Speed KillsJuly 8th, 2014
Once upon a time in the NFL, it seemed bulk was better. The heavier a guy was often meant he was stronger, and brute force would overcome smallish guys. Speed was fine for a wide receiver or a maybe cornerback, but with linebackers and guys in the trenches, size equaled success.
So, per the research of Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, it seems the Bucs are a throwback of sorts in Lovie Smith’s first year as coach.
Or at least, the Bucs are bucking the trend in the NFC South.
Lovie isn’t so much a fan of bulk but more a fan of speed.
Speed on defense is a trademark of coach Lovie Smith, and depth chart analysis by philly.com had the Bucs with the second-lightest front seven in the NFL — the lightest, if you correctly move tackle Clinton McDonald into the starting lineup.
The Super Bowl champion Seahawks have the sixth-lightest front seven in the rankings, with the Colts and 49ers, two other playoff teams last season, also among the eight lightest.
Though the Bucs have 13 offensive linemen listed at 300 pounds or more, they have just one defensive player above 300, second-year tackle Akeem Spence (307). Compare that to the Ravens, who have three tackles over 335, and the Jets, who have three over 345.
Auman also notes how the Bucs are the lightest team in the NFC South, while it appears other NFC South foes are bulking up.
It is sort of a throwback for the Bucs. Remember when Derrick Brooks was drafted? Many NFL teams felt he would be a better safety. He was considered small for an outside linebacker. Brooks has said in subsequent interviews he basically told teams who interviewed him at the NFL Scouting Combine if they planned on him playing safety, then don’t bother drafting him.
Only time will tell if Lovie’s lightening up of the Bucs proves smart. But it sure seems that Lovie appreciates how speed kills. You can’t teach speed. Either you have it or you don’t.