Meet The “The Rock,” Change Agent At One Buc

August 5th, 2019

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There was a time not so long ago when Buc players were commanded to pound that rock.

Picking up on Rod Marinelli’s theme, Jon Gruden exhorted the 2002 Bucs to chip away steadily at an 80-pound slab of granite, a symbol for wearing down opponents.

Now, the rock is back in the person of cornerbacks coach Kevin Ross, an undersized seventh-round draft pick out of Temple who earned two Pro Bowl berths in Kansas City during a 14-year career with the Chiefs, Falcons and Chargers.

Nicknamed “The Rock” for his chiseled physique, Ross teamed with Albert Lewis to give the Chiefs a stellar cornerback tandem. He thrived in a physical bump-and-run scheme that NFL rules now prohibit. Ross played for Bruce Arians at Temple and coached for Arians at Arizona, but he was out of football in 2018 before being coaxed back to the NFL.

He finds himself in charge of a young cornerback group that has looked nothing like the ghastly gang shredded repeatedly in 2018.

“They’re progressing,” says Ross, a member of the Chiefs Hall of Fame. “But it’s too early to be satisfied. They haven’t done anything … they haven’t made a play. We’re trying to develop them, expose them to situations.

“That’s the big part right there, the mental part. Understanding splits and understanding concepts of route running — that’s the part that’s going to take them over the top. The physical skills are there. Now they’ve got to be able to play fast, see things before they happen. That’s going to take experience, that’s going to take game time.”

The depth chart can change in a hurry, but at this point Vernon Hargreaves and Carlton Davis will start at outside corner. Both say they are far more comfortable playing in the aggressive scheme installed by Todd Bowles.

“With Vernon, I see an improved player,” Ross says. “I see a guy trying to work to stay out on the field. I gave him some goals and hopefully he’ll try to achieve them. I think he will. I think he should be trying to be the league’s Comeback Player of the Year. His confidence is high, getting better every day.”

Ah yes, confidence.

Official Buccaneers photo of Kevin Ross

Any list of necessities at corner would have to start with confidence. When Ross made his pro debut with the 1984 Chiefs, he was roasted in Pittsburgh as the Steelers threw for 458 yards in a 37-27 setback.

“I knew going in as a rookie that I would have some bad plays,” he says. “I knew I needed to have more good plays than bad plays to win everyone’s confidence. Remember, I was playing with a heck of a group.”

Led by Hargreaves and Davis, Ross plans on helping Tampa Bay develop its own dynamic secondary. Davis had his ups and downs as a rookie in 2018 — as opposing quarterbacks completed 72.5 percent of their pass attempts against the Bucs.

That’s a defensive number Ross finds patently offensive. Instead of lining up well off the ball, Davis is now crowding the line of scrimmage and enjoying the ensuing traffic jam.

“Carlton’s a big, strong physical player,” Ross says. “The sky’s the limit for him. Yes, scheme can make a difference big-time. Coach Bowles is great at that, He’ll analyze your play and say a guy can do that, he can’t do that. That part is going to be taken care of.”

When Arians watched film of the 2018 Bucs, he quickly realized they needed a new defensive identity. They needed more aggression. They needed more confidence. They needed more pride.

And yes, they needed a rock.

“What’s Kevin Ross’ forte? Toughness, just like it was when he was a player,” says Arians. “You play for Kevin Ross, you’d better be tough.”

“The Sage,” Ira Kaufman, is now in his fourth year as a columnist and renowned podcaster. His writing appears three times per week right here. From September through the Super Bowl, Ira will return to the FOX-13 Tailgate Sunday pregame show, and to SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio every Wednesday at 5 p.m. Also, you can find Ira on BayNews 9 Monday nights at 10:30 p.m. 

WATCH EVERY Bucs road game this season with Ira at Buffalo Wild Wings! The fun starts Friday, when Ira will have about 20 gift cards for fans (while supplies last).

15 Responses to “Meet The “The Rock,” Change Agent At One Buc”

  1. AlteredEgo Say: Your comment is awaiting moderation. Says:

    The real deal… when DB’s could lay the wood… not like today’s slap fighters…

  2. louis Says:

    the 2018 defense was putrid, thanks to the cushions given by the defense. They did not attempt to buy time for the d line to rush the qb, enabling quick slants to march teams downfield with a high completion rate. Now with a pressure oriented concept. the front of the defense is able to attack the passer, and create opportunity for the backfield to achieve success. Mike Smiths defense was enabling mediocre teams to march downfield unmolested….This new attacking defense will create opportunity and will be a helll of a lot of fun to watch. I forsee alot of hi fives in the sports bars each sunday with positive profanity, instead of fans cussing out the television.

  3. #1bucsfan Says:

    Louis good post. Honestly anything will be better than the last few years go Bucs #endthedrought

  4. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Ross certainly has the credentials to coach up these young backs….I think they have the talent & the fire……go Bucs!!!

  5. LordCornelius Says:

    It’s sad when you can literally see the hole in our defense pre snap and watch as a WR flies to the space and a QB completes it within 2 seconds for an easy 7-15 yard gain.

    Typically the soft zone between LB/CB last year between middle of field / perimeter of field within the first 10 yards.

