New World Order Is Under Construction

May 1st, 2019


Whether it’s your money-market account, your golf swing or your Pilates class, flexibility can be a beautiful thing.

Tampa Bay’s defense, rigid and soft at the same time, is about to get a jolt with the arrival of this new coaching staff. That’s because Todd Bowles and his endless array of assistants intend to major in subterfuge this fall.

The old Tampa 2 has been dead and formally buried at One Buc Place, where Bowles is poring over his roster in an effort to maximize everyone’s skill set.

No longer will Buc opponents know with almost virtual certainty how this defense will line up. That worked in the glorious Cover 2 days because Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Simeon Rice and Ronde Barber were that good.

Here we come, do something about it.

Bucs DC Todd Bowles

By necessity, Bowles has a different idea. First off, do you see five potential Hall of Famers on this defense?

Instead, the Bucs will mix and match all season long. You will see different starters, different schemes and different alignments – all designed to generate different results.

“There’s no set way we’re going to play this defense,” Bowles said Wednesday before yielding the podium to Tampa Bay’s defensive assistants.

Safety Rules

There’s a new world order formulating within the walls of One Buc Place. You might see Deone Bucannon lined up at outside linebacker on second down and dropping back to safety on third down as one of seven defensive backs on the field.

You might see M.J. Stewart at both slot corner and free safety. Don’t look now, but there’s Stewart closing in as a blitzer or Carl Nassib dropping back into coverage.

Flexibility. Versatility. Options.

Those are the touchstones for Bowles, who spent two seasons orchestrating the defense for Bruce Arians in Arizona before joining the Jets as head coach 2015.

In 2013, the Cardinals ranked seventh in scoring defense and sixth in total defense with Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, John Abraham, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett and Karlos Dansby leading the way for a 10-6 club.

Arizona made the playoffs the following year, ranking fifth in scoring defense. Only three of 16 opponents generated more than 20 points against the 2014 Cardinals, raising Bowles’ profile.

The 4-year Bowles era in New York didn’t end well and his defense didn’t meet expectations, but now all of his focus is on one side of the ball, with a minimum of distractions.

We saw how Dirk Koetter’s attack was so well balanced in 2015 when he served as Buc offensive coordinator. In three years as a head coach, Koetter couldn’t produce an effective ground game.

“Obviously, I have a lot more time … it’s just defense right now,” Bowles said. “So defense is what I eat, breathe and sleep. It’ll be maybe two times more than I had as a head coach.”

There is at least one similarity between the Buc defense with John Lynch and the current group.

“The safeties in Todd’s defense basically run the defense,” said Nick Rapone, who will coach a young group of safeties this fall.

New and bigger responsibilities on the way for Bucs safeties like Justin Evans (Photo courtesy of Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

That adjustment will take some time because third-year pro Justin Evans looks like the salty vet back there on the last line of defense. Speaking of Evans, the toe injury that shelved him in December has yet to fully heal.

Buc assistants say Bowles is all about putting his guys in the optimum position to succeed. That thought leaves me with an intriguing image.

Can’t you just see Todd Bowles sitting in front of his master board in the middle of the night, trying to figure out Ryan Smith’s attributes?

Ira Kaufman began covering the NFL as a New York Giants beat writer in 1979. He arrived on the Buccaneers beat in 1985, and the corporate leash finally was removed from his neck when he joined in July 2016. The award-winning Ira Kaufman Podcast fires twice per week, and Ira’s columns appear thrice weekly, except when Ira is on special assignment. Tampa Bay’s only Hall of Fame voter also is a popular guest on various national radio and on local TV. 

33 Responses to “New World Order Is Under Construction”

  1. The Buc Realist Says:

    The positive is that it “appears” that they are going to allow the DC to be able to be flexible and run the scheme that he sits fit, and not the scheme to keep a former face of the franchise fraud at DT happy!!!!!!!!!!!

    If so, that alone will be the first step in the right direction!!!!!!! Then will be the hard part, fixing the roster!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    2019 will reveal answers to the sheep, that the “real” fans already know!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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

  2. BucEmUp Says:

    Wow spot on Ira. My mother woukd ask us last season, “why does the defense just sit tgere and play so far back all the time?” And she doesnt know anything about football!!!
    It.was painfully ovbvious what the REAL problem was!!!

