TAMPA — While most of his teammates were taking weight off this past offseason, Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was putting weight on. Not a lot, really, only three or four pounds.
That’s nothing compared to the extra weight the Bucs have thrown onto McCoy’s shoulders.
With consecutive Pro Bowl seasons on his résumé, the Bucs have decided McCoy can and should be more than just the trigger pin in coach Lovie Smith’s version of the Tampa 2 defense.
What they want now is for McCoy to decide precisely when and how to pull that trigger.
The Bucs want their four defensive linemen to generate most, if not all, of the pressure they apply on the opposing quarterback. To help make that happen, they are asking them to apply some simple logic.
Because the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, the Bucs want their defensive linemen to rely mostly on their inherent skill sets and rush straight forward through a designated gap. That means they won’t run a lot of stunts or games where, for example, the defensive tackle runs around the defensive end, and vice versa, in an effort to confuse the offensive line.
But the Bucs, like all teams, will stunt on occasion, and they have put it on McCoy to decide when and how.
“It’s all mine,’’ McCoy said of the new duty. “Coach is going to put us in a pass-rush front, and anything that happens from there is on us. We call all our own stunts and anything else that we do.
“It’s not like it was last year, when that call (came from the sideline and) was made in the huddle. This year, it’s going to be coordinated between the D-linemen (at the line of scrimmage), so they’re giving us a lot of freedom.’’
It’s a freedom McCoy is happy to have. He made no secret of his dislike for the stunt-heavy scheme under former coach Greg Schiano. He considered it a waste of his talent.
Smith doesn’t disagree.
“First off, we believe in stunting,’’ Smith said. “But when you have a guy like Gerald McCoy, offenses are pretty excited when they see Gerald take himself out of the play, sacrificing for the next guy. I just don’t believe in it an awful lot. We want to get as many one-on-one matchups as possible. The best defense we can play is if we can get Gerald McCoy singled up. That’s probably the best blitz you can have.’’
Keys to the game
Bucs rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins has learned rather quickly the key to not only surviving but also excelling at the NFL level lies in a player’s ability to do two important things at once.
The situation is similar at the college level, he said, but the speed of the NFL game and the consistently high level of competition makes multitasking more challenging.
“I was so worried about doing my assignment and making sure I won my rep, that I forgot about the small techniques that would help me win my rep and help me dominate that rep and not get a holding call or not get open,” Sefarian-Jenkins said.
“It’s tough to know your technique or remember your technique when you’re in the heat of the battle, but that’s why we go out and practice it every day — so that it all becomes second nature when we get into a game.’’