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Earlier this week, I appeared on FOX Sports 1 on behalf of Sports Talk Florida to discuss what fans can expect from Jeff Tedford’s offense. But I wanted to expand upon that just a bit more, based on my observations from training camp practices.
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take the field this season, they’ll have the element of surprise working in their favor. Sure, fans know what head coach Lovie Smith and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier defenses look like, but with offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford, a guy who’s never coached in the NFL, there’s been a certain element of intrigue and mystique. The team’s opponents this season are scouring through old tapes of Cal as we speak.
You’ll see a lot of what Smith had up in Chicago, with Josh McCown utilizing those big receiving targets in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey. The emphasis here was in getting guys with big catch radiuses who could win jump ball battles, but also come across the middle in traffic and be big red zone targets. And Tedford gets to do that with Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, creating all sorts of mismatches for opposing defenses.
“The matchups are really positive there because of their size, they can run, they have a lot of range to throw balls up to, but they’re big coming across the middle,” said Tedford of his receiving corps.
“They’re so big that they can use their bodies a lot in between the hashes to gain leverage, they’re big targets and they have really good hands. A big guy that can’t separate his hands or extend his hands to catch really doesn’t do you much good, but those guys extend their hands and they have great hands, not only are they big but they can extend their hands and catch it.”
There’s also an emphasis on those guys being able to take on safeties and cornerbacks and block in the run game, something that tends to get overlooked in discussions but is evident in practice.
Tedford’s offense does have a West Coast-feel to it in the way that there are a lot of quick strikes and short, horizontal passes, which differs from previous head coach Greg Schiano and his offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan’s and ground-and-pound offense with a vertical passing attack. But there’s still an emphasis on running the ball like before. They just have a different way of getting the ball into the running backs’ hands.
With Tedford, running backs are asked to get out in space more versus in between the tackles. Sure, you’ll see some of Doug Martin ‘ground-and-pound, inside rushing between the tackles’ but you’ll also be seeing him, along with Charles Sims, Bobby Rainey, Jeff Demps and Mike James line up the backfield, take quick pitches and race to the perimeter.
“They all bring something a little bit different, they all have skill, they all catch the football really well, they’re smart, they can run in between the tackles and they have speed outside,” said Tedford, who praised the unit’s versatility.
They’ll also be much more of a factor in the short passing game, with a number of screen passes getting thrown their way. And there will be more than one back featured, although fantasy owners shouldn’t panic too much. Doug Martin should still get a lot of touches — just not 30 game after game.
This offense utilizes the tight end more than the previous one did, and you can expect to see some 12 personnel (two tight ends, one running back) and other variations where multiple tight ends are used. Tim Wright is the H-back and will catch passes out of the backfield and handle some lead blocking, while Brandon Myers, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Luke Stocker are more of the traditional, in-line blocking tight ends (although I think Seferian-Jenkins offers a lot in the passing game too).
Now despite all of this hype, don’t expect the Bucs to unveil much during the preseason. You’ll see bits and pieces of the scheme, but you won’t catch a full glimpse of Tedford’s playbook until the season rolls around, when the team is comfortable with all concepts and rosters have been set. Right now it’s all about progression and evaluating talent.
“There’s probably 15-to-20 percent [of the playbook] that’s more game plan oriented that we haven’t got to yet because they really have consumed a lot of information over a short amount of time. Now it’s time to get back to basics a little bit, but they understand the concepts and now we can move on into game planning as we get into the season.”