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Tampa Bay Bucs expect their defense to be more efficient in 2016

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Think versatile. Think about a fiercer rush. Think about tighter coverage. Think about better tackling.

Think about a better Bucs’ defense.

That was the impression left Thursday as the Tampa Bay Bucs‘ defensive coaches met with the media.

“What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to put together a defense that doesn’t have 11 starters,” said defensive end Mike Smith. “We’re trying to have somewhere between 15 and 16 guys that we consider starters on our defense. It’s a long season. You’re going to have guys playing in different packages, and we’ve got a plan for Noah (Spence) in terms of bringing him along. I was very impressed with his football intelligence in the rookie minicamp and what he’s done this week.

“Nobody has got a position on our team. We’re not saying, ‘These are our starters.’ We’re going to let the guys come in here and compete.”

Other things Smith discussed were:

(On cornerback Brent Grimes): “Grimes is an extremely good athlete. I like to say he’s short, but he plays big. This is a guy that’s been to multiple Pro Bowls, he’s a fantastic athlete, he’s got great jumping ability, he plays much bigger than his measured height, and he’s very athletic. He’s quick out of his breaks, and he’s one the fastest and quickest defensive backs I’ve ever been around.”

 (On Vernon Hargreaves playing corner and nickel): “Well, I think we’ve got guys that can play both inside and outside and Vernon falls right into that category. We got him probably more snaps at the nickel position because he hadn’t done that in a couple of years. At Florida, he was more of an outside guy, so we wanted to first expose him to the nickel position. As I said, we’re going to play more five defensive back and six defensive back schemes than we are when we’re lining up with four DBs, so we have to have these guys cross-trained, and I do believe he has the football intelligence and the background to play both inside and outside.”

On how tight the coverage will be):“Well, we’re going to mix it up. We’re going to ask these guys to be able to play off, to be able to get up and press and be as multiple as we possibly can. I think we don’t want to put ourselves in a situation — I tell the guys we don’t want to send a text message or an Instagram to the quarterback we’re playing against before the ball is snapped, so we want to make sure we have some flexibility.”

(On linebacker Lavonte David): “Lavonte — oh gosh — he’s been a pleasure to work with. He’s very smart. He’s a student of the games; he understands football; he understands schemes. It’s fun to have those types of conversations, and he’s usually about three or four steps ahead of everyone else in terms of looking at the playbook. He’s a football junkie. He wants to be great and I can see why.”

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit

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