Back To Bowles Basics With Tykee Smith?

July 7th, 2024

Bucs rookie safety/nickel cornerback Tykee Smith.

One of the more stunning assistant coach comments at One Buc Palace came a little over five years ago.

The Bucco Bruce Arians regime was new in town and safeties coach Nick Rapone pulled the curtain back a bit on the Todd Bowles defense.

He proclaimed that sophomore cornerback M.J. Stewart would be targeted for the nickel position and Rapone compared him to All-Pro Tyrann Mathieu. Whoa!

More important now, however, is how Rapone described the nickel position at the time.

“In our system, the No. 1 person that blitzes is the nickel. He is a physical player,” Rapone said. “… … Our nickels have to blitz. Our nickels have to play man-to-man. [Stewart] has the innate skills to play man to man; he’s physical enough to blitz. So we’re basing it on what he can do based on what we saw. … … … Because remember, the nickel a lot of times is the guy that’s protected. And you can always double with the nickel. But that nickel also has to play run support. … And the nickel in our scheme has to be physical, not finesse.”

Enter 2024 Buccaneers third-round draft pick Tykee Smith. The Bucs hope he’s the nickel Bowles has craved in Tampa since Stewart was a bust.

Remember, Bowles moved Antoine Winfield Jr. to nickel in 2022. It didn’t work. But it was evidence of how critical Bowles considers the position in his defense.

In past years, linebacker Devin White was relied on to be a blitzing machine in Bowles’ blitz-happy scheme. Now White’s gone and there’s no evidence his replacement is much of a blitzer.

Also, the Bucs don’t appear to have a four-man pass rush like they did from 2019 through 2021, so Joe suspects Bowles is even more focused on getting back to a strong blitz game from his nickel.

As Rapone said years ago, “In our system, the No. 1 person that blitzes is the nickel.”

Yeah, good systems evolve, but with Smith’s skills and succesful blitzing at the University of Georgia, Joe thinks the Bucs are trying to get back to the future.

20 Responses to “Back To Bowles Basics With Tykee Smith?”

  1. Proudbucsfan Says:

    We will definitely see

  2. A Bucs Fan Says:

    It’ll be interesting to see how the defense evolves this year to see if the Bucs have enough talent and fire power on the defensive line to generate enough pressure so Bowles can play man coverage instead of being limited to fire zones/cover 3 all season. Devin White leaving will help that too.

  3. Defense Rules Says:

    Rapone … “In our system, the No. 1 person that blitzes is the nickel.”

    Last year the #1 blitzer was ILB Devin White (75), followed by Nickel Izien (56), ILB David (51), OLB Shaq (34) then Safety Winfield (30). Devin White blitzed the most in 2023, 2022 & 2021, but Shaq blitzed the most by far in 2020 & 2019.

  4. A Bucs Fan Says:

    @DR that’s because it’s the only skill Devin White had. Him and Ryan Neal were the reason the Bucs played fire zone/Cover 3 the majority of this past season.

  5. Vegasbuccaneer Says:

    🔥 t b

  6. Kgh4life Says:

    M.J. Stewart was ultimately benched because he wasn’t athletic enough. The following season he was released if I’m not mistaken. Tykee Smith is skated to be the starting nickel, however, there have been reports saying because of speed or lack there of he’s going to safety. Tavairre Thomas will end up starting in the nickel spot.

  7. ATLBUC Says:

    Top 5 defensive unit!!!

  8. ATLBUC Says:

    Bucs are going to be bad azz this year. Freaking bullies!!! Defense is going to lead and we are going to pound the rock and play action

  9. Rod Munch Says:

    M.J. Stewart was like a slow Ryan Smith – and that’s as big of an insult as I can give.

    I hope to goodness Tykee is never compared or mentioned in the same breath as MJ ever again.

  10. Stanglassman Says:

    I get that it didn’t work out for Stewert here but Calling MJ a bust is pretty unfair. He’s started for both Cleveland and the Texans. Missed some games when he injured his shoulder vs Bucs last year. Texans signed him last year for 2 year 6m a year. I’m not sure what will happen to him going forward but he is hardly a bust.

    The Bucs have good depth at nickel with Tykee’s versatility to play Nickle and Saftey. Izien probably gets the start (Nickle) but he will have good competition with Tavierre Thomason the roster. They are going to want to keep Whitehead on the field so it will be interesting. Bowles is going to get Tykee in the field once he has the system down.

  11. Dave Pear Says:

    MJ is a puzzle. He looked lost in Todd’s MENSA scheme. He’s definitely played better since. Maybe he’s better at football than quantum algorithms.

    You slow down when you’re confused.

  12. Hodad Says:

    Whenever I see a rerun college game on, and it has one of our new players I’ll watch it. About a week ago Georgia was on, and got to watch Smith. This kid read one running play, and like a missle came in, and nailed the back for a 5 yard loss. His football smarts were on full display, and he has the physical skills to get it done. Bowles has had his eye on Smith being his son plays for the dogs. Very excited to see this defense, like what we’ve added, and subtracted. YaYa, and Kancey take the next step, look out. Also I watched Kentucy’s bowl game against Clemsen to get a feel for Coen’s play calling. Liked that he called a play action roll out on first down inside the redzone. It worked for an easy T.D.. Not a run, run, incomplete pass on 3rd down F.G. which the Bucs have done to much of.

  13. Dude Says:

    MONEYBACKER! Look it up, NB in Bowles offense in that role can do the job of a nickel back, a 3rd ILB, or 3rd Safety.

  14. SlyPirate Says:

    Bowles used LVD in the more blitzes last year. A) He loved it. B) He got 4 sacks.

  15. Fred McNeil Says:

    Izien wasn’t bad at all last year. Now he has experience. Smith isn’t just gonna waltz away with the nickel position. If he can beat Izien and that new Thomas guy that would be very impressive to me. Believe me, it’s duly noted that many of my fellow JBFers seem to really like this pick. I don’t watch college ball myself.

  16. Fred McNeil Says:

    I’ve noticed everybody seems to love the JMac and Irving picks as well. I can’t wait to see them for myself.

  17. teacherman1983 Says:

    MJ Stewart is still in the NFL.

    He started for the Browns.

    He started for the Texans.

    He is not a bust.

    He’s a solid NFL football player.

    I always said, make a “moneybacker” ILB. (Like Mark Barron)

    MJ Stewart is a hard nosed player.

    I still think we made a mistake releasing him.

    I wanted him as depth and special teams.

    SS/LB for passing situations.

    Blitz and tackle.

  18. Rod Munch Says:

    SlyPirate Says:
    July 8th, 2024 at 10:57 am
    Bowles used LVD in the more blitzes last year. A) He loved it. B) He got 4 sacks.


    4.5 sacks, and 17 TFL, to go with 134 tackles — in just 15 games.

    That’s really really impressive, and not too far off his unbelievable Defensive MVP 2013 year on a per game basis, just without the INTs.

  19. Rod Munch Says:

    teacherman1983 – Ryan Smith also stuck around for way too long. VH3 played a long time too.

    MJ Stewart stinks. Also in Cleveland I did see him getting burned just like he was in Tampa. The guy is just too slow – and ran around lost. A terrible combo.

  20. Stanglassman Says:

    So bad that the Texans signed him to a two-year contract at @6m per. All bad players get that I suppose.