TAMPA, Fla. -- If it seems like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been working later than the rest of the NFC South, it’s only because they have.
While the Saints, Falcons and Panthers (except for Steve Smith, who had a flag football game Sunday) stopped their offseason programs last week, the Bucs just wrapped up Tuesday afternoon. It was all by design, part of a master plan by coach Raheem Morris to get his rookie class as involved as possible.
With that in mind, Morris pushed his offseason program back as far as possible and, unlike every other team in the division, waited until the very end to go through a full minicamp.
“It’s been a good offseason,’’ Morris said. “There’s been a lot of progression instead of taking steps back.’’
Morris’ words might be even more true than he realizes. The Bucs really do have a different look about them this year. Tuesday’s practice sessions were more crisp than a year ago and there are a lot of reasons for that.
Start with the fact that the guys who were coordinating the offense and defense a year ago are gone. Offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski didn’t even make it to the regular season before getting fired. Morris ousted defensive coordinator Jim Bates in the middle of last season and took over supervising the defense.
Throw in the fact that the Bucs were going through a dog-and-pony show with their quarterback competition at this time a year ago as Byron Leftwich and Luke McCown, who weren’t really in the team’s long-term plans, were getting the first-team work.
Josh Freeman is now firmly established as the starting quarterback and he and offensive coordinator Greg Olson have had an entire offseason to work together. But the continuity isn’t just developing on offense.
Morris will continue to run the defense and he said that he’s spent a lot of time with middle linebacker Barrett Ruud.
“That’s my quarterback,’’ Morris said.
Ruud and Morris have gone out to dinner multiple times and talked extensively about their visions for the defense. We’ll have to wait a few months to see the results and, with so many young players, the Bucs remain a work in progress.
But, this time around, they at least look like a team that at least has a plan. That’s something you couldn’t see a year ago.