I know what you did last summer!
Well the weather has been awful, the Olympics have (rightly) taken every inch of media sports coverage around the world and I've still not won the Euromillions rollover. At One Buc Place Greg Schiano as been a busy boy.
Having dispensed of the troublemakers (Winslow, Jackson I'm looking at you), bought in some TOP free agents and had a good draft, Schiano has set about installing a different mentality in the young men in pewter. This mentality was on full display against Cam Newton's Carolina Panthers on Sunday evening.
Now I'm not about to start making room at One Buc Place for another Lombardi trophy but there were definite similarities in the manner of play shown by Tampa's Defense on Sunday to that great D of the early 2000s. 10 yards rushing from a team that was third overall in the NFL last year.
A handful of rushing yards from a man who, last season, was being talked about as possibly the greatest running QB of all time. How is this possible? Well Schiano has built a D on speed. The additions of Eric Wright and Mark Barron along with Ronde Barber moving to safety has meant that the Buccaneers secondary are lightning quick and also hit like a runaway freight train. If you need confirmation of this watch Mark Barron demolish Steve Smith in the second half from Sunday.
With a very good opening performance from Lavante David and a fit Gerald McCoy meant the Bucs got pressure on Newton from the first minute to the last not allowing "Superman" to move out of the pocket and when he did he had four or five Pewter Pirates on his tail...all game long. I think Cam will be seeing Gerald McCoy in his sleep at the moment!
The most noticable comparison to Sapp and Co. was the swarming coverage and the gang tackling where large numbers of Tampa Bay players were hitting the ball carrier on every play. Over recent seasons the Buccaneers D have been burned by big plays, gashed by long runs and generally beaten up by almost every offense that came to town.
It appears that this won't be the case this year. Even when Newton finally completed a bomb on Sunday the Bucs made a great goal line stand to keep the Panthers to a field goal. What was that old mantra? "Bend but don't break" seems like it might be back in Tampa.
Along with an outstanding game for the new, younger, faster Buccaneers Defense a special mention to a few guys on the offensive side of the ball. The unit didn't exactly fire for the full sixty minutes but parts of it were outstanding. Doug "Muscle Hamster" Martin ran for all but one hundred yards on debut and was unlucky not to get a score on the goal line.
A really promising debut from Martin and DJ Ware filling in for the injured LeGarrette Blount did a nice job too. On the offensive line Donald Penn had a hell of a game and showed why (regardless of what some think) he is an elite left tackle. If you didn't notice the amount of times he saved Josh's blind side from being hit hard by finishing his blocks then go back and watch it, he was excellent.
Finally a big welcome back to the real Josh Freeman. He threw well, he ran well and most encouraging of all he made good decisions. Schiano has come in and motivated Freeman to be better. He's leaner, meaner and more confident.
The players will take all the headlines but what Coach Schiano and his team have done is to give the whole place a lift and to re-establish that Coach-Player relationship. He's a hard ass and I'm glad he is if it means we don't get the off field issues and we get the on field performances.
I think the only time you'll see Schiano chest bump anyone is when we win a Super Bowl, and even then I'm not convinced of it. A fantastic summer's work from the coaching staff got demonstrated on Sunday and long may it continue.