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Ball security is job 1 for Bucs
Posted Jun 20, 2012 by Ira Kaufman
Updated Jun 20, 2012 at 11:45 AM
BY IRA KAUFMAN
TAMPA—Greg Schiano took one look at the 2011 Buccaneers on film and cringed.
Tampa Bay’s new head coach couldn’t believe how sloppy the Bucs appeared on tape en route to a 4-12 record that cost Raheem Morris and his staff their jobs. The Bucs finished last in the league in turnover differential (minus-16) and giveaways (40) and their talent level wasn’t good enough to overcome chronic mistakes.
During OTA sessions and last week’s mandatory minicamp, Schiano’s new staff stressed ball security as a key to success this fall. That theme will undoubtedly continue when the players report to training camp in late July.
“For everyone who touches the ball, we give specific coaching points about ball security being paramount,’’ said new running backs coach Earnest Byner. “It is consistently emphasized and coached. The bottom line is we can’t score if we don’t have the football.’‘
The three teams with the fewest turnovers—San Francisco, Green Bay and New England—went a combined 41-7 last season. The clubs with the most giveaways—Tampa Bay, Philadelphia and Washington—were a collective 17-31.
“More games are lost than won in this league,’’ Byner said. “That’s because people are giving away opportunities, shooting themselves in the foot.’‘
When the Bucs went 10-6 in 2010, they were fifth in the league with a plus-9 turnover ratio.
Schiano said Tampa Bay running backs will have to earn their carries by demonstrating care with the ball. LeGarrette Blount, who has ben plagued by fumbling problems, said the club’s focus on ball security has him holding the football high and tight, even when he is walking through shopping malls.
“It’s become a habit,’’ Blount said. “I don’t even notice I do it.’‘
The Bucs traded up to select running back Doug Martin late in the first round and the former Boise State standout is already on point.
“Ball to chin, you’ve got to protect that thing,’’ Martin said.