Offseason Education: The Basics of the Tampa 2 Defense


If you have heard of the defensive scheme “Tampa 2″ but don’t know what it is, I’ll try my best to explain it to you. It is named after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the late 90s and early 00s. Head coach Tony Dungy and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin are the ones who brought it back after the “Steel Curtain” days of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Tampa 2 is a variation of the 4-3 scheme (4 lineman and 3 linebackers). The Tampa 2 is close to a Cover 2 pass coverage which is where there are 2 safeties and each covers half the field. The weakspot in Cover 2 is over the middle between the safeties. The difference between a Tampa 2 and a Cover 2 is that the middle linebacker (Mike) drops back into a zone coverage over the middle of the field. The Mike’s zone is closer to the line of scrimmage compared to the coverage of the 2 safeties. The Mike’s first responsibility is still the run so his first steps should be forward.

For the Tampa 2 to be effective, the team needs to be fast. The defensive line needs to be able to rush the quarterback with agility and speed. The line needs to do this without the help of a blitz from the linebackers or secondary. The most important part to the Tampa 2 is the middle linebacker. With the first responsibility of the Mike being the run, they need to be quick enough to get back into coverage. Brian Urlacher is a perfect example of a middle linebacker in a Tampa 2.

To defeat the Tampa 2, teams like to run the ball up the middle. Also, teams need to be able to find the seams between the OLBs and CBs. The best way to do this is with the use of a tight end. To take advantage of the defense’s speed, misdirection or play-action plays can be effective.

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