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Bucs Prepare for Up-Tempo Attack

Posted Oct 9, 2013

Philadelphia's offense under first-year Head Coach Chip Kelly gets plays off at a dizzying rate, which will have some effect on how the Bucs' defense approaches Sunday's game...And other notes

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Buccaneers are focusing on playing precise assignment football against Philly's high-speed offense
  • S Mark Barron, TE Tom Crabtree and DT Derek Landri all practiced without limitations on Wednesday
  • CB Darrelle Revis is worried about his matchup with WR DeSean Jackson turning into a track meet
The average score of a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game this season is 18-11.  The average score of a Philadelphia Eagles game this season is 32-27.  Obviously, these two teams have been playing two very different brands of football so far in 2013.

The Eagles, in fact, have been playing a different sort of football, at least on the offensive side of the ball, than just about anybody else in the NFL.  Adopting the up-tempo approach that first-year Head Coach Chip Kelly used to such great effect the last four years at the University of Oregon, the Eagles are trying to stress opposing defenses and create sudden mismatches that lead to big plays.  Despite being 31st in the league in time of possession (26:24 per game), the Eagles are eighth in the NFL in scoring.

The speed at which the Eagles move from one play to the next jumps off the game tape when the Buccaneer defenders gather in the meeting room to scout their opponent.

“I was looking at tape today – I watched the Washington game – and I was just timing the plays," said defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.  "Because it was a touchback, the first play was, of course, at 15:00; the next play was at 14:47; and the next play after that was like 14:32 or something like that. I’m like, ‘They can’t be running plays this fast.’ It’s up-tempo. We’ve just got to be ready for it. I think, with how we prepare here and how we train here, we’ll be all right, conditioning-wise. We’ve just got to make sure we ignore all the bells and whistles and just focus on our keys.”

As they would do with any upcoming opponent, the Buccaneers are trying to use their scout team on the practice field to simulate the Eagles' pace between snaps on offense.  Head Coach Greg Schiano estimates they're able to get to about 60% of the tempo displayed by Philly's attack.

"I think that's the most challenging thing, that they have the no-huddle," said cornerback Darrelle Revis.  "We see it on film…sometimes the camera man can't even get those guys on film because they've started the play.  We've been working on that and we're trying to keep up with their pace.  Coach Schiano has us in no-huddle and they're substituting, two guys coming on and off, and we've got to prepare for that."

Schiano says that the rapid, no-huddle move from one snap to the next sometimes catches defenders out of position, and that's particularly troublesome when the ball is placed in the hands of the NFL's leading rusher, LeSean McCoy.  McCoy sometimes only needs to make one of his sharp moves to get out into the open.

"When you see the big plays, it’s not like some of those runs that are big gashes are an extravagant scheme," said Schiano.  "They block people, they read one guy – and the guys aren’t quite in their stance.  They’re in the vicinity [but] they’re not quite ready to go. And like I said, when [McCoy] has the ball in his hands, at times, it looks like a video game. Some of the cuts he makes humans aren’t supposed to be able to do, so it’s pretty special.”

The Buccaneers solution is to prepare for the plays they expect to see, as they would any week, and then emphasize each player paying attention to his job, even when the action starts to get really fast.

“Just do your job and pay attention to your assignment," said McCoy. "They do a lot of shifts and motions and stuff is flying all different ways, but if you focus on one thing, it’s pretty easy to pick up, because it’s not very complicated, but it is at the same time.”

While that "do-your-assignment" refrain is central to the Buccaneers' approach in each and every game, Schiano concedes that the Eagles' unique offensive approach forces some adjustment by the defense.  Because there is so little time to think, the Buccaneers are likely to have a simpler defensive game plan on Sunday.

-- CB Darrelle Revis is getting work against an up-tempo scout team this week

“You have to be able to play really precise, assignment defense," said Schiano.  "How many things can you do at a high rate of speed? That’s what gets you, is you’ve got to kind of pare it down. Their run game, it’s not like its 70 run plays you’ve got to get ready for, it’s just they do what they do well and they do it very fast. It kind of shrinks down to ‘Who’s going to execute better?’”

* The Buccaneers' offense currently ranks 16th in the NFL in third down conversion success at 37.7%, which is actually an improvement from last year, when the team set franchise records for yards and points but converted third downs at a 35.5% rate.

Obviously, that is a good-but-not-outstanding statistic, but given the team's overall struggles on offense (31st in yards, 31st in points), it is something of a bright spot.  Moreover, Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan thinks it is a reason for optimism for the next 12 games.

"When you look at the numbers on third down, we're in a position – certainly not leading the league or in the top 10 – but it's certainly a lot better," said Sullivan.  "And if we were to pull out the third-and-11-pluses – we have too many third-and-11-pluses, 15, that's almost four a game, too many – we look at ourselves as far as efficiency from third-and-one up to third-and-10, we're somewhere near that 50% mark.  It's certainly not good enough, it can get better, but it's a bright spot in an otherwise dark [situation] in the first four games."

