Posted in General News

Bucs Hedging Bets On Black

by Roland Johnson on August 10, 2011

Starting strong-side linebacker Quincy Black was the first player re-signed this off-season, by the Bucs. To the tune of $29 million over five years with $11.5 million guaranteed, even though he seldom saw the field on third downs. The Bucs are betting everything on Black, as he will play a position all too familiar to must, as he’s scheduled to line up in what must customarily recognize as the strong-side backer in Tampa’s defensive scheme. For the longest many players have been playing what the Bucs technically called the SAM, in all there have been 10 different players to man the position since 1996.

However in reality the team flip flopped the responsibilities of the SAM and WILL positions in the 43 Over front. But have since gone back to what is traditional asked of each position. To define what is meant by “strong side” and “weak side.” The strong side of an offensive formation is the side with more receiving threats, typically the tight end side. If the formation is perfectly balanced, the defense just declares one side the strong side–usually the offense’s right. In fact, the strong side of the formation is the offense’s right more often than not.

For years, the duties of the strong-side linebacker were carried out by the player the Bucs referred to as their weak-side linebacker. You probably remember that player’s name. It was Derrick Books.

Brooks will go down in history as perhaps the greatest weak-side linebacker in the game, but Bucs coach Raheem Morris revealed this week that, all along, Brooks actually played strong-side linebacker.

“We had the S and the W confused for years,” Morris said. “We had what other defenses called the Will (weak-side) backer, which was Derrick, doing what the strong-side (Sam) backer does.

“Coaches would come here all the time and ask us why the heck we did it that way. One reason was because we wanted Derrick (moving) with Warren Sapp wherever he went. But now the Sam is the Sam and Will is the Will.”

No Black will not have a role reversal, instead the team is just going with what the rest of the league has done for eons and reversing the responsibilities of the SAM in a 43 Over to where the WILL won’t be playing over a tight end is such a defensive alignment, following suit with the other 31 teams.

Based on everything we now about how the Tampa 2 works Brooks seldom had to cover tights ends and very rarely lineup over a tight end, unless a defensive lineman was between them. This has more to do with the use of the over and under fronts that Kiffin used when he was here.

Under Kiffin in the early years the Bucs ran a 4-3 Under front where Brooks would line up slightly shaded behind Warren Sapp, and off-set from the defense end to help protect him and allow him to have plays funneled directly towards him. It wasn’t until the team switched to a 4-3 Over front that he took on situations similar to what is asked out of a SAM backer. But even then he was still protected by Sapp and a defensive end.

In the first diagram; this is what most remember and it is the 43 Under front the Bucs ran in the early years. Brooks would routinely line up slight shaded behind Sapp and off-set from the defensive end to the weak side of the offensive formation.

In the second diagram; it shows a 43 Over front. Now imagine for a moment that Brooks technically called the weak-side linebacker would be playing where the SAM is listed and taking on the task of dealing with a tight end. All the team has done is switch back to the normal set of responsibilities in the Over front for the SAM and Will that the rest of the league uses. Black will not be having the luxury of having plays funneled to him, like Brooks did.

With the team looking to justify paying Black like an upper echelon player, they will have him on the field at the mike backer spot in their nickle and 3-3-5 Redskins packages. While allowing rookie Mason Foster to concentrate solely on the mike backer spot in their base defense until he gains experience and knowledge of the whole defensive system.

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