TAMPA — Doug Martin was just about to walk into a meeting with his agent in Los Angeles one day last spring when fellow NFL running back Shane Vereen stopped him for a quick chat.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had recently named Jeff Tedford, Vereen's coach at the University of California, their new offensive coordinator and Vereen wanted to tell Martin something about Tedford's scheme.
“He told me you're going to love it,” Martin said. “And he was right.”
Fans may not be ready to share Martin's passion just yet. After all, through two games Tedford's scheme has produced an average of only 249 yards per game, 4.3 yards per play and 12 points per game.
The Bucs offense, though, is like a sword slowly being pulled from its scabbard. Much of what is supposed to make it so dangerous has yet to be revealed, though some of its edge has definitely been exposed.
For example, Saturday night the Bucs showed off one of the scheme's primary characteristics when quarterback Josh McCown spent the entire first quarter engineering a no-huddle attack.
Though hardly unique, the no-huddle is an attack form the Bucs have seldom made use of, but it's one that coach Lovie Smith, a former defensive coordinator, says can give an offense a significant advantage.
“Looking at it from the other side, most defenses like to huddle up and make sure everybody is on the same page,” Smith said. “But you can't do that (when the offense doesn't huddle up).
“I think you wind up (wearing down) the (defensive) linemen a little bit quicker and they can't substitute as much either. And as a general rule, you usually force defenses to be more basic (when you run a no-huddle scheme).”
What the Bucs plan to run out of their no-huddle scheme is not basic. It's not game-changing either, but a lot of the sets the Bucs will work out of are the kind that, when combined with a no-huddle approach, can cause a lot of confusion.
One such set Saturday night had Martin lined up wide to the left in an alignment that had all five eligible pass catchers on the line of scrimmage and no one except the quarterback in the backfield.
The Bucs also ran several sets that incorporate not just two backs but two tight ends as well as several in which one of the tight ends moved just prior to the snap after lining up either in the backfield or in the slot.
Again, nothing out of the ordinary there, but when those alignments are run against a tired defense that doesn't have the chance to counter with a scheme specifically designed for that set, the advantage goes to the offense.
“That's why I love the no huddle,” Bucs right tackle Demar Dotson said. “It keeps the defense off balance. And that really slows down the pass rushers, because they can't get down into their stance or think about what they're going to do. It really should play to our advantage.”
The Bucs are hoping some specific plays will play to their advantage as well. Among them are screen passes such as the one McCown threw to fullback Jorvorskie Lane for a 14-yard gain Saturday.
The scheme also includes so-called “bubble screens” thrown to a receiver behind the line of scrimmage, reverses featuring speedy receivers such as rookie Robert Herron and a lot of throws out of the backfield to backs such as Martin.
“It's a lot of fun,” Martin said of Tedford's offensive game plan. “It kind of takes me back to my (college) days at Boise State with some of the tricks and things that we're going to be doing.”
Some of the “tricks” contained in the scheme will come in the form of running plays run out of formations that appear to be designed for passes and vice versa. Defenses can also expect a few trick plays here and there.
“Coach Tedford does a great job of drawing out those plays, and I think it's going to allow us to be dynamic both in the run game and the pass game,” wide receiver Chris Owusu said. “It's a fun scheme.”
The fun is only just beginning. Fearful of revealing too much, the Bucs showed little of what is supposed to make their offense so effective during their open training camp workouts. But now that those workouts are over, the focus will turn more to the elements of the offense that are designed to make it unique.
“There's a whole treasure kit full of stuff no one has seen yet,” Dotson said with a smile. “The truth is, you haven't seen the half of it yet.”