  6. Cobraboy Says:

    @LordC: I was sickened the last few seasons of a butter-soft defense that you KNEW couldn’t even slow teams down, ground or air.

    3rd and 4, and DB’s were playing 10-12 yds. off the ball for an easy pitch and catch.

    You just knew that of the O did not put up points EVERY drive, chalk up another loss.

    I don’t need great. I’ll settle for competitive…

  7. Defense Rules Says:

    Lord C … I agree with you about ‘seeing the hole’ pre snap and QBs capitalizing on that ‘soft zone between LBs & CBs) for easy 7-15 yard gains. On so many occasions it looked like the LBs & Secondary weren’t even on the same team. The coordination between those 2 position groups was abysmal IMO all season long.

    That said, every single game the Back-7 was different because of multiple injuries. Kwon was never a favorite of mine, but he was our starting MLB & we were hurting when he missed the final 10 games. LVD missed a couple games, Bond missed 5 games, Bulloughs missed 7 games, Cichy missed 10 games, Minter missed 3 games, and of course Beckwith missed the whole season. Our LB group was in turmoil almost from Game 1.

    The Secondary was in even worse shape, and the constant turmoil in CBs & Safeties had to negatively impact the Secondary’s cohesiveness. You could see it in the numerous communications breakdowns throughout the season.

    But that was last year, and last year is old news. We’ve restocked the Secondary & LB corps with some very talented players IMO. Hopefully they stay healthy and this year’s defense kicks ass & takes names. No excuses.

  8. Magadude Says:

    We’ll start to get some answers Friday night…slowly the wheel turns.

    This is about the time guys start scrapping with each other and wanting to hit somebody…haven’t see that yet in the (now five) practices I’ve attended.

  9. sincethebeginning Says:

    Man this is what I’m talking about! Appreciate you covering this and helping us learn more about a position coach who I remember as a damn good player. I hope the reporting keeps trending this direction — less sensationalism and self-serving hot takes, more substance. So thanks, Ira!

    A request: can we get a feature peek at Testeverde, perhaps? Some insight about his outlook, attitude, etc., if he’s willing to share? I get that he might not even make it onto the practice squad or anything, but considering his dad’s time here with the team it might be cool to learn a little bit more about him before he moves along on the next part of his NFL journey.

  10. Gerald McBezos Says:

    Our old CB coach, Jon Hoke, played 1 year in the NFL (1980). He did not record a stat of any kind during his career, 0 tackles.

    Our new CB coach, Kevin Ross, played 13 years in the NFL. He played both corner and safety, and intercepted 38 passes. He made 1049 tackles in 13 years.

    As a point of reference, Ronde Barber played 15 years. He intercepted 47 passes and made 1028 tackles.

    We found Jon Hoke after he coordinated the defense at South Carolina for one year, 2015. South Carolina gave up 28 PPG en route to a 3-9 record, and the defense got worse.

    Kevin Ross has coached for 4 NFL franchises over the past 16 years. Not one single year has a team he coached on lost more than 8 games. Read that again, let it sink in, and think about that.

    Three out of the past four seasons Hoke has been employed as an NFL DB coach, his team has gone 5-11.

    From the outhouse to the penthouse, gentlemen.

  11. Duthsty Rhothdes Says:

    Bill Belichek never played D-1 college football, if you can coach & lead men then you have it whether you played in the NFL or not. Leslie Frazier played on an all time great team and sucked as DC here.

  12. Joe Says:

    Bill Belichek never played D-1 college football,

    Yup. And neither did Bill Walsh. Neither Walsh nor Belicheat played in the NFL.

  13. Gerald McBezos Says:

    The skillset required to be a head coach is greatly different than the skillset required to be a positional coach.

    The task assigned to our CBs coach at this point in time is to teach a bunch of 21-24 year olds who have never been “there” and done “that” how it’s done. Because this group has no veteran leaders on the field whatsoever.

    All other things being equal between two candidates, the one with a vast knowledge of real life experience playing the game likely will be more effective in this role.

    Teams who have employed Hoke have a 108-148 record.
    Teams who have employed Ross have gone 110-81.

    While there are plenty of great coaches who never played in the league, the failure to develop young corners has plagued this franchise over the past 3-4 years almost as much as the kicker has. It’s natural to point a finger at the secondary coach who’s been a part of one playoff team in 16 years as a coach. That’s a hard feat to pull off.

  14. Gerald McBezos Says:

    Nice fact: for Kevin Ross to equal Hoke’s career W/L%, he needs to lose his next 69 games in a row.

  15. ncbucsfan Says:

    @ Gerald McBezos. You’re exactly right. Two totally different skillsets in being a head coach and a positional coach. The experience and insight gained from actually playing becomes paramount as a positional coach whereas leadership is the same when being a head coach. And everyone will agree with you when its time to cosign the notion that some people (Bowles, Wade Phillips, Dirk Koetter, etc) may be effective as coordinators but ineffective as a head coach. With that being said, I guarantee Ross and the scheme single-handedly are going to vastly improve the play of a VHIII and Carlton Davis as well as the secondary as a whole. Its not a coincidence they have been performing significantly better than last year’s catastrophic output, or lack thereof.