On a conference call with media on Thursday, former NFL defensive tackle Warren Sapp was asked about his old team, the Buccaneers, with whom he spent the prime years of a career that earned him a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013.
Sapp, while noting he would be present when the Bucs open training camp next Thursday, had this to say about the Buccaneers’ efforts to improve their defensive backfield in the offseason with the additions of cornerback Darrelle Revis and safety Dashon Goldson:
“I’ve seen a lot of great defenses in the NFL. I just haven’t seen one led from the back end.”
A few thoughts on Sapp’s comment (alas, there was no further discussion of the issue on the call): First, Sapp was a defensive lineman; of course he’s going to insist front seven play is key, especially in a 4-3 scheme like the one the Bucs employ now and as they did in their prime years. And Sapp, of course, is right about the importance of the play upfront.
“Whenever you’re running a 4-3 scheme, when you’re sending the front four and dropping seven, that front dictates how much time the quarterback has, how disruptive in the run game it’s going to be and the different things that have to be done,” Sapp also said Thursday, this in response to a question about the scheme his former Tampa coordinator, Monte Kiffin, will now run in Dallas.
And here’s the good news for Tampa Bay: the Buccaneers’ front seven play shapes up as a strength in 2013. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy made the Pro Bowl a season ago. Ends Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers have shown promise. So too has second-year weak-side linebacker Lavonte David, who racked up 139 tackles as a rookie.
It’s quite possible the Bucs’ front seven could lead the way for the Bucs’ defense this season. And this is much is certain: the Buccaneers had to improve a secondary that allowed more passing yards per game than any other in 2012.
In short, the Buccaneers made the necessary offseason improvements, and Sapp made a valid observation about winning defense. It will be interesting to see what he says about the Bucs’ defense after observing camp next week.