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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Offseason Objective: Install and Refine

Tampa Bay's players will be learning new defensive and special teams schemes this offseason, but on offense they have a chance to build on their 2015 success thanks to great continuity.

Technically, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are heading into 2016 with new coordinators at the helm of all three phases of the game: offense, defense and special teams. Those three situations are not created equally, however.

]( Buccaneers hired Todd Monken as their new offensive coordinator when that position was vacated by Dirk Koetter's promotion to head coach. However, Koetter will continue to call plays on game day and Monken will help Koetter further develop the existing scheme, not replace it. Tampa Bay's defense, on the other hand, will be operating out of a different playbook under new director Mike Smith. New Special Teams Coordinator Nate Kaczor will certainly put his own spin on the Bucs' kicking game, but much of the success in that area of the game boils down to the talent of the team's specialists.

Thus, when Buccaneer players returned to team headquarters on Monday for the start of the offseason program – with all but one expected absence from a roster of 70-plus – there were different objectives for the different crews. For the defense and special teams the first order of business was installation; for the offense, the key word was refinement.

For now, these objectives are being pursued only in the classroom. During the first two weeks of the offseason program, also known as Phase One, the only allowed physical activity is strength and conditioning work and coaches are not permitted on the field with the players. Still, Koetter and his staff have been looking forward to this opportunity to work with their charges for months. Koetter's address to the entire team on Monday morning, the first day of a 10-week offseason training program, succeeded in inspiring one of his most important players.

]("It was good to see everybody coming in excited and I was very excited for Coach Koetter," said second-year quarterback Jameis Winston. "He made a big statement in there in the team room and we're just pumped, man. We're ready to get this thing going."

The Buccaneers' 53-Man roster.

Neither Koetter nor Winston shared the details of the coach's speech, but Koetter did reveal that Smith began his system-installation process with a 40-minute presentation to all the defensive players, while the offensive players went directly into position meetings.

"I know Mike Smith, so I knew I wasn't going to be disappointed [in his first meeting with the team]," said Koetter. "He just talked about very basic things, very basic principles of what they want to get done on defense, what the Bucs want to get done. Just a very general outline."

The defensive players, who followed the meeting with Smith by also breaking up into position groups, have a greater hill to climb after a season in which the team allowed just over 26 points per game. The fine details of what Smith's defense will look like have not been revealed, but he has promised that it will be aggressive and it will show multiple looks to opposing offenses. Smith has described the goal of his defense to be simple for his players to master but difficult for opponents to diagnose.

Koetter's offense is starting from a better place, having ranked fifth in the NFL in yards per game and shown big play ability in both the rushing and passing attacks. It's a unit that sees the return to full strength of such injured contributors as Vincent Jackson, Louis Murphy and Austin Seferian-Jenkins plus the expected second-year leaps from Winston and offensive line starters Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet. Koetter has a new right-hand man in Monken, who will also coach the wide receivers, and a staff that's ready to build on the successes of 2015. Overall, the players and coaches on offense will benefit from a great deal of continuity, something it hasn't had for years.

"We're by no means where we need to be on offense," said Koetter. "When you win six football games, you've got a lot of stuff [to work on]. We've got to score more points, number one. Any time you come in and you change a lot of stuff in a system, whether it be offense, defense or special teams, and then you don't have any – or very few – coaching changes in that area, especially with the play-caller and the philosophy behind both the run game, the pass game, the protections, you should expect better execution in year two."

Kaczor got his first opportunity to begin work with the players on special teams on Tuesday, and when the team finally gets some real practice time in Phase Two of the offseason program he'll oversee a heated battle at both kicking spots. Patrick Murray returns from injured reserve to give Connor Barth a competitor at placekicker and incumbent punter Jacob Schum will be competing with unrestricted free agent addition Bryan Anger.

"The number-one thing with the special teams, it starts with your specialists," said Koetter. "We're trying to create competition there – we have multiple guys on the roster right now at both kicker and punter, so [we're] creating competition with the specialists. There's always going to be some scheme things and now, also, we have some rule changes. We actually have the officials coming in tomorrow to talk to the staff about the rule changes. The new 25-yard line rule on kickoffs – there's going to be a lot of discussion about how kickoff teams are going to handle that and that's one of the strategy things that we're tackling right now."

The Buccaneers need improvement in all three phases of the game in order to return to playoff contention in 2016. Whether they've achieved that won't be evident until the season begins, but the process begins now. Over 10 weeks of offseason work the Bucs hope to refine a promising offense while installing new schemes on defense and special teams.

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