Mike Smith On Rookies, Baker, McCoy & More

May 8th, 2017

Tampa Bay’s only Pro Football Hall of Fame voter, Ira Kaufman, and the regions most beloved and esteemed columnist, has hung his hat at JoeBucsFan.com world headquarters since July 2016. His columns pop here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and his award winning podcasts fire every Tuesday and Thursday.


It’s nice to be wanted.

Mike Smith wasn’t getting much love around the league four months ago, when he entered the offseason fairly confident he’d get another shot as a head coach.

He owned a strong resumé from his seven years with the Falcons, especially compared to the retreads who were being considered for openings. But when things didn’t materialize with the Jaguars and Chargers, Smith was content to return to the Bucs as defensive coordinator.

Dirk Koetter, who served as Smith’s offensive guru in Atlanta, welcomed him back to One Buc Place to finish what he started. These guys go back quite a way, first working together in Jacksonville a decade ago.

Although it wasn’t in his self-interest, Koetter did the right thing in January, when Smith was going out on job interviews. He didn’t want to lose his defensive mentor, but Koetter came out publicly and suggested strongly that Smith had better qualifications for those vacancies than any other candidate.

That’s what a friend does … and Koetter meant every word of it.

Now Smith is back, determined to do his part in helping Tampa Bay end a nine-year playoff drought.

Buc fans know Smith’s group improved markedly last year after Tampa Bay’s 3-5 start. In wins against Kansas City, Seattle and New Orleans, the Buc defense smothered the opposition, making Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and Alex Smith look like chumps.

“Yes, expectations are high around here,” Smith told me in a private conversation during rookie mini-camp. “But you have to remember that expectations are high in every town at this time of year.”

Slap In The Facemask

While Buc fans are stoked for a big season, Vegas oddsmakers aren’t sold. The early over-under win total for Tampa Bay in 2017 is eight, which means they see no improvement — or a step backwards — coming this season.

You can bet that slap in the facemask has not gone unnoticed at One Buc Place — either in the executive suite or in the locker room.

And while the additions of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard have Buc fans anticipating a wide-open attack, Smith isn’t complaining about upgrades on his side of the ball.

“Chris Baker is a very athletic, big inside defensive lineman we’re excited about,” Smith says. “He’s not just a two-down player. He gives us more girth inside and I understand he’s quite a good dancer. He puts on quite a show.”

The Bucs signed J,.J. Wilcox from Dallas as a free agent and drafted Justin Evans in the second round to join the competition at safety.

“Wilcox is a physical player,” Smith says. “We see him more as a strong safety rather than free, but he has played both. In two practices here, Evans has shown great range and we already know he can hit.

“Player safety has been a big key in the NFL, but football has always been about blocking, tackling and hitting. Both of those guys have the ability to get down in the box and be the eighth element. They can be a force against the run and also play well in the middle of the field.”

Harsh Critic

Remember a few weeks ago, when Gerald McCoy talked about taking his game to the next level?

Like so many Buc fans, Smith has no problem with the idea.

“We don’t ever want our players to be satisfied,” he says. “Gerald’s a heck of a player and a heck of a man. I think he knows that you never max out in this league. He’s probably his own worst critic.”

According to Smith, Buc fans clamoring for a 3-4 front may get their wish at times this fall. With some talented new pieces in place, Smith will continue to veer away from the Cover 2 scheme that defined the Bucs 15 years ago.

“We showed some rapid improvement on the defensive side last season,” Smith says, “and guys have a better grasp of our new system. We’re light years ahead of where we were at this time last year.”

41 Responses to “Mike Smith On Rookies, Baker, McCoy & More”

  1. WhatdaBUCisthis Says:

    Yes to the 3-4 PLEASE

  2. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    I wish we had more podcasts from you, Ira.

  3. WhatdaBUCisthis Says:

    Damn JOE
    What did I say

  4. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    J.J. Wilcox will be a non-factor outside of 1-3 plays in the season…which won’t offset his penalties.

    Thankfully, Justin Evans is McDougald’s replacement, not Wilcox. Everyone predicted Wilcox would start but me. Looks like I was right.

  5. Wausa Says:

    I think Mike Smith is not only a great coach but he’s a good man too.

  6. Lamarcus Says:

    Mccoy is a non factor. Factoring in that he is not been traded yet. it’s not being a harsh critic. It is what it is.

  7. Jason Says:

    “He’s probably his own worst critic.”

    Mike Smith obviously never visits JoeBucsFan.com LOL

  8. Jason Says:

    And to be clear, that wasn’t a shot at the Joes, but all the commenters who continually hate on and bash McCoy. Yes, he’s not Sapp, but he’s a damn sight better than 95% of the rest of the league’s DTs.

