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Todd Bowles' Gameplan Management, Growth of Young Players & Offensive Conception | Brianna's Blitz 

At the annual NFL Owner’s Meetings, General Manager Jason Licht and Head Coach Todd Bowles addressed a variety of topics leading up to the 2024 Draft

Bri's Blitz March 28

Dual Role Game Management

For the second-straight year in 2023, Todd Bowles managed both head coaching duties and acted as the team's defensive play-caller. The guru, known for his gap-penetrating attack-styled defense that incorporates exotic looks, continued his stellar trend last season in Tampa Bay. The Bucs' defense tied for sixth in the league in points allowed (19.1 per game) and allowed the fifth fewest rushing yards (95.3 per game). When asked about Bowles' dual role, General Manager Jason Licht gave a rave review, notably mentioning his Super Bowl LV work of art. Bowles devised a masterpiece, making Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs' offensive juggernaut look mortal in a 31-9 pounding. Against Kansas City, Bowles de-emphasized blitzes and sending additional rushers, not allowing the Chiefs to take advantage in the short-to-intermediate area of the field. The Bucs played a heavy dose of Cover Two and Two-Man to take away the explosive plays over the top and utilized Lavonte David and Devin White to patrol the underneath area of the field and the boundaries. The Bucs were able to get pressure with four, opening up the team's pass defense. Bowles, the architect, deserved an MVP for that slaughter at Raymond James Stadium.

"He is one of the best I have been around going back to the Super Bowl – that was a Hall of Fame gameplan that he had there," smiled Jason Licht. "I think we all get better as we get into our jobs, and I know looking back on my first few years, I want to kick my own butt for doing some of the things that I did. He is really good, and I think he has gotten really comfortable in a good way, not sitting on his hands."

Liam Coen's Passion

Excitement builds for the Bucs' revamped offense in 2024 under the direction of Offensive Coordinator Liam Coen. Coen worked as the Rams' offensive coordinator under Head Coach Sean McVay in 2022. During that year, Baker Mayfield was acquired off waivers and spent five games in L.A. under Coen and McVay's tutelage, before signing a one-year deal with the Buccaneers in 2023. Previously, Coen spent the 2018-19 seasons as the Rams' assistant wide receivers coach and the 2020 campaign as the assistant quarterbacks coach. Across his four seasons on the Rams' staff, the team's offense ranked seventh in yards per game, fifth in passing yards per game and ninth in points per game.

Last season in the college ranks for Kentucky, Coen directed an offense that scored 29.1 points per game in 2023 and recorded 50 touchdowns while setting a school record with 8.0 yards per touch. That served as Coen's second stint as the Wildcats' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, as he held the same position in 2021. Under Coen's leadership in 2021, the Wildcats ranked fifth in scoring offense (32.3 points per game) and eighth in total offense (452.2 yards per game) in the Southeastern Conference, including fifth in rushing offense at 199.5 yards per game. Meanwhile in Tampa Bay, Coen and the Bucs' offensive staff have been vigorously working to build the scheme for 2024.

"He is very passionate," said Licht on Coen. "He was born to coach; you can tell that. His grandfather, his father, he is always very eager to present new ideas. He has the offensive staff working around the clock to be innovative and we are looking forward to seeing once the players get into the building what it looks like."

K.J. Britt's Football IQ

Devin White dealt with a lingering foot injury in 2023 that caused him to miss playing time. Upon his return from injury, White transitioned from an every-down role to a rotational one alongside veteran K.J. Britt. Britt made a significant impact in defending the run, garnering an uptick in snaps on the field. He had four game starts in 2023 and racked up 29 tackles and a tackle for loss. The Auburn product played with good awareness and diagnosis to locate the football. The hard-hitter clogged run lanes, doing everything in his power to limit the flow of rushers. Britt may not be the fastest player on the gridiron, but his competitive disposition is palpable.

"Well, we are not running the 40, so he is a football player," described Todd Bowles on Britt. "You have to get around them to use your speed. K.J., what he lacks in the two steps in the speed department, he makes up for in being in the right place and understanding the game. So, you can play fast and not be fast and you can be fast and not play fast. So, K.J. is one of those guys that is not very fast, but he plays fast so we are comfortable with that."

