Who's Who: New Faces on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Sideline For 2009
Bucs fans love defense.
And why not? The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been known for top-ranked defenses for the past 13 seasons, during which they have ranked in the top 10 on 11 occasions and the top 5 eight times.
Their Super Bowl win may not have been possible without a defense that scored three touchdowns while holding the league's top-ranked offense to two touchdowns and a field goal.
So what must Bucs fans have been thinking when defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, whose vaunted "Tampa-2" defense made defenses in Tampa, Chicago, and Indianapolis some of the best in the league, announced he was leaving to coach on Saturdays for the University of Tennessee?
No doubt the wailing and lamentation was audible across the state of Florida.
Kiffin wasn't the only casualty, however, as a month after leaving, the Bucs began the gutting of the coaching staff, starting with the firing of head coach Jon Gruden.
Six assistant coaches were fired two days later.
Luckily, the Buccaneers' front office was prepared to announce a slew of hirings to fill the gaps left.
Having to learn new names is nothing new for Buccaneers fans. If you bought a jersey for every quarterback to start for the Buccaneers beginning in 2002, you'd have nine jerseys and zero guarantees your Luke McCown jersey would get any use.
However, learning new names for the men on the sidelines wearing visors and headsets is a new experience. For the same 2002 - present period, you only needed to know Gruden, Kiffin, and Bill Muir.
In addition to a new head coach and coordinators, Bucs fans ought to keep tabs on new draft picks, too.
So to help the befuddled Tampa Bay faithful keep everyone straight, here's a quick look at who's who along with some career stats to impress everyone at your fantasy draft.
One thing is clear, though, and that is that while some offensive and defensive schemes might change under the new regime, fans and foes alike can both look forward to smothering defenses creating opportunities for the more-than-capable offense.
The Rookie Head Coach
Raheem Morris was named defensive coordinator in December after Monte Kiffin announced he was heading to Tennessee. One month later, he scored his first head coach gig after Jon Gruden was fired. His defensive pedigree fits in nicely with the overall philosophy for Tampa Bay.
-Was on the Bucs' defensive staff from 2002-05, and from 2007-08.
-Spent 2006 as the defensive coordinator for Kansas State.
-The Bucs' pass defense slipped to 19th in the NFL during 2006. After Morris returned in 2007, the Bucs finished the year ranked No. 1 in that category.
-The Bucs were ranked fourth-best against the pass at the end of 2008, marking five times in six seasons with Morris on staff that the Bucs ranked in the top five.
The Offensive Wizard
Former Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden was hailed as an offensive mastermind, but his schemes never truly materialized for the Buccaneers. After hiring a defensively minded head coach and a defensive coordinator on par with departed Monte Kiffin, the Buccaneers needed a revitalization of the offense. Enter former Boston College head coach Jeff Jagodzinski. Like predecessor Bill Muir, Jagodzinski also specializes in the offensive line. His zone blocking schemes should help Bucs backs break big gains.
-NFL experience includes Green Bay, Atlanta, and Tampa Bay.
-Coached Boston college to an 11-3 record, an ACC Championship, and a Champs Sports Bowl win over Michigan State in 2007.
-Coached 2008 Rookie of the Year (and NFC South foe) Matt Ryan.
The Veteran Defensive Mastermind
Jim Bates has some pretty big shoes to fill. Continuing the defensive dominance of the Monte Kiffin years is no small order, but Bates' credentials show he's more than up to the task. In six of eight years leading NFL defenses, his teams have placed in the top 10 in overall yards allowed. His 4-3 scheme uses big tackles to fill space in the middle while the ends rush the passer. He prefers man-to-man coverage, where Aqib Talib should be able to take advantage of pressure created by the likes of Gaines Adams and Stylez G. White.
-Coached Miami to league-best red zone defense (32.6%) and shut down opposing rushers, not allowing a single one to gain 100 or more yards in a game.
-Coached Miami to a second-best pass yard defense (162 ypg) in 2004.
-Led the Broncos to a seventh best pass defense and sent Champ Bailey and former Buc John Lynch to the Pro Bowl in 2007.
The Future of the Franchise?
Josh Freeman is the first quarterback chosen in the first round of the draft by the Buccaneers since Trent Dilfer 15 years ago. The move was questioned by those who expected Tampa Bay to address immediate defensive concerns, but new head coach Raheem Morris spent 2006 with Freeman's Kansas State and liked what he saw. Freeman is expected to take some time to develop, but with veterans Brian Griese and Byron Leftwich helping his development, he could become something special.
-Freeman stands 6'5" and weighs in at 248 pounds, but he can move. He posted 404 yards on 107 carries in 2008.
-He has a big arm and uses it. He completed 224 of 382 passes (58.6%) last season, racking up 2,945 yards and 20 touchdowns to eight interceptions.
-His career stats are equally impressive: 8,078 yards from 680 completions in 1,151 attempts (59.1%), 44 touchdowns to 34 interceptions, plus 20 rushing touchdowns.
The Defensive Pointman
New defensive coordinator Jim Bates likes big defensive tackles sucking up blockers in the middle. Roy Miller, 6'1" and 310 pounds, ought to fill that need nicely. Miller lists former Buc Warren Sapp as a role model, wearing Sapp's No. 99 for his college career at Texas.
-Was an All-Big 12 selection last year after racking up 49 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, four passes deflected, and a fumble recovery.
-Career stats include 138 tackles, 25 tackles for loss, and 10 sacks.
The Defensive Bookend
Jim Bates hopes defensive end Kyle Moore will fit into his scheme. With Roy Miller joining Chris Hovan in the middle, Moore will join Gaines Adams in rushing opposing quarterbacks.
-Stands 6'5" and weighs 272 pounds.
-Led the USC Trojans last year with five sacks.
-Career stats include 76 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, seven sacks, eight deflected passes, two interceptions, one forced fumble, and four fumble recoveries.
The Quarterback's New Best Friend
The Buccaneers' offensive line allowed 32 sacks in 2008 to tie for 16th-best in the league. Improving the offensive line became a priority after drafting a quarterback in the first round of the 2008 draft. To that end, the Buccaneers selected converted defensive end Xavier Fulton in the fifth round to play left tackle. At 6'4" and 301 pounds and with good mobility, Fulton should fit nicely into new offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski's zone blocking scheme.
-After converting to the offensive line, Fulton racked up 78 pancake blocks and allowed only two sacks on 323 pass plays.
-The Illini placed best in the Big Ten and fifth in the country with 256.8 rushing yards per game in 2007.
-Was flagged for only two penalties and allowed only two quarterback hurries in 393 pass plays in 2008.
The Seventh Round Speedsters
Tampa Bay picked up two speedy playmakers for both sides of the ball in the seventh round of the 2008 draft. Cornerback E.J. Biggers, 6'0" and 180 pounds, will hope to join the Bucs' celebrated secondary. Wide receiver Sammie Stroughter, 5'9" and 189 pounds, will likely fight to take recently-departed Parris Warren's roster slot.
-Biggers posted a 4.35 40-yard dash at Western Michigan's Pro Day.
-Biggers racked up five tackles for loss, two interceptions, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery in his career.
-Stroughter received All-Pac 10 recognition after catching 70 yards for 1,040 yards and seven touchdowns in 2008.