TAMPA (FOX 13) - Communication and collaboration -- they are the two words the Buccaneers defense will live by in 2017.
"It's critical for us," said Mike Smith, the Bucs’ second-year defensive coordinator. "The game's gotten very complicated. The days of two backs, a tight end and a normal alignment and two wide receivers, it doesn't exist."
It's made it more difficult for defenses to know what to anticipate from opposing offenses. This Bucs defense already has a leg up on last year.
"We're not starting [at] 2 plus 2 equals 4," said Smith. "We're into calculus. That's a good thing for us as a coaching staff and as a football team."
This season won't be so much on installing the defense, but more on tweaking the product. That starts with players communicating with one another, and knowing not only their own jobs, but those of their teammates, too.
"That's the only way the defense is going to work is if you know who you're working with," said linebacker Lavonte David. "Knowing where guys are supposed to be. Knowing how you're supposed to fit. That will allow us to play fast, make plays and anticipate things. That's the main thing. That's the type of level we're trying to get on in order to be a great defense."
A year into Mike Smith's defense, players and coaches agree: there is one part of the game they really need to work on this upcoming season, and it's communication. Smith even joked about the players bringing out their cell phones in order to communicate better on the field.
"Unfortunately, in our society today, we don't talk enough," Smith chuckled. "We text a lot. We Snapchat, but we don't talk a whole lot. I told our guys, 'Look. I think we would probably be a lot better if we all took our phones out there and texted to one another. We probably wouldn't have the same mistakes that we have.'"
"You know, we want to hit the ground running this year," added Bucs defensive end Robert Ayers.
"We want to pick up where we kind of were in that period where we were playing pretty good. We want to come out week one dominating. You know, that's the goal, that's what we want to do."
They’re words that will only come true if communication is a top priority.