Liam Coen was introduced as the Buccaneers' offensive coordinator in a press conference on Tuesday. He fielded a variety of questions from the podium, including his thoughts and commitment to the ground game. A product of the Sean McVay coaching tree, Coen divulged his thoughts on marrying both the run and the pass through an in-depth understanding of opposing defenses.
"Marriage of the run and pass is what we are striving for," said Coen. "We are striving for balance and to be explosive in both the run and the pass. That is something that I obviously take a lot of pride in and something that I learned a lot from Sean [McVay] in terms of the run game when I first got to L.A. We understood and tried to study defense more than we tried to study ourselves; how to understand gap integrity, fits, fall backs and things of that nature. To try and dissect the defense and how can we also run into better pictures?' Now we are talking, 'Can we put a little more on the guys? Can we put a little more on the quarterback and the center to be able to change the play to get us into advantageous looks?'"
Now in Tampa Bay, Coen will inherit Bucs' workhorse, running back Rachaad White. White became a focal point in the Bucs' offense in 2023 and there will likely be similar carryover in 2024. Last season, as the Bucs worked to build their run game through duo and mid-zone principles, the club manufactured a ground attack through screens, sweeps and empty packages to complement White's prowess out of the backfield. As opposing teams continued to allocate resources to the back end to try and prevent the big play over the top to Mike Evans by using a two-high shell (light box), Tampa Bay took advantage with White. The second-year back finished the year with over 1,000 scrimmage yards and was 10 yards shy of surpassing the 1,000-yard rushing marker. White concluded his 2023 campaign with 272 totes for 990 rushing yards, six rushing touchdowns and 3.6 yards per attempt. In addition, he showcased his pass-catching ability with 549 receiving yards on 70 catches for an average of 8.6 yards per reception. White ranked seventh in the NFL in YAC yardage with 64.
"[He is a] pretty dynamic dude," described Coen of Rachaad White. "I evaluated him coming out of Arizona State and we were excited about him in L.A., as well as just the ability to motion him out of the backfield, in empty and free release him out of the backfield. He has showed that he can do those things and that is not easy as a young back to handle the run and the pass at a pretty high level. 'How do we get better at sticking our foot in the ground and getting vertical? How can we get violent with our shoulder pads down and getting downhill on people?' But man, he is eager. I just met him in the weight room. He is excited and wants to get back to work. He seems like he can be a good all-purpose back."
In McVay's system, there was previously a focus on utilizing motion to create positive matchups/angles for outside zone and play-action. The Rams slowly transitioned to more of a gap-based team, getting downhill with physicality. Training camp and the 2024 season will provide more insight on Coen's run game structure and iteration in Tampa Bay, but one thing is apparent – White will play a pivotal role in igniting the ground attack for the Bucs.