Can the Bucs be coordinated enough to win?

by Gary Shelton on July 31, 2019 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Winston needs the rough edges coached away./JEFFREY S. KING

Wednesday, 3 a.m.

Over the years, there have been great Bucs' coaches who weren't the head coaches.

Monte Kiffin, for one. Joe Gibbs, for another. Wayne Fontes and Greg Olson and Abe Gibron and Floyd Peters and Rod Marinelli and Dirk Koetter (a very good assistant coach).

Then there have been those who got lost on a chalkboard. Jeff Jagodzinski, for one. Leslie Frazier, for another. John Rauch and Mike Shula and Jim Bates and Jeff Tedford and Les Steckel and Mike Smith.

The lesson is clear. It isn't all up to the head guy. Sometimes, it's the second-in-command who helps set the tone.

Which brings us to Byron Leftwich and Todd Bowles.

Together, they're the guys in charge of the end zones.

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Leftwich, a former Bucs' quarterback, is in charge of re-inventing Jameis Winston. Bowles, the former head coach of the Jets, is in charge of allowing much fewer than the 29 points a game the Bucs' defense gave up a year ago.

How good will Bruce Arians be?

It depends on how coordinated his team is.

Consider, if you will, the respect Leftwich has for Bowles:

"The good thing is they disguise well," Leftwich said. "We probably won’t see a team disguise as well as Todd and them do all year, so that’s great for us to have those reps and those opportunities to see if we can get to the right spot. It’s a lot where we’re getting to the right spot with the football but we’re not game planning and we’re not attacking anything. We’re just really running plays from an install standpoint.

"A lot of the times, we’re trying to put these guys in the worst situation, to be honest with you, especially early in camp so they know how to respond. Once they know how to respond to the danger of what can happen to a protection (or) to a passing route, once they know how to handle that, they’ll be fine just going against any regular old coverage. We’re putting them in tough situations, especially early on. These guys will be fine — they’re responding well to it.”

Bowles said much of the job is teaching player their roles.

“It’s part of our job as coaches," Bowles said. "Communication is a big thing – Coach  Arians stresses that. We’ve got a lot of guys over there on the coaching staff that can communicate very well, between (Kevin) Ross, and (Nick) Rapone, (Larry) Foote, (Mike) Caldwell, Coach (Kacy) Rodgers and Coach (Lori) Locust over there — they communicate. The communication is important.

"We can only do as much as they can do. You want to make sure they do the right things. Obviously, football is football. We haven’t reinvented the wheel. Zone is zone, man is man. You still have to play. I understand that certain nuances of the game, especially with a young group, you have to teach it and then they have to see it, then they have to make mistakes on it, then you have to understand it and watch it on film and you’ve got to progress from there. But, as a coach, that’s something that you should be accustomed to doing.”

Leftwich's primary job is to make sure Winston is more efficient than he has been.

“Minicamp was getting everything ready for training camp," Leftwich said. "Football isn’t really played until you put pads on, so you put pads on and you just want to get everything ready for when the pads come and start moving around and playing real football. We have an opportunity to play real football now so that’s a plus for us that we can play action now. You can do different things that you couldn’t do when you’re running around in shorts.

"Nobody is biting play action when you’re in shorts. You can stick the ball out there all you want — they’re going to get deep and backpedal and play coverage. It’s good to be able to play real football. It’s good for us to be in — like in the end of practice yesterday — the move-the-ball periods where we’re playing real football, substituting, doing different things like that where we’re not on a script. The great thing about yesterday is I like the way we responded when we got off script. When we got off script and we started playing real football, I liked how we responded.”

Leftwich also likes what he's seen from running back Ronald Jones.

“He’s an explosive kid, man," Leftwich said. "Wow, he’s an explosive kid. Just like Jameis  and all these young players, we’re trying to get these guys to make the right decisions because the National Football League is not really about talent. You win with technique, and that’s hard to get young guys to understand. To win with technique, we’ve got to teach technique, and we’ve got to teach winning technique. In order to do that, that doesn’t happen in two weeks, that doesn’t happen in one week, so we’re on everyone about technique, giving them the understanding (and) making sure they’re situational-football aware. The guys in the locker room give me confidence by the way they come to work every day and how they go about their job and their willingness to put in the work for us to have a chance to win football games. That’s amazing. As a coach, that’s all you can ask for. That’s why I’m extremely confident in our group, because of the way these guys respond to the challenges that we give them, to the difficult situations we put them in. These guys do an excellent job of coming to work every day and as a coach you’ve got to appreciate that.”

Leftwich praised his group of receivers.

"The group in general has been excellent," he said. "That’s why I’m saying we’ve got a lot of good football [players] — a lot of players doing a lot of good things on tape that you guys have no idea of knowing or have no idea of seeing unless you know what we’re teaching and know what we’re coaching. That position has been exceptional. What we’re putting on their plate, like I said, we’re trying to make this as difficult for the quarterback and the receivers as possible, and in doing that, the way these guys respond — it’s a breath of fresh air to see these guys respond and see the plays that we’re making, see the plays that we should be making and [are] capable of making that maybe we didn’t make that we will begin to make. It’s exciting that we’re all on the same page. We’re seeing it collectively as a whole. That’s what we want. We want everybody in the huddle to see it as a whole and that’s what we’re doing right now. I’m telling you, there are some positions right now that are playing exceptional.”

Bowles said he likes his young secondary.

“I think they’re eager to learn (and) they’re flying around," Bowles said. "We have a long way to go back there, but they’re trying to understand what we’re trying to do and get done defensively. Two days of pads and a couple days of quarterback school, it’s a good start because everybody is healthy and nobody’s got nicked up yet, but we have a long way to go.”

Bowles wants to build an aggressive defense, he said.

“I don’t know what the culture was before I got here," Bowles said. "We try to be aggressive but we try to be smart. The biggest thing for us is communication and understanding what everybody has to do and then trying to execute. Again, it’s the early stages. We’re installing, the offense is installing. Some days, they’ll have some things that we’re not prepared for (and) we’ll have some things that they’re not prepared for, but that’s part of camp. As things go forward and the communication increases and they start jelling and playing together, that’s when you really want to take a look at it.”

No. 1 draft pick Devin White has fit in well.

“I think they had a heck of a coordinator at LSU the way they used him," Bowles said. "We knew what Devin was coming in from a leadership standpoint [and] a player standpoint. We knew it wasn’t too big for him, so we got an extra bonus with all the leadership stuff and all the off the field stuff. His on the field ability speaks for itself, so we were very happy to have him [and] that he fell to number five [in the draft]. He was a guy that we loved all along. We thought he’d be one of the guys that’d be an emotional leader. We got several others over there, believe me. Lavonte (David) does an excellent job, but we’re very happy with him at this point. But, he has a lot to learn, as well.”

They make sense, of course. Everyone does. But Rauch didn't make it through a season. Neither did Jagozinksi or Jeff Tedford or Frazier or Bates.

But one of the things analysts have liked best about Arians is the strength of his staff.

Now, they just have to impact the scoreboard. They have mold youth and guide turnarounds.

Just that.





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