Beating the Blitz

The NFL has become blitz happy over the last few years. Teams like Tampa Bay and Philadelphia have seen their defense improve dramatically employing a defense based on pressuring the quarterback. NFL offenses will be forced to relieve pressure on their quarterback if they expect to be successful in what has become a defensive league.

The plays being run at practice this week were mostly "blitz beaters". Tight ends were frequently lined up in the backfield to provide better blitz protection. Delayed hand-offs and the shovel pass that has been so successful for the Bucs in the pre-season were being run over and over again. Through the air horizontally there were a variety of screens being run, to both running backs and receivers. As far as vertical pass plays were concerned the emphasis was on quick slants and skinny posts. These passes were thrown using a three step drop and all three quarterbacks seemed to have perfect timing with the talented wide receiver corps. The quick release that the three step drop enables will negate the heavy rush the Bucs will face until the improved offensive line proves itself.

The Bucs' quarterbacks were splitting snaps equally led by starter Brad Johnson, who was firing on all cylinders this week at Disney's Wide World of Sports. He was flawless while working short passes into starting receivers Keyshawn Johnson and Keenan McCardell, the chemistry was what you would expect from Super Bowl Champions.

The stand out performance early this week at quarterback belonged to rookie Chris Simms. His passes were crisp and the spiral was tight, especially on the slant routes. As expected of a rookie learning a new system he telegraphed a few passes, but overall he was outstanding.

Hometown hero Shaun King is at times overshadowed by Simms, but King's command of Jon Gruden's offense is far superior. He was hitting his second and third option receivers regularly throughout workouts on Monday and Tuesday. This understanding coupled with his five years of NFL experience will enable him to keep his position at number two on the depth chart.

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