The Tampa Bay Buccaneers released their first depth chart of 2014 – their first depth chart under Lovie Smith, for that matter – on Tuesday morning. It wasn't until later that evening, after a 150-minute practice, that Smith addressed some of the topics raised by that document. As expected, he stressed that the first edition of the depth chart was not to be taken as anything particularly permanent.
"We came out with a depth chart today – don't put too much into the depth chart," said Smith. "The league says we have to put out a depth chart today, so we put out a depth chart today. The depth chart will mean a little bit more once we play a football game against someone else, then we can talk a little more on that."
However, there were a few notes of interest on that first chart, including the fact that Da'Quan Bowers, considered a defensive end by trade, was listed as the second three-technique tackle behind All-Pro Gerald McCoy. That Bowers had been seeing action on the interior line during the first 10 days of camp was no secret, but his listing in the middle seemed to confirm that that the Buccaneers planned to take advantage of his versatility. Smith stressed that this is not an indication that Bowers' days of rushing off the edge are over.
"I think Da'Quan Bowers has flexibility to play a couple of different spots," said Smith. "We could've also listed him at the defensive end position, which he will play. I see him with the possibility of playing the three technique, especially in passing downs. He should be better at it in passing downs, and then maybe a first-and-second-down defensive end."
Bowers certainly has the size the power moves to play between the ends, and Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frazier says he has another attribute that should allow him to excel in that role
"His strength, that sticks out," said Frazier. "He's a stout football player on the inside. We need a guy that can come in when Gerald [McCoy] is not on the field where we don't have a big drop off. But we're also going to use Da'Quan at end as well. He's one of those few guys that can give you the dual-purpose that you need on a defensive line. His strength and size, his movement and athleticism, if he stays healthy, we're counting on big things from him."
Bowers' spot on the depth chart wasn't the only topic being discussed by the Buccaneers' coaches after practice on Tuesday. Below are some additional thoughts from Smith and Frazier.
Head Coach Lovie Smith
"I know our players are starting to get a little tired of training camp, this second week, I've been through this routine quite a bit. The last time we went goal line the defense kind of got the better of our offense, our offense came back out today strong down there. We've got to get touchdowns once we get down there and we say we want to have balance, we've got to be able to run the ball, especially in those situations. I was pleased with that. We do have a couple of injuries, nothing really too concerning. Guys like [cornerback] Alterraun Verner, there's nothing more to tell you, they're getting better.
On putting rookies behind veterans on the depth chart
"The guys that have a history, rookie-wise you shouldn't see any rookies on – I don't think there were any rookies on [first-team]. I know we have high picks and things like that and we have some rookies that have been impressive so far, but you don't switch the depth chart until you see them in some live-action. When I say don't put too much into the depth chart, you can put a little bit into it, but in order to get at the top you've done something, just enough to tease us a little."
On if there is a concern with lack of depth at the defensive end position
"Yes it is, you can't have too many defensive ends. Michael Johnson and Gerald McCoy, they're not going to play a lot the first game, you need fresh bodies, especially late. It's an opportunity for some of those players to prove what they can do. We will always be heavy at the defensive back position and probably defensive end more than defensive tackle position."
On the penetration the defensive line is getting
"Gerald McCoy and Clinton McDonald, we have good interior guys, and Akeem Spence, we should get good push up the middle of the field and we have gotten that."
On working with defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier
"Our defensive coordinator would have to go way back, feel comfortable with this system and that's what we're going to run. Of course Leslie has been in it quite a bit, he has been on a Super Bowl winning team with it. Did a great job of course, as head coach with Minnesota, but he was a defensive coordinator before that. I've known Leslie a long time, we're on the same page as far as how we play football, a lot of respect from him with the players based on the track record."
On what the biggest difference was for the offense today
"I think if you are a competitor, you just kind of get tired of hearing it, I'm right in the middle. Some days I'm offense, offense, the group that performs the best I'm right in that huddle with them. As I came into the meetings today, I was tooting the defense's horn. I think they had eight turnovers yesterday. [The offense] got tired of hearing that and normally when you get tired of hearing something you do something about it. That's what we at least want them to do."
Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frazier
On how training camp is going
"It's really going well for us. Today, with the weather being like it was, the clouds kind of helped us out. It was a good, spirited practice. I think it was good for our offense, our defense and our special teams. Guys are working hard, extremely hard. Good camp up to this point."
On how the defense is performing during goal line drills
"It's a little bit of give and take. Yesterday, we dominated them on the goal line; today, our offense did some good things down there. You like to see that. You like to see a little bit of balance."
On the preseason matchup against Jacksonville on Friday
"I think we're all looking forward to hitting somebody else instead of ourselves. It's been a very physical camp. I think our guys are looking forward to lining up against another opponent."
On safety Mark Barron
"We didn't have him in the offseason. He was injured and missed the entire offseason from a workout standpoint. To have him here in training camp, working as hard as he's working and making the plays that he's making, we're expecting big things from him. He's a very talented guy, a smart football player and physical. He's made some big plays out here in practice. We're looking forward to him having a great season."
On having Super Bowl winners, linebacker Jonathan Casillas and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, talk to the defense about what it takes to win a Super Bowl
"Both of those guys have Super Bowl rings from previous teams. I just had them talk about what it takes from their standpoint when they had success. We've got a lot of young guys – guys that haven't gotten to that point or even been in the playoffs. So it was good to hear their thoughts and hear some of the things that are necessary to be one of the best teams in the league, one of the best defenses in the league."
On the defense's success in training camp at putting pressure on the quarterback**
"Our rush has been pretty good in training camp and now we've got to be able to carry that over to our first preseason game and on from there. But so far, so good. We've just got to keep working."
On defensive tackle Gerald McCoy
"Gerald is a terrific player as we all know. He's a Pro Bowler. I think for every coach that gets a chance to coach a superstar, you want them to be like Gerald. He's first in everything, he does everything the way you want it done. That's rare sometimes in a player as good as he is. With his work ethic, his leadership and his talent, he's a special player."
On the secondary lining up against big, tall receivers every day in practice
"We've got some big receivers. I'm glad they're on our team. We get a chance to face them. More and more teams are going with these big receivers so it's good practice for us. They're a talented group, but it should make us better as a secondary."
On quarterback Josh McCown and his ability to play with big receivers
"He's been very good at it – evidenced by what he did last season with those two big receivers [in Chicago]. So we're looking forward to watching him from the sidelines do it again this year for us."
On the transition from head coach last year to defensive coordinator this year
"It's been relatively smooth. Lovie is a great guy – a great guy to be around. Tremendous teacher. I have a lot of respect for him. I had a lot of respect for him when we were on opposite sidelines and I've enjoyed the working experience. Looking forward to bring our team along and seeing our defense have success."