Mastering The Rotation

August 8th, 2016
Joe talks to Mike Smith about a great challenge

Joe talks to Mike Smith about a great challenge

Barring injuries and ineptitude, the Bucs have very healthy challenges (problems?) along their defensive line.

Joe talked to defensive coordinator Mike Smith about them Saturday.

What a great guy Smith is. After the media crowd left Smith. Joe asked for a little time to chat Xs and Os. No problem, Smith said. It was not a private discussion, but Joe turned off the recorder. This was just a cool guy (Smith) and an average man (Joe) talking ball.

The subject was the D-line and the decision-making process for rotating in a lot of bodies, as the Bucs plan to do. Defensive line coach Jay Hayes was an absolute master of that in Cincinnati.

Remember, Koetter specifically told Joe that he admired Hayes’ use of an “eight-man rotation” with the Bengals.

On opening day, the Bucs could have Robert Ayers, Noah Spence, Jacquies Smith, Will Gholston, Gerald McCoy, Clinton McDonald, Akeem Spence and Howard Jones (five sacks last year) healthy and ready to roll. That represents many tough, in-game decisions.

First, Smith said eight men could be seven men on gameday, but after that decision the staff boils down a target percentage of snaps for each player, and that can be subdivided in different ways.

Once the projected math adds up, then matchups are studied. Then, opposing offensive linemen are analyzed closely by various staff during games for weaknesses and injury, so matchups can be reassessed in real-time. Smith explained it’s a constant communication process between him and Hayes, who also is culling feedback from his own players.

It’s a wild chess game to put the right players in position to succeed at a precise moment, Smith said, versus running primarily the same front four until somebody needs a blow.

The deeper the talent pool, the harder the job and the more second-guessing that’s inevitable.

Smith and Hayes, of course, won’t get everything right. But pushing the correct D-line buttons will be a massive key to the season.

Smith also has the added wrinkle of the Bucs being so damn strong against the run  –the only reason they were a top-10 defense on paper last year. If he’s going to sacrifice run stuffing for a pass rush, then he better guess right.

Joe wonders whether offensive coordinators are planning to run directly at Noah Spence until he proves he can shed a run block from a much bigger body.

16 Responses to “Mastering The Rotation”

  1. The Buc Realist Says:

    I was mentioning this in an earlier article!!!! I would use a hurry up at times and attack Spence and JS56 ( the undersize DE’s) to keep then on the field and throw bigger guys at them. That is usually why JS54 gets injured every year!!!

    Very interested to see how the Coach Smitty will adjust to this, and how smoothly moving all the different defensive packages in and off the field!!!! Watch the preseason games and see if it is a firedrill every 3 plays of just shuffling guys!!!!

    Go Bucs!!!!!!!!

  2. Nole on Sat.-Bucc on Sun. Says:

    Tighten up Realist!!! A post with no lovie reference. You okay bro???

  3. SB with Jameis Says:

    I am fully of the belief that Smitty remembers what a Terror LVD was in Schiano’s D, where he was allowed to Fly to the ball. He would be a fool not to remember and even more of a fool not to make sure he plays that way. I expect LVD to get at least 5 sacks this yr.
    BTW we now have 15 players signed up in our JoeBucsFan Pickem league!!! It is gonna be fun competing against each other.

  4. The Buc Realist Says:


    3 days till we actually have Bucs 2016 to actually talk about, All the speculation of fantasies and fears (for some) all come to a halt!!! We will start to see it!!!!!!

    80hrs left!!!!!!

    Go Bucs!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Tnew Says:

    Just because Noah is on the field, there is no guarantee that we are in a 4-3 and he is a down lineman. I expect a ton of 3-4 looks when he is on the field earlly. I imagine when he is the down de it will be in passing downs. Just up to the coaches to predict correctly versus guessing wrong.

  6. Bucsfanman Says:

    This is a great “problem” to have.
    His evaluation and analysis reminds me of Jo-Ma and Money Ball. It’s all about match-ups.

  7. Kevin Schmidt Says:

    Why didn’t he do this in Atlanta. Sounds good, but I give Hayes any credit for the play of our D-line. Nothing personal against Smith, but if I were a man on the hot seat, I would have changed things up to improve my defense before losing my position. Thats why I am so stoked Hayes is here. He will be the miracle worker in my opinion.

  8. HomeinDallasHeartinTampa Says:

    Hey Joe,

    Long-time lurker, first-time poster. I probably account for 30% of your daily hits haha.

    Haven’t seen any outlets with a Jay Hayes interview. Any chance you could get one (if you haven’t already tried) to get his thoughts on our guys up front?

  9. Defense Rules Says:

    How could anyone NOT be excited about our Bucs defense this year? We’ve got a tough schedule this year for sure, but gut feel is that this defense will end up being a Top-15 defense by the end of the year. It sounds like Coach Koetter totally trusts Smitty with the defense, and I doubt seriously that there’ll be any second-guessing like there was for the past several years. Also sounds like Smitty and Hayes work very well together, so I’m expecting that we’ll see a great ‘chess match’ with the other team each and every game when it comes to strategy and tactics.

  10. Nole on Sat.-Bucc on Sun. Says:

    Defense with the talent on this D at a minimum we should be in the top 15 of the league. Add in what I feel will the league best rushing team and one of the best special teams. Those alone put you in the playoffs. I ain’t gone mention Famous, I’ma let his play in year two speak for itself.

  11. BigHogHaynes Says:

    He’s ok and he ain’t stupid, every defence has a weaknesses, he’s wondering if top notch OC’s can expose our new fandangled scheme……I hope not but I’m no OC but I’m sure every team has one. Feel better Realist!

  12. teacherman777 Says:

    Remember when the Giants had that ridiculous D-line with their “nascar” package?

    We may not have a line as deep in terms of DE’s but we do have some insane depth at DT.

    Gholston and Ayers are both great inside at DT. I want Gholston to start batting down passes like JJ Watt by the way.

    Akeem Spence has been solid since he got to Tampa. Thanks Schiano for two STUD 4th rounders!!1 starter (Gholston) and solid #3 DT (Spence).

    McCoy, McDonald, A. Spence, Ayers, and Gholston at DT!!

    Thats insane!!! 5 guys at DT!

    Lets just pray they stay healthy!

    Go Bucs!!

  13. SB with Jameis Says:

    Damm Nole, am I gonna have to call you to get you to join the JBF league?

  14. SB with Jameis Says:

    I just realized something. There is No other team in the league that has to play Both SuperBowl teams Back to Back. Week 4 Broncos, Week 5 Panthers. …….Big test for big boys to step up!

  15. SB with Jameis Says:

    Here you go Nole

  16. SB with Jameis Says:

    This is going to be the first yr in a while where I am going to open an account for offshore betting. I believe we are gonna shock some people. Injuries always are a factor so you have to hedge where necessary but I think we could catch naysayers off-guard quite a bit this yr.