Rookie minicamp is over and organized team activities (OTAs) are on the horizon. Players will get to officially start working together on things like timing, blocking assignments, and of course defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s defensive scheme. With the OTAs kicking off May 21, we can finally start seeing who will play where in the Tampa-2 defense Kiffin will be implementing. Since that still seems so far away, let’s look at five players that could most likely benefit from the switch on the defensive side of the ball most.
Carr is pegged as a physical corner who excels in man coverage. Last seasons we saw glimpses of his ability to throw receivers off their mark, but with this new defense he will have a chance to really shine. Kiffin’s defense requires his corners to bump and press receivers at the line and funnel them inside. This is designed to give them help inside, with the linebackers playing the middle of the field, and to the outside with the sideline acting as an ‘invisible’ defender. Carr, and his other secondary mates, should see their level of play increase as the season wears on.
Lee will most likely be lined up as the middle linebacker in Dallas’ 4-3 defense and this position will suit him very well. In the previous 3-4 scheme he roamed mainly half of the field. The move is going to give Lee the freedom to roam the entire field, sideline to sideline. He’ll be playing the run and pass similar to how he was in last year’s scheme, but now he’ll have four down lineman acting as protection from offensive linemen getting to the next level and obstructing his play-making. Look for Lee to be all over the field causing opposing offenses all kinds of problems.
Currently we have no idea who the starting safeties are going to be. Recent draft pick JJ Wilcox is young and raw and may not make a huge impact right away. Projected starters Barry Church and Matt Johnson are both coming off seasons lost to injury, and free agent acquisition Will Allen will most likely act as a support player. So whoever ends up with the starting positions are set to benefit from the new system. Kiffin’s defensive scheme is designed to protect player like these. Sure they have to be able to cover, but they don’t come down and play man coverage very often. Their main role is to be a safety net. The plays stay in front of them and offenses are usually forced to check down. Situations like these are designed to help inexperienced safeties which is exactly what this unit needs.
Ratliff spent his entire career to date in a 3-4 scheme. Now he gets a chance to move back to a 4-3 scheme similar to the one he was in in college. That’s not the benefit I am talking about, necessarily. The main boost will come from the change of assignment for Ratliff. He goes from being a space-eater who took on constant double teams to one-gap defensive tackle who’s main goal is to get to the quarterback. Less attention being paid to him is a huge bonus, and his stats will show as the season rolls along
Carter was a first-round talent that slid into the second round because of a torn ACL he was rehabbing. Prior to his injury he was excelling as a weak side backer in North Carolina’s 4-3 defense. After spending two seasons at Lee’s side in Dallas’ 3-4, Carter gets to go back to the scheme that made him in college. He’ll now have similar liberties as Lee. He’ll get a chance to use his athleticism as an edge rusher, a run defender and a coverage guy in the flat. For a linebacker like Carter, who on one occasion was able to run down Atlanta Falcon’s speedy receiver Julio Jones from behind, this system will let him shine as he shows us all the kind of freak talent he is.