Jeff Jagodzinski: Change of Play in Tampa Bay

Oliver EllisCorrespondent IMay 18, 2009

After seven seasons in former head coach Jon Gruden's version of the West Coast offense, Jeff Jagodzinski prepares to take over and implement his brand of attack.

"It has to start with the run game, if you can't run the football in this league, you are going to have a hard time; because off the run, if you get that established everything else will fall into place for you.

"In our game plan, we won't have more than 10 runs; there will be variations of what we do as far as the zone scheme. The thing that we're trying to do right now is teach them the concepts and getting into the fit and the backs seeing it the right way.”

The newly-installed zone blocking (made famous by Mike Shanahan in Denver) allows runners to read the play and find one of the cutback lanes that should develop. Under the man-to-man blocking scheme employed in the past, the objective was to generate a single gap for the runner.

However, if that hole doesn't develop or if the defense commits too many defenders, the back often has to try to break tackles and drop a shoulder. That means more wear and tear.

However, with Earnest Graham, Derrick Ward and Cadillac Williams on the roster, Tampa Bay has a stable of backs capable of carrying the load in rotation.

The zone-blocking system also seems a good fit for the Bucs' offensive line. The young unit is one of the league's more athletic—one of the most important qualities for a group that will employ zone blocking.

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The tackles (Donald Penn and Jeremy Trueblood) are good lateral movers, and the guards have shown in the past that they are mobile enough to pull. Center Jeff Faine is regarded as one of the more agile players at his position and has proven that with his ability to get to the second level and take on linebackers.

"Our running game is going to be a downhill and physical [group]. We will run the lead zone, both strong and weak, inside and out, and we'll also run some gap schemes because of the personnel we have. We will run some power gap schemes; the zone scheme is dependent on the whole unit, not just one guy.

"[With this] scheme you really limit negative yardage plays. Even if you get back to the line of scrimmage and its second-and-10, that's okay. If it's second-and-16 because a guy misses a back block that's not okay."

It is well documented that new acquisitions and younger players struggled with their command of Jon Gruden's offense, in large part because of its extensive verbiage and numerous, complex variables. Luke McCown has remarked about the size of his new playbook (three inches) compared to Jon Gruden's (six).

“What I have tried to do is limit the terminology,” Jagodzinski said. “You can say the same thing without a lot of words. I think it will be player friendly.”

Under Jagodzinski, expect to see many elements of the West Coast offense, though the use of five and seven step quarterbacks drops and the shotgun formation will be very apparent. Luke McCown, Byron Leftwich and rookie Josh Freeman all possess the ability to throw the ball deep, unlike players such as Brad Johnson, Brian Griese and Jeff Garcia—hallmark quarterbacks of the Gruden era.

"I don't think you can lock into one thing," said Jagodzinski, who has worked under several coaches who utilize the West Coast scheme. It's a term that Jagodzinski isn't entirely secure with because he thinks the term is too broad and doesn't accurately describe what he plans to establish in Tampa Bay.

Jagodzinski is confident he can get more receivers involved in the passing game. Whereas Gruden's offense tended to feature particular players (Antonio Bryant in 2008, Joey Galloway in 2005-7 and Clayton in 2004), Jagodzinski seems more likely to spread it around.

"(Tight end particularly) always has been a big part of this offense," he said. "Kellen, I think, does some things with match-ups I think we can get that are really going to benefit us this year. We can put him in different spots and move him around to get the  matchup that we want.

"He can get in and out of a cut like a receiver. He’s good. I’m really looking forward to working with him. He’s been great out at practice, asking a lot of questions. . . I came off the field (Monday) saying, ‘I think we have something good there with him.’"

There will be opportunities for Winslow and Stevens to run receiving routes on the same play. At least, that's the plan.

"We will do that," Jagodzinski said. "Defenses are going to have to decide whether they’re going to play you in regular personnel, are they going to play nickel. If they play regular, you have Kellen on a linebacker. If you play nickel, then you have the run. They’re going to have to make a decision."

In 2009, Buc fans will see many of the concepts similar to some employed by Gruden, but they'll be used in very different doses and out of different formations and sets.