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Kiffin looks at shiny new nickel sets
Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin experiments with new schemes for specific situations.
By JOANNE KORTH
Published August 7, 2007
Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin reacts to a good play during the morning workout at football training camp in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
LAKE BUENA VISTA - After recording a paltry 25 sacks last season, the Bucs defense is determined to get more pressure on quarterbacks - any way possible.
The Cover 2 will remain Tampa Bay's staple, but coordinator Monte Kiffin is experimenting with a variety of looks. A third-down package featuring three linemen, three linebackers and five defensive backs made its debut at training camp during Monday's 11-on-11 session.
In the traditional 4-2-5 nickel scheme, the pass rush comes from four down linemen. With the 3-3-5, a lineman is replaced by a pass-rushing linebacker.
"We're calling it the nickel rush," Kiffin said. "We want to get the four best guys rushing."
Who might that be? Coaches are still sorting that out. On Monday, the linemen looked to be Greg Spires, Chris Hovan and Kevin Carter. Free agent Patrick Chukwura and rookie Quincy Black got looks at the stand-up rush linebacker spot.
"We have a lot of competition right now," Kiffin said. "But you have to have some backups when you're playing here at home and it's hot. You better have some fresh guys in the fourth quarter."
Black, a third-round pick from New Mexico, was drafted as a middle linebacker and worked there in the offseason, but was moved to strongside at the start of training camp.
"I'm trying to pick up those assignments now that I'm getting reps at strongside," Black said. "Anytime you can rush the passer and get to the quarterback and create pressure, that's a good thing for this team."
The Bucs are interested in any scheme that creates pressure.
"Whether we stay with the standard 4-2 nickel alignment or get into some 3-3 nickel-type alignments remains to be seen," Gruden said. "But we're working on a lot of different things, not just those two."
TOOTING HIS WHISTLE: Fullback Mike Alstott, in his 12th season, remains a fan favorite. Any time he touches the ball, the crowd at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex cheers its approval.
Gruden understands why.
"He's made some of those SportsCenter highlight runs that will never be forgotten," Gruden said. "And he's a great human being. He's a great guy in the community. And he's played through a serious injury. It's hard not to really like him."
Alstott could play a bigger role in the offense this season if the running game is successful, but will remain a role player at fullback in Gruden's offense.
PRESEASON PRECAUTION: Starters likely will not play much in the preseason. First, Gruden does not want risk a starter being injured. Second, coaches need to see young players to make roster decisions.