  9. Defense Rules Says:

    Ira, love the insight on Mike Smith. He did an incredible job with our defense last year, and although I would’ve liked to see him get another HC gig after that (he deserves it for sure), I’m really thankful that he’s back with us for another couple years. Personally expecting big things out of our D this year … as in Top-10 (I think that’d be a significant improvement over our 15th ranking in terms of points given up last year).

    Excited about what our DLine should bring to the table this year. Adding Chris Baker will be huge for us in a number of ways, and contrary to some, I’m expecting big things from GMC this year. If our DE’s stay relatively healthy, this DLine should get much better pressure on the QBs AND do a much better job of stopping the run.

    Also think that our safeties will show much better play this year, even though at this point I have no idea who’ll be starting. My expectation is that we’ll get good competition out of Evans, Tandy, Wilcox & Conte … may the best 2 win.

  10. Pickgrin Says:

    “We’re light years ahead of where we were at this time last year”

    I hope that’s true (the real) coach Smith.

    Bucs defense looked pretty bad a good bit of the 1st half of the season in 2016.

    But the positive turnaround during the 5 game win streak was quite dramatic. DL was getting pressure. The back 7 were getting turnovers. We looked extremely competitive and practically shut down some very good offenses. More of that out of the gate please…..

  11. jwash3 Says:

    Mike Smith is a decent coach, but he’s terrible at evaluating d-lineman. All of you clamoring for the 3-4, look at what happened to ATL as his tenure progressed on the defensive side of the ball.

    His push for bigger DL completely killed their pass rush and they were still soft up the middle. I DO NOT want that to happen here.

  12. tmaxcon Says:

    So we have a Head Coach who wants “A Badass team” and a General Manager Quoted that he wants players with the “Win at all cost attitude / mindset” and now Defensive Coordinator suggesting more 3-4 fronts… The writing is on the wall GMC Fanboys they are planning for life without the SOFT one… This will be the last year of cancer93 but since he is already setting up the excuses with sore knees and a defeated attitude he’ll probably find his way on IR by week 8 or so. The writing is on the wall the excuses and BS garbage the fan boys spew will be so enlightening and entertaining I can’t wait.

  13. LargoBuc Says:

    4-3, 3-4. One gap, two gap. Cover 2, Tampa 2. Cover 1, cover 3. Press coverage, off coverage. Man coverage, zone coverage. I do not care! As long as it works and wins us games. Putting opposing quarterbacks on their arse is nice too. Who dosen’t wana make Cam cry. Run on our field during halftime like our house is a joke. B!tch.

  14. bucNation Says:

    versatility is key

  15. carrythatmofostick Says:

    if they keep opposing teams below 20, we will be happy and win plenty, because we gonna put up some points this year

  16. tdtb2015 Says:

    @Largo—- Exactly!!!!!!

    In Smitty We Trust!!!!!

    Man, what at time to be a Bucs fan!

    My wish list for the regular season:

    a) defense dominates on 3 and outs this year.
    b) offense is a scoring explosion for 3 qtrs.
    c) offense is able to use our backup QB in the 4th qtr. to acquire some good reps under his belt.
    d) Aguayo or Folk delivers
    e) OWN the NFC South

  17. Bucsfanman Says:

    @tmax- OR, GMC will be completely unblockable as a3-4 DE. I’m a glass-half-full guy!

  18. tmaxcon Says:


    good day sir, Hitting the sauce a little early are we? That’s almost as funny as the fool that used Ferocious and McCoy in the same post.

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

    And how exactly did you reach that conclusion Bonzai??? I’m puzzled.. I actually expect J.J. and Justin to start.

  20. Bucsfanman Says:

    Dude! It’s 5 O’clock somewhere!!!
    Maybe I should’ve left out “completely”?! He’s quick off the ball and could be a nightmare for a tackle.
    There’s always hope tmax!

  21. Blake_bucsfan Says:


    With plays like this, Derel Walker won’t make the practice squad.

  22. Blake_bucsfan Says:


    You know that both McCoy and Lavonte both had their best year playing 3-4 concepts in schiano’s defense.

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

    Okay I stepped away. Thought about it a minute and still can’t see where you coming from Bonzai. I mean I just spoke about J.J. and Justin on the previous thread. Then Ira gives a quote from coach Smith speaking about the two but you took away J.J. will be irrelevant to the Bucs next season. Gotcha bro👍.

