Without pads on, practices can be hard to judge. But despite the lack of contact, the Buccaneers’ new defense has been impressive during OTAs.
The Bucs have had three OTAs open to member of the media, and during all three the team’s defense has been impressive, particularly creating turnovers. Last Thursday, Bradley McDougald, Daryl Smith, Isaiah Johnson and Jude Adjei-Barimah each intercepted passes, adding to what was already a productive practice, and camp, for the defense.
The Buccaneers have a new defensive coordinator and a new system, but head coach Dirk Koetter can already see the improvement that his defense has made during OTAs.
The best photos from the first week of OTAs.
“I see improvements with just our defense in general and our defensive scheme – how well our defensive players are running to the ball,” Koetter said, “how well they’re embracing the volume that [defensive coordinator Mike] Smith and the defensive coaches are putting in, the different looks that they’re giving us on defense, the energy that our defensive players are bringing to practice. I mean, our offense should be a little bit ahead of our defense right now because they are in the same system, but we’re just real happy with how our defensive guys are taking to the new scheme.”
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The Buccaneers’ defense is shaping up to be much different than the unit that took the field a year ago. In addition to hiring Smith to run the group, the Buccaneers drafted Vernon Hargreaves and Noah Spence in the first and second rounds, respectively, and signed Brent Grimes and Robert Ayers in free agency. The Bucs hope that the moves could help reinforce two position groups that struggled at times a year ago. Grimes and Ayers have been working with the first-team defense while Spence and Hargreaves have been taking reps mostly with the twos.
The starting lineup will sort itself out as training camp gets under way, but if OTAs are been any indication of things to come, the Buccaneers’ defense should be much improved from a year ago.
“What I like is how hard our guys are working,” Koetter said. “Our guys are coming to work every day with a lot of enthusiasm and the attitude that they want to get better. That’s all you can ask for. What we want to see is to keep getting better every day – getting a little bit better every day.”