Indeed, the Buccaneers are just two of 15 in attempts to convert a third down from 11 or more yards out, which is not surprising.  That 13.3% rate in that scenario is right in between where they finished in third-and-11 or more in 2012 (14.6%) and 2011 (9.1%).  Tampa Bay's opponents this year happen to be exactly two of 15 on third downs of 11 or more yards, too.  If the Bucs can reduce the number of times they have to try to convert such difficult third downs, they would likely sustain more drives, given their decent numbers from closer in.

Overall, the Bucs are 21 of 46 on third down tries of 10 or fewer yards, for a success rate of 45.6%.  They are converting at a 66.7% rate on tries of 1-3 yards, a 35.7% rate from 4-6 yards and a 40.0% rate from 7-10 yards.

* The Bucs made one minor roster move on Wednesday.  Rookie tackle Jace Daniels, an undrafted free agent who was with the team during training camp, was brought back to the practice squad, replacing G Mike Remmers.  Remmers left on his own accord, as any practice squad player is free to do, when he was offered a spot on the active roster by the San Diego Chargers.

Since that was the only move of Wednesday, the Buccaneers are still left with one open spot on their 53-man roster.  It's not absolutely imperative that the spot is filled before Sunday's game – the Bucs would just be required to deactivate six players instead of seven to get to the game-day limit of 46 – but teams do generally stay at the maximum throughout the regular season.

* Even with the roster not quite at the limit, the Bucs still had as many players on the practice field on Wednesday as they have all season.  Cornerback Michael Adams, who is still recovering from a knee injury that was expected to keep him out six or seven weeks, was the only one of the 60 men on the active roster and practice squad combined who did not practice at all to start the Philly week.

Most notably, safety Mark Barron (hamstring), tight end Tom Crabtree (ankle) and defensive tackle Derek Landri (knee) were all involved and listed as "full participation" on the official injury report.  That was also true of offensive lineman Gabe Carimi, who missed roughly two weeks due to illness, and rookie cornerback Rashaan Melvin, who has been dealing with a hamstring injury since the end of the preseason.

Barron won't miss any games if he is cleared to play on Sunday, as his injury occurred in the Week Four game against Arizona before the bye week.  Landri, who was seeing significant snaps in the team's DT rotation early in the season, hasn't played since Week Two and would bring a big boost to the defensive line.  Crabtree's presence could add punch to a tight end corps that hasn't produced much yet in 2013.

Below are the full injury reports for both teams on Wednesday.

Buccaneers:

Player

Injury

Practice Status

CB Michael Adams

Knee

Did Not Participate

S Mark Barron

Hamstring

Full Participation

OL Gabe Carimi

Illness

Full Participation

TE Tom Crabtree

Ankle

Full Participation

S Dashon Goldson

Foot

Limited Participation

DT Derek Landri

Knee

Full Participation

DE Steven Means

Shoulder

Limited Participation

CB Rashaan Melvin

Hamstring

Full Participation

G Carl Nicks

Foot

Limited Participation

WR Mike Williams

Hamstring

Limited Participation

 

Eagles:

Player

Injury

Practice Status

LB Connor Barwin

Knee

Full Participation

CB Brandon Boykin

Groin

Limited Participation

S Patrick Chung

Shoulder

Full Participation

P Donnie Jones

Left Foot

Limited Participation

RB Chris Polk

Ankle

Limited Participation

QB Michael Vick

Hamstring

Limited Participation

 

We’ve just got to make sure we ignore all the bells and whistles and just focus on our keys.
-- Gerald McCoy

* Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis is teammates with an Olympic Sprinter in running back Jeff Demps.  Revis doesn't claim to be one himself.

Revis reacted with good-natured amusement on Wednesday when he was reminded of some words uttered by Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson on Tuesday.  Jackson had some thoughts on his coming matchup with Revis, and the quote that caught the most national attention was this: "I don't think he can run with me.  I don't think he's as fast as me."

Revis didn't argue the point.

"I'm not fast; I've never been fast," said Revis with a laugh.  "I'm not fast; [Jackson]'s fast.  Fast people are allowed to say those types of things.  I've covered him before in the past and it was a good battle.  We'll see what happens this time around.  I'm not here to discuss who's the fastest.  I'm not running for the Olympics and he's not either.  I'm just here to compete and play."

Jackson and Revis have squared off only once before in the regular season, a meeting between the Eagles and the New York Jets on December 18, 2011.  Philadelphia won the game, 45-19; Jackson was held to two catches for 28 yards.  Asked if he thought he could stay with Jackson again this Sunday, Revis said:

"I did in the past.  It's no problem."

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