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Coach Smith takes larger role in calling Bucs’ defense

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TAMPA, Fla. — Head coach Lovie Smith of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has decided to take over play-calling duties from defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, a move he had been considering since going 2-14 in his first season in Tampa Bay last year.

Smith would not elaborate on his increased role, but his role was evident in practice this week.

He stood near midfield during the team’s 11-on-11 period, giving the defensive play calls to linebackers coach Hardy Nickerson, who relayed them via a communicator to the field.

Frazier, with practice script in hand, was not involved in the process.

Frazier was criticized last season when the defense finished 25th overall in the 32-team league and allowed an average of 25.6 points per game, eighth most in the NFL. He will retain his title as defensive coordinator.

As a defensive coordinator with the Rams and the architect of the Bears’ Tampa 2 scheme for nine seasons, Smith always has been heavily involved with the defense.

But last season, after offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford was put on an indefinite medical leave after a heart procedure, Smith was forced to devote more time to the offensive coaching staff.

Just as former quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo was left to interpret Tedford’s offense, Frazier had to implement a system that belonged to Smith.

Sure, Frazier is familiar with the Tampa 2 scheme, but not the sequence of play-calling and nuances that Smith has developed over the years.

You could see this coming.

Frazier was moved from the sideline to upstairs last season after the team’s 56-14 loss at Atlanta during a nationally televised game in Week 3.

In January, the Bucs hired Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter for the same job in Tampa Bay.

Smith made no secret of his plan to be “more involved” with the defense in June, but at the time, he was not ready to commit to the role of play-caller.

“I’ve been involved defensively every year I’ve been a head football coach,” Smith said. “Some years I’m more involved than others, it’s kind of as simple as that. I’ve been in the same role, I’ve been doing the same thing since training camp started.

“I don’t really see that being much of a story. This year with our situation on the offensive side, I can be a little more involved on the defensive side.”


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