While I spend most of my time with WTB? doing video and audio, it seems that there are appropriate times to put virtual pen to paper and drop a few thoughts on the website. As we approach the glorious beginning of a new football season, I thought it would be a good idea to outline what I look for in preseason. This part of the year gets a bad rap. Yea, so you don’t get to see all the starters. Get over it people. A team requires depth. To identify depth you have to see guys in game situations. Now I know that when you have a young team, like we do, the starters need reps too. But fact is the games do not count. These are glorified practice sessions and you have to maximize them for that purpose. Good teams use preseason to establish solid fundamentals and get game film of their guys in live fire. That is what we have to do this week in Miami.
Keys to the game in preseason are simple. (Note: Most keys to the game are simple. They are historically trite things like “Win the turnover battle,” “Control time of possession” and “Score more than they do!”) In preseason, teams have to establish an identity around execution. With guys new to the system and opponents that are not implementing large sections of their playbooks, scheming and “X’s and O’s” are not the focus. When the Bucs lineup Saturday to face the Dolphins, I want to see the following:
- Intensity – You will not always be in the right spot. That can be coached up. But get wherever the hell you are going fast and make an impact on someone’s ass when you get there.
- Aggression – In all phases of the game, aggression (controlled) is critical. For us, the offensive line must prove that they can dominate the line of scrimmage. Hat on a hat, those men must prove that the offense does not have to leverage additional blockers. The entire unit must prove that if it is 1 yard that needs to be gained, the other team can know the gap and the count and it will not matter.
- Pressure – This defense is predicated on pressure. Whether from the newly retooled front four or from the hybrid defense that Coach Morris has installed, the defense must be the place where the rebirth of the Bucs begins. Pressure leads to mistakes. Mistakes lead to turnovers. Turnovers lead to more chances for our young offense to put points on the board. Simple, right?
- Efficient – This speaks to all of the above. You have a finite number of opportunities in a game. For QB’s, you will only throw 18 – 30 passes per game (Notable exceptions in NY in gale force winds) For RB’s, it is about good reads, decisive cuts and falling forward. Each group has its focus. I want to see those look good to start and get better over four games.
Great teams impose their will on others. They do it in all phases of the game. While Coach Morris has implemented some crafty stuff on defense, the game is really simple. Win your battle. Execute your responsibility. Be assignment sound. Those fundamentals (and the detailed extensions of each into the individual positions) are really what form the foundation of a strong team. I know many of you are screaming, “These guys have played football since Pop Warner! Why the hell are you harping on this! They should just do it!”
People don’t. Players don’t. You never stop working on fundamentals. Fundamentals and conditioning (a note on this one later as these injuries are pissing me off!) are imminently controllable and a rallying point for any squad in disarray/rebuilding. Once you get those two things to a point of laser fine focus, the schematic things you want to implement become easy. This is another one of those areas that I like to highlight where football is no different than what you do. There are fundamentals to every job. If you are stumbling, chances are that you have lost sight of one (or more) of those basic building blocks. For this coaching staff and this young team, a nearly religious zeal with regards to the fundamentals is the way to start to establish a new legacy in Tampa Bay.
<WARNING! I am waxing a little emotional here. I watched a movie with Ben Affleck and was in touch with my female side>
I hope you can suppress your anger about <insert the thing you are pissed about here, be it Gruden’s hiring, his termination, Morris’s hiring, his lack of termination, whatever your favorite player who was cut for ‘no good reason,’ the owners being cheap, the weather, whatever> and get behind your team. I honestly feel it is a privilege to have an NFL franchise in my home area. One I grew up rooting for and one I root for still today. You guys know I am critical and I encourage you to be as well. I encourage you to be at least as informed as you are opinionated (despite a trend in society away from that). But most of all, I encourage you to take joy in the site of our team lining up Saturday night. Enjoy the range of emotions as we dream about what might be and see how the season unfolds. I know it is hard. I know many of you are so jaded that optimism (or even simply the absence of pessimism) seems impossible. If you watched the retirement announcement of the greatest Buccaneer to lace up cleats this week, I hope you learned the same thing that I did. Humility is an amazing character trait. Forgiveness is divine. If #55 could go into 1 Buc and do what he did. Say what he said. Represent the Buccaneers after all that has happened, why the hell can’t the fans?
So get your rituals going. Put out the flag. Get the jersey on and wear your lucky socks. Let’s see what this young group can do and hope for improvement and fundamentals and if we get those two things, I believe entertainment will follow.
As always, GO BUCS!