  3. stpetebucsfan Says:

    This could be a genuine advantage over the first half…the harder half of our schedule on the road.

    OC’s will not be able to figure out what we’re up to for the first half of the year. By the second half hopefully our players will be so familiar with the schemes that we are playing our best ball.

  4. AlteredEgo Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation. Says:

    Soooooo….remember when a guy named Tony Dungy brought his vision of a defense to the NFL…maybe lightning will strike Tampa twice….

  5. Lord Cornelius Says:

    Just hoping the “scheme around the talent” message is real this time because we heard the same sh1t with Mike Smith.

    Also hoping that Jason Licht didn’t draft 6 busts at corner/S between the last 2 seasons. If that’s the case the dude is not getting another job in the NFL again and doesn’t have the sex appeal of Mark Dominik to overcome his horrible GM record and get a media job. No offense Licht lol

  6. Sport Says:

    Aaaaahhh….so refreshing…. Could an identity be brewing?

  7. unbelievable Says:

    Evans is still not healed up? Damn.

    Also that list of players from the Cardinals good defense just made me think, who the hell do we have that has to close those same skills?

    Guess we’re really hoping all the struggles these last 3 years were just scheme and coaching. Fingers crossed #ItsABucsLife

  8. unbelievable Says:

    *close to those same skills

  9. LakeLand Says:

    We hear all of this hype every time the Glazer dismiss a staff.

    Like I always says

    Tell it to me in December!!

  10. Clw JB Says:

    As stated above, Id be quite happy to see us not line up in 4 deep, 10 yds off 80% of the time…

    Id rather die blitzing than sitting back and getting gashed over and over

  11. TampaTown Says:

    ^^^What he said

  12. First Down Tampa Bay Says:

    Its May 2019 and I still can’t believe Mike Smith still was employed in 2018.

  13. SenileSenior Says:

    stpetebucsfan Says:
    May 1st, 2019 at 4:56 pm

    Great observations. Love it

  14. Mike Johnson Says:

    Great read usual. But we shall see. I really do think Bowles is a big improvement for our Bucs Defensively. He says the Bucs will use multiple and interchanging Defenses and will be unpredictable. Something tells me he, Arians and the rest of the defensive staff are gonna get every ounce of talent out of these guys. We might not ever return to the dayz of old when we were a terror defensively. But if we can come close…Many games will be won by this Buc team. I’m cautious but very hopeful. Hopefully..up from the cellar we cometh!!

  15. Defense Rules Says:

    Awesome piece of writing Sage … thanks. The statement that I found the most intriguing? This one by Nick Rapone who’ll coach our safeties this year … ““The safeties in Todd’s defense basically run the defense.” Wow! Just Wow! THAT totally blows my mind. If you’d said the ILBs, yup, I would’ve bought it hook, line & sinker. But the SAFETIES? I’m gonna have to see that in action to figure out how that’d work.

  16. Billy_43 Says:

    Safeties run the defense and the ONLY one with any proven play is hurt.
    If you say Safties make the team go or pop or anything else I’m fine, but RUN the defense.

    Guarantee White will be RUNNING this defense.

    Unless you want to label all the DBs as potential safties.

  17. kgh4life Says:

    It’s refreshing to hear a coach talk about versatility in his scheme, Mike Smith defense on the other hand was rigid as they come, OC’s new what was coming and adjusted accordingly.
    Seems Justin Evans injury was more serious as was reported, no wonder why Licht drafted 3 DB’s.

  18. Joe Says:

    It’s refreshing to hear a coach talk about versatility in his scheme, Mike Smith defense on the other hand was rigid as they come, OC’s new what was coming and adjusted accordingly.

    Mike Smith talked about versatility too. He was as versatile as the Titanic in front of an iceberg.

  19. BringBucsBack Says:

    I believe Bowles (or anything with a pulse) will improve the D; how could he not? However, there is a fine line between organized ciaos and utter disorder. Forgive me if it sounds like Bowles is a little over-matched by our talent shortage and that his trying ANYTHING appears desperate, already.

    It sounds like quite a few players will be asked to do things they never have before. That generally doesn’t work out. Hope I”m wrong.

  20. Dominican 🇩🇴 Bucs Fan Says:

    I just love this! We still need our Wilkerson or Docket to be dominating the middle so D.White can be free to disrupt. But we will be just fine!

