TAMPA – Buccaneers defensive coordinator Mike Smith has never tried to hide the fact that, on occasion this year, he will line the Bucs up in a three-lineman, four-linebacker set.
That won’t be the Bucs primary look, of course, but just as they did last year, they will make some use of that alignment when they believe it will work to their advantage, and it could prove to be some advantage.
The Bucs have several players ideally suited for 3-4 looks, including Noah Spence, who can be just as effective rushing the passer as a 3-4 linebacker as he can a 4-3 end.
Rookie linebacker Kendell Beckwith, the second of the Bucs two third-round draft picks this year, is another and of course tackle Chris Baker can work in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme.
Two others who are apparently a little more scheme diverse than many may have initially thought are veteran defensive end Robert Ayers and veteran defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.
During their minicamp workouts last month the Bucs at times rolled out a 3-4 look that had Baker in the middle at his customary nose tackle spot, Ayers at left end and McCoy at right end.
It was a rather odd site to see McCoy working as a defensive end, but he has been and still is the Bucs best pass rusher so it makes some sense to put him out there on that edge on occasion.
And when you consider that in such an alignment McCoy might have Spence or another linebacker such as Lavonte David or Kwon Alexander attacking the passer right along with him, such a group could be quite devastating.
Of course, devastating would be a slight step up from where the Bucs were as a pass-rushing unit a year ago, when they recorded 38 sacks (tied for ninth in the league) but had only 76 quarterback hurries, according to SportingCharts.com.
The Bucs are obviously hoping to get a lot more pressure on the opposing passer than that this year and with alignments that include McCoy at defensive end they should be able to do it.
Again, the Bucs aren’t planning (at least not as far as we know) to make extensive use of 3-4 sets but they will use them and who lines up where in them will be one of the things worth following closely once training camp opens up.