of that.

"And once you get into the season and you get into putting in a game plan each week you can always throw in two or three wrinkles for a team, but we have to make sure we do what we're known for first and have that right.''

Ruud, who started each of the last four years for the Bucs and led their team in tackles each of those years, signed a one-year deal with Tennessee on Saturday. Bucs coach Raheem Morris was clearly sad to see him leave.

"Personally, I'm going to miss him to death,'' Morris said of Ruud. "Barrett was more than just my Mike backer. He was a close friend, so I wish him nothing but the best. I hope he goes out and proves us wrong and makes it happen.

"But for us it's time to move on. This provides an opportunity for one of these young guys like Tyrone McKenzie, Mason Foster or Derrell Smith. Somebody is just going have to step up.''

Opportunity knocks

Training camp is all about seizing an opportunity and the Bucs are giving seldom-used RB Kregg Lumpkin a chance to do just that in this camp.

With the Bucs unsure about re-signing RB Cadillac Williams, Lumpkin is getting a chance to prove he's worthy of filling the third-down back role that Williams filled so adequately a year ago.

"I'm very excited about it,'' said Lumpkin, a 27-year-old Georgia product who was signed off waivers by the Bucs last Sept. 5, the same day they signed LeGarette Blount.

"I'm one of the guys in contention for that job," Lumpkin added, "so I just have to continue to work hard and come out here on the field and prove that I can do here what we talk about in the classroom.''

Lumpkin already has one of the hardest parts of the job down. He says he's not afraid at all to stick his head into a pass rusher's gut and throw a block for his quarterback.

"No, I'm not afraid at all,'' said Lumpkin, who learned a lot about playing the third-down role from Williams last year. "He taught me how to read the defense, how to run certain routes, how to make a (tackler) miss you.

"Cadillac was a great mentor and teacher, and so is Earnest Graham (whom Lumpkin is competing with). So now I just have to come out here and show them I can play without making mental mistakes.''

What you've all been waiting for

The new rules regarding padded practices offered Morris the opportunity to put the Bucs in pads for the first time on Sunday, but he decided to wait until today to crank up the intensity.

"You guys know I like pads, but at the same time it's an acclimation process for your team,'' he said. "I want our team to get acclimated to our heat first and to get better first.''

Extra points

It remains to be seen whether Webster's adds it to the dictionary, but Morris created a new word Sunday. Speaking of his hungry young players, he referred to them as "youngry.'' … The Bucs brought in rookie TE Jose Cruz, a Syracuse product, on Sunday to fill in for injured Luke Stocker (hip). To make room on the roster for Cruz the Bucs released long snapper Aaron Feld. … Former Chargers great Hall of Fame inductee Kellen Winslow Sr. was among the guests in attendance at Sunday's workout at One Place.

 

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