  21. D1 Says:

    Defense rules,

    I’m guessing that you don’t watch college football. Or that much .

    Safeties run the defense because they call the blitzing and in order to do that, they adjust positions and responsibilities on a play to play basis.

    Example, defense has a 2 high safety look then the offense breaks their huddle and lines up
    3 wide to the strong side, 1 rb, and 1 receive split to the weak.
    The safeties see the alignment, slide coverage left and send the weak safety to the Los. That safety calls that sides corner to play man, and he blitzes if the running back does anything except run a bubble to his side.

    This is a Simple example of an adjustment made by the safeties . They don’t have to look front to back like a ILB, they see the entire field in front of them so naturally this puts them in the best and most logical spot to call the d.

    My observation re. College football is this, they’ve been doing it like that in college for quite a long time now. Pros, not so much. Why, simple. The NFL is not dynamic nor creative in terms of innovation. College defenses have been dealing with the passing heavy trends for years and they’ve gotten quite good at evolving to offensive trends.

    TB isn’t inventing the wheel. He’s just faster at adapting a college schemed approach to defense than most. Fans questioning if he’s really flexible need to grasp this salient bit.
    He’s already proven to be flexible by going against the NFL grain, so to speak, and adopted college concepts and schemes and married them to nfl defensive schemes. That’s being flexible. ..

  22. SenileSenior Says:

    Thanks much D1.

    I am an old guy who once watched almost exclusively college with a little bit of Pro football. That was a long time ago now. Over time I have become just the opposite. So now I watch very little college.

    It is enough for me to keep up in general with the rest of the NFL. I tend to focus more time and energy on keeping an eye on the NFC South teams now.

  23. SenileSenior Says:

    Another quick question for you, D1.

    How much difference does it make (if any) if you are 3-4 based vs 4-3 based?

    My focus also has been on understanding the 4-3 better up until recently for obvious reasons.

  24. Cubano Bucanero Says:

    Any way you slice it, we’re at least gonna see something different from the defense. Different than the past 15 years. And that’s exciting! I’m excited to see linebackers and safeties blitzing. And being aggressive. We don’t have the horses to run a 4-3. So bring in some in your face players. I’m stoked for the change. Coming from an old school fan.

  25. D1 Says:


    re; 4 -3 vs 3 -4

    How much difference does the alignment make.

    First, let’s be clear about the 3 4 that has matriculated from college to pros is fundamentally different than the old style 3 4. So let’s stay with 4 3 vs today’s 3 4.

    The 4 dline men is betterm on paper , at stopping the run. Stop the run, then the game becomes one dimensional and easier to manage defensively. Problem with that is, teams are throwing more and more each year. Passing volume is up and it’s because teams are throwing on downs and distances that in the past have been primarily running downs. Completion percentage is climbing yearly as well as passing yardage.

    That’s not news, but it’s necessary to acknowledge the facts. So the pass is the driving force behind offenses which means stopping the run is not the first priority . Teams stop themselves. A 4 3 alignment means the defense is operating with 4 defensive backs. Obviously, subbing to nickel and dime adds, to the total at the expense of linebackers.
    Now here’s where the opinions pick sides.

    Linebackers can cover , create pressure and tackle to stop the run. The 4 d Linemen put their hand in the dirt and move at the snap. Pre snap , the offensive owns a number advantage and they know where the linemen are coming from. Meaning it’s easier to slide protection and there’s less to sort out from the QB.

    The 3 4, slows down a QB as he has to find the pressure as alignment isn’t as sure as a 4 3.
    The elimination of a d lineman puts an extra pass defender in play. And not at the expense of a backer. You can still defend the run.

    Making a QB take more time pre snap and post snap eats away at the clock. A QB internal clock. There may be less pressure but the QB is often unable to con onvert

    4 down linemen

  26. D1 Says:

    Convert less pressure because he’s thinking more. Slowing down the QB is how the 3 4 works prenap to get more sacks with one less rusher. Dline.

    Senile, I could go on and on.
    If there’s a more specific area ask away..but my hope is that the picture is just slightly clearer.

    If this seems rudimentary, granted but I’m not sure how much x and o knowledge you have and honestly the concept is more important than the execution.

  27. Defense Rules Says:

    @D1 … ” Simple example of an adjustment made by the safeties . They don’t have to look front to back like a ILB, they see the entire field in front of them so naturally this puts them in the best and most logical spot to call the d.”

