Head Coach Greg Schiano said on Wednesday that the Buccaneers will look to get LeGarrette Blount more involved moving forward as a boost to a running game that has underperformed the past two weeks. This particular weekend, there’s another personnel issue that could affect the Buccaneers’ ground attack, and it’s on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
For the second week in a row, the Buccaneers will face a team that employs a 3-4 defensive front; that is, the Redskins start with three down-linemen and four linebackers, with the outside linebackers often involved in the pass-rush. That presents a different sort of challenge for a Buccaneers offensive front that only occasionally is exposed to the 3-4.
The Bucs have been running a 4-3 defense since 1991, and thus that is the default that offensive players see in practice. In addition, the other teams in Tampa Bay’s division (Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans), who they face twice a year, are all 4-3 clubs. The 3-4 defense is quite a bit more popular in the NFL than it was, say, a decade ago, but it’s still something different for which the Bucs have to prepare.
According to Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks, the Bucs could have handled the 3-4 better last Sunday in Dallas. Nicks says the coaches installed blocking schemes to counter the 3-4 but the players didn’t always execute them properly. He thinks that will change this Sunday against Washington.
“We’ve got to fine-tune it,” said Nicks. “We played 4-3 teams, 4-3 teams, then we got a 3-4 team and we were kind of guessing out there and not doing our assignments, not really knowing our assignments. This week we’re paying another 3-4 team, obviously, and I think we did a much better job of practicing and getting our assignments down [on Wednesday].
“At the end of the day, it has to come down to blocking because that’s what drives a running game. We’ve got a blocking scheme – do what you’re supposed to do, and we’re not doing that.”
The stats regarding a matchup with the Redskins are mixed. Washington ranks 30th in the NFL in yards allowed and 29th in points allowed; however, they are ninth in rushing defensive specifically, having allowed 92 yards per game so far.
“I’ll tell you what, these guys are going to crowd the box,” said Schiano. “It is going to be upstream now trying to run the football. We’re going to really have to be perfect in order to gain yardage running the ball.”