Dungy's Defense versus Kiffin's Defense

Tony Dungy and Buccaneers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin worked together in Tampa Bay to refine their the Cover 2 scheme. But you'll notice a different approach in how each of them now uses the "Tampa 2." Brad Keller explains...

The history between Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin is well documented. The question remains: What is the difference between the two men and their defensive philosophies?

The answer: No surprises, but a lot of wrinkles.

Both men run the Cover 2 as their base defense (referred to as the "Tampa 2" from their time together with the Buccaneers). Both believe in pressuring the quarterback with their front four. And they both teach their defensive line to tackle the running back on the way to the quarterback.

They look for fast, undersized linebackers (occasionally recruiting safeties to convert to the position) and subscribe to the "bend-don't-break" style of defense that looks to prevent the big play. Both Dungy and Kiffin have had considerable success at the NFL level, each now possessing a Super Bowl ring to show for their efforts.

So, the question remains: What is the difference between these two defensive masterminds?

Answer: Wrinkles and personnel.

Although he does not currently have the talent along the defensive line that he once had (it's easier to be a genius when you have Simeon Rice and Warren Sapp), Kiffin still believes in pressuring the quarterback with his front four and allowing the back seven to stay true to their assignments and collect turnovers.

Meanwhile, Dungy has branched out into different looks on defense and, when necessary, resorts to blitzes occasionally when attempting to apply pressure. As evidenced by his gameplan against the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl and the Tennessee Titans in Week 2, he isn't afraid to bring extra defenders to achieve the desired result.

Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

However, Kiffin's defense has yet to record a sack this year that was not tallied by the defensive line. Even though his current front four appears to be lean on talent -- with re-treads such as Chris Hovan and Kevin Carter, and overachievers with high motors and low-end talent such as Greg Spires and Jovan Haye -- Kiffin is content to lean on his scheme. Worth noting is the fact that he has had considerable success so far, as the Bucs sit atop the NFC South at 3-1 and have allowed a meager 11 points per game.

While the Colts rely on their front four -- Dwight Freeney, Raheem Brock, Ed Johnson and Robert Mathis -- to create havoc and force turnovers, the key to Tampa's defense in 2007 has been the stellar play of their back seven, not their front four.

All-World linebacker Derrick Brooks is living off more than his reputation this season and is still able to cover a considerable amount of ground. Former Colt Cato June has transitioned seamlessly into Tampa's defense, though he is still a liability in the running game. But the machine that really makes the linebacker corps hum (and compensates for a few liabilities in the secondary) is third-year middle linebacker Barrett Ruud. Ruud covers a huge territory in the short-to-intermediate-middle of the field and fills in hard in the running game, as evidenced by his 40 tackles so far this season.

Old-reliable (note: Not old, reliable) cornerback Ronde Barber still patrols his area of the field successfully, challenging the wide receiver off the the line and skillfully jumping all slant and quick-screen routes. The other cornerback, Brian Kelly, is slowly coming into his own in his role in Kiffins' scheme. Strong safety Jermaine Phillips is a delightfully unspectacular, but hard-working, hard-hitting member of the squad. Rookie Tenard Jackson is the weakest link in this scheme.

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