  24. LargoBuc Says:

    Blake iirc Mccoy and David even made all pro that year! Neither one has the leadership intangibles of Sapp and Brooks but boy are they talented! Finding a defensive tackle thst can get you 6-9 sacks a year is not easy.

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

    Its really quite easy for me to see they are attempting to replicate Seattle’s back end. I’m not saying J.J. is Cam Chancellor but one thing they do the same is bring that wood. I’m not saying a rookie Justin Evans is Earl Thomas but he is rangy and aggressive much like Earl Thomas. H3ll when you put they’re pics side by side he dresses just like Texas born Earl Thomas. I don’t look at the pats as invincible because I saw Seattle’s walk into Foxboro and Cam and Earl set the tone for that game by punishing Gronk. They killed the body and the head fell that that Sunday afternoon.

  26. biff barker Says:

    Have family in Atlanta… Giants fan who hates most everybody in the league… but Mike Smith.

    100% class guy like Dirk.

    We’re lucky to have them both.

  27. Pickgrin Says:

    Every defensive player we acquired this offseason brings “tude” and hard hits.

    Its pretty obvious that a main defensive goal this year was to get “tougher”.

    Mission accomplished I believe. (Baker, Wilcox, J.Evans, Beckwith and the great big dude from USC we got in Rd 7)

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

    Now place “Nightmare” in the center of that grouping Pick. And think about what you get..

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

    This defense fina be mean as f@$!😠 man.

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

    Its easy to be drooling over this offense but maanne don’t sleep on next year’s defense yo.

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

    I can’t recall which one of you mofos was critical of me saying we was gone win the superbowl last season. To you I say screw you!!! Let me reiterate it “WE WINNING NEXT YEAR’S SUPERBOWL GOT’DAMNMIT”..

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

    Some of y’all can continue to come here and nit pick this team til ya neck bust. But what I spy wit my little eye is a roster that’s loaded!!! My G.

  33. Joeypoppems Says:


    Just going off of Bonzai’s past posts I think he believes Wilcox wont be a starter because of the stats he put up in Dallas. Its not a logic I agree with, but to each his own.

    Im with you tho. I think Wilcox and Evans will be the starting SS/FS respectively

  34. Jim Says:

    Ira’s the best,..intelligent, balanced commentary.

  35. GhostofTedford Says:

    I cannot recall a game where a team came out in a 4-3 scheme only to mix it up and go 3-4 for a few plays, quarter or a half. Seems like it could throw the offense out of sync, wonder if Smitty would do that. Seems like a lot of adjustment for the defense but it could work.

  36. GhostofTedford Says:

    According to Smith, Buc fans clamoring for a 3-4 front may get their wish at times this fall.

    Meant to preface my comment.

  37. Pryda Says:

    3-4 will be great cause Jamies from what I see struggles against the 34 and more familiarity with it will help him so much he is much better against 4-3

  38. Rod Munch Says:

    Mixing in the 3-4 isn’t a bad idea but I’m not really sure it’s big of a change or it would make much difference. Better actually use David as an all around guy – he’s the best pass rusher on the team, and one of the best coverage guys (DB’s included) and the best tackler (Kwon is fantastic but not quite there yet). Move David all over the place like the Jersey trash Schiano did. David is a wrecking ball and an amazing player if they’d just let him do his thing. I think of him almost like a LB version of Ronde, he should blitz from everywhere, he should bluff blitzes, they should never be able to account for where he will line-up.

  39. America's Commenter Says:

    With that loaded offense, the Bucs only need a serviceable defense to win a lot of games. This team is the polar opposite of Dungy’s Bucs, where they had an outstanding defense and a serviceable offense. Who cares if the Bucs give up 400 yards and 30 points if they’re rolling up 500 yards and scoring 40 points?

  40. Buccfan37 Says:

    NoS-BoS… It’s too early to be taking bets no?

  41. Capt.Tim Says:

    Tmaxipad- yes- McCoy is truly ferocious!
    Ask the NFl players, who always vote him top 100 player in the league,
    And probowl. Every year
    Or Ask all the Gms and Coaches- who Revere him- as the Top DT in the league, and a sure Hall of Famer
    It ain’t ghost, voting him all these awards and recognitions.
    It’s the experts and pro Players- who all love Gerald “The Ferocious” McCoy

    Then there’s Tmaxipad,Duh55, and dimwhitJohnny.
    What a collection of Clueless, Balless Zombies!
    Who should I believe?
    Every Proplayer and educated football mind?
    Or some Thick browed, underdeveloped troll clan?

    Even Tmaxipads former girlfriend said Gerald McCoy was FEROCIOUS, and knew how to dig down deep, when the game was on the line.

    And who are we- to disagree