If you watch a lot of NFL football then you have probably heard announcers talk about the ‘Tampa 2’ defense. If you are like most fans this probably does not mean much to you. What is the ‘Tampa 2’? How is it different from a normal defense? How does it work?
Tampa 2 was first used successfully by the 1996 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was developed by head coach Tony Dungy and his coaching staff. Tampa 2 is a slight adjustment from the Cover 2 defense. It is ran from a 4-3 alignment, this means the defensive team has four linemen, three linebackers, two corners and two safeties. Tampa 2 emphasizes the speed of the defense. It works well with defenses that are smaller than average. Defensive linemen pressure the quarterback while the linebackers fall back into coverage. The two outside linebackers cover the middle of the field from the line of scrimmage to about 10 yards back. The ‘Mike’ linebacker, or middle back has to read what the offense is doing. If he thinks the offense is going for a long pass then he drops back into deeper coverage (11-20 yards behind the line of scrimmage). For a short pass the Mike stays in the middle and helps the outside linebackers. If a run is coming then he must charge up to the line of scrimmage to stop the running back. The cornerbacks protect their respective side of the field while the safeties are each responsible for half of the field starting about 20 years behind the line of scrimmage.
The Tampa 2 defense is very effective protecting against deeper plays. The biggest weakness is against the run. Teams can run the ball up the middle more easily than against other defensive fronts since the linebackers have dropped back into coverage. If the offense can establish the run then the defense becomes vulnerable to play-action passes.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went on to win a Superbowl with the Tampa 2 defense. Tony Dungy implemented it in Indianapolis when we became head coach there. The Colts also went on to win a Superbowl. Other teams that use the Tampa 2 defense include the Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs and Detroit Lions.