For strategic purposes, Head Coach Greg Schiano has declined to elaborate extensively on the structure of the defense he and Coordinator Bill Sheridan have imported to Tampa, beyond the basic philosophies. There's no reason to deviate from that policy now, with the Carolina Panthers and the start of the regular season arriving in four days.
One thing is certain, however: It's going to be different.
Different that is, from what Buccaneers fans have become accustomed to seeing. Like every team, the Bucs have seen their schemes evolve over the years, but with Raheem Morris following the long Monte Kiffin era in Tampa, there has been something of a unifying thread for Tampa Bay's defense for 16 years. A new thread is being pulled out of the fabric of defensive possibilities in 2012. And that will be particularly obvious in the season opener, as the Bucs are tasked with the very complicated challenge of slowing down Carolina quarterback Cam Newton.
"It's completely different, a completely different scheme," said defensive back Ronde Barber, who would obviously know, having played in the former defense for 15 years. "There are some elements that everybody does across the league that you'll see, just like last year, but this is a whole new preparation for this team. There are different ways we're going to play Cam, different ways we're going to play every situation than we did last year. We're looking forward to it.
Barber is an old soul, by NFL standards, but the Bucs' defense is filled with young and enthusiastic players, and they seem energized by the opportunity to implement a whole new scheme.
"We've got a new spark this year, a new twinkle in our eyes," said defensive tackle Roy Miller. "We're excited to put some new stuff on film, put some new stuff out there for the fans. We feel like we've gotten so much better from last year, just as a unit. As a unit, when you play well everybody makes plays. You see that across the board – you see young guys making plays, and everybody's making plays here and there. We just believe this is a new defense, a new team with a new mentality."
Added cornerback Aqib Talib: "This is a totally different defense, nothing like what we did last year. It's a whole different defense and we're trying to make a name for ourselves. We plan to mix in everything."
Talib hit on one of the few specifics about the Bucs' new defense that has been revealed: There's going to be more variety. That applies to blitz options and blitz timing, defensive line fronts, secondary alignments and more.
"It's definitely going to be a 'multiple' defense in regards to the kind of fronts we're going to line up and the stunts that we'll execute from those different fronts," said Sheridan. "The same thing on the back end; we're not a team that's going to play one or two coverages. We have some base coverages like everybody does [but] we have enough in our package that you couldn't pin us down and say we just play these two coverages. From the pressure game, we have different pressures from defensive packages whether its first down or third down.
"I think we'll be more multiple than maybe what they're used to seeing around here in the past. Not that that necessarily makes it better or worse, it's just that we're a little more multiple."