SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR KEITH ARMSTRONG
(On how the 2021 rookie class can help on special teams)
"You love everything about Joe [Tryon] – great athlete, smart, can run, [has] size, physical. I remember years ago in Chicago I had a guy by the name of Brian Urlacher. They let me use him for four weeks in training camp and every preseason game. Then right after that fourth preseason game, they're like, 'Hey, he's no longer covering kicks.' You love everything about [Tryon]. He's a really sharp kid. I think that he could fit in punt, punt return, kickoff coverage, field goal block, etc. Obviously as you look at his tape at the University of Washington, he has played a ton of different roles on defense out there, so obviously he is a sharp kid and can do it. I think he could do a hell of a job. Out of the two young linebackers, both do a nice job. They have their own particular assets. One is really fast and can run in [Grant] Stuard. Then K.J. [Britt] will hit you dead in the mouth. They both play with a lot of energy, tough kids. I like what I see there. They're doing a really good job. [Jaelon] Darden does a hell of a job getting under the football and catching punts. It has only been off a JUGS machine right now, and they're in shorts, so I don't want to go into it too deep and send anybody to Canton or anything, but he does a really good job of catching the ball. You don't hear it when it's being caught – he's got soft hands and he's sudden when he catches the ball, so he has done a nice job."
(On guys that could step in as gunners this season)
"When you look at the drills that we've had and you take a look at guys – the defensive backs, several of them – the Hamilton kid has done a nice job for us, Antonio Hamilton. He's been in the Rookie Mini-Camp. He was a tryout guy – did a nice job for us. We like him. Dee Delaney has been a guy that's done it. Obviously, you look at Nate Brooks – a quick kid that's done it. [Cameron] Kinley and [Chris] Wilcox obviously, the BYU draftee. Wilcox has the length; he has some long speed. The biggest thing is you've got to get into live action. Those three preseason games will be great to find out who those guys are because that's when we'll rotate them. It's a special teams nightmare, but you've got to find out in those preseason games who can play. We've got to get all those guys out there and give them a chance to rotate and find out what's going out with that."
(On if you can gauge a rookie returner before preseason games)
"Nope. Because you have to make decisions and you have to manage the game and we'll practice that as much as we can. We'll put them in those situations. We'll be in plus-50 punt. He'll have to put his heels on the 10-yardline. That ball is coming down at the 8-[yardline], do you step back and fair catch that ball at the eight or do you let it hit the ground and roll in the endzone? Those type of decisions have to be made by him. Sometimes it's good to catch it at the 8-[yardline]. If their gunners are down there already and waiting at the goal line, fair catch it at the 8-[yardline]. Just little things like that, we'll have to create those situations in practice, and we will and we'll put them in those situations. He'll be prepared for them, it's just a matter of how he reacts to them in a game. Just as simple as a bad punt, the dud that hits the ground. What do you do? Do you play it off of the first bounce or do you play it off the second? You don't really want to play it off the second bounce because by the time that ball bounces the second time that gunner is right next to you and he's probably going to knock the [mess] out of you and there still obviously [is] going to be a ball on the ground. So situations like that, that we're going to talk about with him and put him in those situations in practice, but he's going to have to be able to make those decisions in a game. It'll take some time to develop him, but that's everybody. We'll hit enough situations that he should be prepared."
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR TODD BOWLES
(On the depth at inside linebacker)
"It's going to be tough competition. That's what you want. As you become good, you want the competition to be better and you want them to have you make difficult choices. It's not just going to be there – it's going to be outside [line]backer, safety and we've got a bunch of D-linemen fighting, so I'm looking forward to a spirited camp."
(On where the defense improved the most over the course of last season)
"Looking at the cut-ups with the other coaches, we've got to have a lot more growth from everybody. I think they made the most growth in coming together as a unit. It wasn't just the back end and the front end working separately. They came together at the right time. The [mental errors] has cut down. They got used to seeing each other and how to play. A couple guys learned how to play with some nicks and bruises and learned how to be professional about that. You get on one of those rolls and they come together. Looking at the tape, we have a lot of things that we can do better that we're going to look at. We want to do better at all facets – front, middle and back end. We're going to get to those tapes, we're going to look at them when they get in here and get to work. We've got a lot to take care of."
(On winning the Super Bowl as a player in 1987 and then going 7-9 the next season, and if there is anything the current Buccaneers can learn from that experience)
"I don't think anything can help us – we had a lot of injuries the year after that. I think we ended the season with only three defensive starters playing. But I don't think we can go back to last year. We have to go forward to this year. Even with 22 [starters returning], it's still a different team. It's a different team. We tweaked some things for us to get better at. We know some things that hurt us. As a team, we have to re-jell, re-do our chemistry and everything else to try to get better from there and start from the bottom up. I think if you go into the season saying that we're top dog, we've already lost. We're starting at the bottom and we're going to work our way back up."
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS COACH LARRY FOOTE
(On OLB Joe Tryon and what he liked about him coming in and what he can do to contribute)
"Well, he definitely passes the eye test. He's got all the height, weight measurements. Just watching him on film the guy is 6'5, he can bend, he can move. He's got a great motor, plays with high energy and just his DNA jumps off the tape. Loved the way he plays and he's going to fit in with what we're trying to build here [with] his mentality. He should have no problem fitting in. Just looking at his size, you can do a lot with him. He's agile, so Todd Bowles is in the kitchen right now cooking up some stuff for him."
(On what OLB Shaquil Barrett needs to do to reach a level of consistency throughout the year)
"I think early in the year he was frustrated because he wasn't getting a lot of sacks, but you have to understand he was getting chipped. We had a lot of max [protection] – two-man and three-man routes. He has to figure out ways to stay after it. Sometimes pass rushers they get frustrated when the running back is over there chipping them or coming through and they're double teaming them. But they have to stay active, and he definitely played his better ball later in season and the playoffs than he did early. I'm quite sure the pandemic, while I would like to believe that might have played a part in it – he's making that big money now, so big money means big expectations. So he better bring it."
(On OLB Cam Gill and the case for keeping five outside linebackers this year)
"Well, you know upstairs I'm already bidding for it. In my room I'm loaded. I'm a blessed coach in that room because we have a lot of talented guys in there. Cam will be just fine. He just has to play. The unique thing about being a pass rusher and outside linebacker is that there's not that much politics in it. If you can get after the passer, there's a spot for you. He's going to make it very hard for them to get rid of him. He did well on special teams, but that's why we have training camp. Thank God we're going to have preseason games and the cream always rises to the top. I like his mentality. I like what he's done so far this week. I'm excited to see those guys compete."