Formidable Crew

Calijah Kancey, Vita Vea and Logan Hall were the Bucs' primary starters along the front line, collectively posting 10 sacks in 2023. Kancey, the team's first round draft pick in 2023 out of Pittsburgh, produced a breakout rookie campaign in the trenches. Kancey finished the year with 10 tackles for loss, which tied for second among rookies with Texans' Will Anderson Jr. In addition, he had the fourth-highest stuff rate among defensive tackles (minimum 150 snaps) per Next Gen Stats, quickly shedding blocks despite his smaller frame for NFL defensive tackle standards. Kancey totaled 577 snaps for the Bucs in 2023, primarily lining up as the club's three-technique. He posted 4.0 sacks and consistently wreaked havoc at the line of scrimmage with a lethal get-off. With a slew of moves and ability to adjust his rush plan in-game, Kancey bolstered the unit.

Vita Vea, the Bucs' nose tackle, tallied 5.5 sacks on 607 snaps in 2023. He anchored the line and overwhelmed at the point of attack. Vea consistently demanded double teams and effectively collapsed the pocket. Whether holding the line as a two-gapper or penetrating to get upfield as a one-gap player, Vea is proficient. Logan Hall predominately lined up as the Bucs' five-technique, accumulating 543 snaps in 2023 as a starter. Hall became more comfortable in the Bucs' system in Year Two and made an impact with violent hands, pursuit in space, leg drive and a strong anchor.

"I thought Logan started off slow, but I thought he came on and had a heck of a year," stated Bowles. "He had some sacks where the ball was out when he got through clean and that doesn't show up on the total, but he really started playing the run better and playing the pass better. He kind of found his niche within the defense and understanding what he has to do to win. So, I really look forward to Logan, along with [Calijah] Kancey and Vita [Vea] to really be one of the more formidable defensive lines."

SirVocea Dennis' Prowess

SirVocea Dennis, the Bucs' fifth round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, played primarily on special teams in 2023 but had 101 snaps on defense. Dennis possesses outstanding play recognition and timely blitzes. He only had four missed tackles registered in 2022 for Pittsburgh and notched 36.0 tackles for loss over his last 35 games at the collegiate level. Dennis plays with vison and finds his way into the backfield. He has elite straight-line speed and helped elevate the Bucs' defense last season.

"I think he is a heck of a pass rusher and one of our better zone droppers and he has a feel for the game, so we have to keep him healthy to stay on the field," said Bowles. "We are really looking for a big jump for him this season. He plays Mike and Mo."

Rachaad White Becomes All-Around Star

Rachaad White established himself as one of the best dual-threat backs in the NFL in 2023. The Bucs devised a plan to maximize White's prowess in the open field through screens, sweeps and empty packages. He finished the year with over 1,000 scrimmage yards and was 10 yards shy of eclipsing the 1,000-yard rushing marker. The workhorse tallied 272 totes for 990 rushing yards, six rushing touchdowns and 3.6 yards per attempt. In addition, White showcased his pass-catching ability with 549 receiving yards on 70 catches for an average of 8.6 yards per reception. As the season progressed, White was able to locate creases quicker. He displayed the ability to run a full route tree and to bypass initial contact with balance and shiftiness. White forced missed tackles in space and became more decisive down the stretch. White can stack cuts at the second level and his versatility creates mismatches for the Bucs' offense.

 "I though Rachaad matured because he really got a hold of the offense and understood what we were expecting of him in that aspect, so he started playing faster because he was playing smarter," noted Bowles. "He knew where the cutback lanes were going to be before they opened up. Earlier in the season, he was waiting to see, and it was slowing him down and he probably missed a few holes. In the passing game he has always been an asset. We had not used him as much but if you can get him in open space, he is a very good route runner and he is elusive out in the open field and he has outstanding hands. He really worked on his pass blocking. So, he became a very good all-around football player and there are not too many of them in the league right now."

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