    Makes perfect sense D1 … thanks. I admittedly don’t watch very much college football, just my beloved Bama team, USF & Georgia Tech when I can find them on TV (all schools wife, son & daughter graduated from; my college only played ice hockey & baseball). What I had trouble grasping was Ira’s statement that in Todd’s defense, the safeties RUN the defense.

    For the safeties to ‘make adjustments’ would be perfectly logical IMO, albeit probably uncommon in the NFL. But at least the initial part of RUNNING THE DEFENSE it seems to me is setting up the defense on each play, and in the NFL only one guy gets to wear THE HELMET linking him to the DC. I guess I was already fitting one of the safeties with THE HELMET so that he could RUN THE DEFENSE. My bad … not necessary if we’re talking about making adjustments. Thanks again for the explanation & the example.

  28. EvolvingBucsFan Says:

    There is a Big difference between coaching guys for your scheme and having them believing in the scheme. That’s how you get better and get results.

    Nobody believed in Mike Smiths scheme, NOBODY, if Bowels can get these players to buy in and believe in the scheme things will be a lot different ESPECIALLY when the put them in position of their strengths….well imagine that.

    The last regime was constantly trying to get players to do what was not their strengths….square peg round hole. I like what i am hearing but I’d rather like what I am seeing. WE are ALL tired of waiting, let’s not be an embarrassment for once on defense.

  29. Destinjohnny Says:

    I think we have a good staff
    We just need better drafting

  30. D1 Says:


    About my college ball comment, I don’t get the sense that you took that as a negative, but to be sure. It was merely an educated guess and carried absolutely zero negative connotations.

    Interesting you mention Bama as Saban is the coach who rethought coverage and came up with a new, actually a few, coverage scheme and techniques. His secondary is , just amazing.
    His secondary is literally cutting edge and interesting is that He pairs it with a fairly traditional 4 3 scheme . Traditional going back to the 80’s.

    By chance are you familiar with GMI, just north of atl.

    To clarify something. White will be wearing the headset and calling the d . The safeties work
    Off of and in response to the front 7 and the o formation.

    In post snap White is Parmenio , Free Safety is Alexander head of the companions. Pre snap, white is Parmenio with TB calling the initial set formations as Alexander the general.

    …Defense. ..I’m confident that you’ll see the crazy analogy is about identifing who is changing tactics , the safety. Why, vision. And how who’s in charge is dependent on exactly when you ask. Strategic planning COMES from the DC , as always, He will communicate via headset with white, if not initially before the mid season,To the anvil, white at ILB. The leader .

  31. D1 Says:

    Evolving bucfan,

    Buying in is a colloquial expression at this point I’m afraid.
    “Buy in” as you reference is not as simple as you state.

    Mike smith had very little if any “buy in” from the start. Includes the miracle turnaround that seems rather predictable in hindsight., the last 5 games skewed the reality of 16 games makes a season not the last 5. On that ….smitty credited buy in…,.,…it wasnt. It was the opposite..

    Point is, it’s hard to see that buy in if youre not in the locker room.

  32. wideleftandright Says:

    Bruce Arians and Todd Bowles;
    Im sure you have heard all the negativity of this post on most days.The folks that respond to these articles are lonnng time lonng suffering fans.
    I will admit at times we are a rough bunch ,however come the first game of the season we will be right there with our Buc gear on ,screaming at the field or at our televisions.
    Winning cures everything and we could use a cure

  33. Defense Rules Says:

    @D1 … “In post snap White is Parmenio , Free Safety is Alexander head of the companions. Pre snap, white is Parmenio with TB calling the initial set formations as Alexander the general.”

    LMAO D1 … You do remember that Alexander ultimately had his second-in-command Parmenio murdered, right? Personally think he used him as a scapegoat. Bucsville is brutal to our scapegoats, but not THAT brutal.

    Interesting about Saban’s defenses (I’ve sometimes thought that they were better than some Bucs defenses I’ve watched). Amazing what you can do when you combine great coaching with top-tier talent. What I particularly love watching the Bama games is the DEPTH on his teams. Every game it seems that almost every player sees the field. Saban would rather do that than run up the score like some coaches. Pays dividends the next year obviously in terms of returning experience.

    And BTW, I’m not familiar with GMI just north of Atlanta.