What will new coordinator Liam Coen bring to Bucs offense?

TAMPA — Continuity is king in the NFL, especially when it comes to coaching and coordinators.

But change can also be good, even if it’s a fresh spin on an old game plan.

The Bucs hired Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen because of his familiarity with quarterback Baker Mayfield, whom they hope will re-sign as a free agent. Coen was the Rams’ offensive coordinator when Mayfield spent five games with the team in 2022.

But there also is some carryover from Dave Canales’ scheme, which should help the other players play faster.

“I think it will be actually very similar in terms of some of the terminology,” Coen said Coen said recently when he was officially introduced by the Bucs. “The run game I think will be really similar in some ways. Formations ― some ‘daffy’ might be ‘dixie’ or ‘double’ might be ‘deuce’ ― some of those things may be a little different, but at the end of the day, those guys (know), ‘OK, well that was just this.’ They can put those things together. The protections, I’ve got to believe, will be very similar in some ways.

“I don’t expect an overly difficult learning curve, but obviously, we’ll want to be able to put our stamp on things and be able to do things our way, as well.”

From a philosophical standpoint, Coen is a big believer in creating balance with the run game, something the Bucs have struggled doing. Tampa Bay ranked last in the NFL in rushing average in each of the last two seasons.

“The marriage of the run and the pass is what we’re striving for,” Coen said. “We’re striving for balance, but to be explosive in both the run and the pass, that’s something that I honestly take a lot of pride in. I learned a lot from (Rams coach) Sean (McVay) in terms of the run game when I first got to L.A. We understood and tried to study defense more than we tried to study ourselves — how to understand gap integrity, fits, fallbacks and things of that nature to try to be able to dissect the defense. How can we also run into better pictures?

“Now, we’re talking about, ‘Well, can we put a little more on the guys? Can we put a little bit more on the quarterback, the center and some of those guys to be able to change the play (and) get us into really advantageous looks, so that we run into better numbers and cleaner looks?’ That’s something that I think these guys are eager for. They’re eager for more.”

It will take some time to know exactly how Coen’s offense will shake out. But here are three significant things to watch for as he gets his hands deeper into the playbook:

More pre-snap motion

“I’ve never really stayed stationary, probably to a fault at times,” Coen said.

Canales used a good bit of pre-snap motion, but Coen may do more of it. Not only does it help identify defensive coverage, but it also is window dressing to create confusion or merely a better matchup.

“We have multiple different motions,” Coen said. “You can also use a cross motion and the shuffles. Shuffles and you snap the ball. Then you get into the flies. The fly and the flow. Then you have flying and flowing to be able to snap the ball in different spots. You know, giving the illusion of the jet sweep, but you’ve got to now legitimize those by handing them off once in awhile.

“Then you’ve got some of those exit motions that (receiver) Mike (Evans) is starting to use and lot of people are using in the NFL right now. To be in a condensed formation or reduced split, bunch, pack, motion them out to be able to kind of soften that area. That’s going to be a huge part of our system.”

Of course, there’s some benefit to just lining up and beating the guy in front of you.

“Sometimes the window dressing is definitely necessary,” Coen said. “But it’s also sometimes necessary to just let the guys line up and just go play.”

Move Chris Godwin back to the slot

The intent was noble. The Bucs wanted to protect Chris Godwin from further injury by moving him outside on the perimeter. The thought was playing closer to the boundary might eliminate some big hits.

It took his wife, Mariah, to call out the Bucs’ poor use of their Pro Bowl receiver. After failing to catch a single pass Dec. 3 versus Panthers, the Bucs gave Godwin more reps back in his familiar slot position.

Two weeks later, he caught 10 passes for 155 yards at Green Bay. Godwin doesn’t possess the most speed to stretch defenses, but he can still make combat catches.

Godwin has one more year left on his contract. Sometimes, you’ve just got to accept that this is his chosen line of work and let him do what he does best.

“You’ve got a guy like Chris that I think can really be dynamic inside,” Coen said. “That’s where I envision him playing, is more on the inside, playing that F position that ultimately Cooper (Kupp) played. A lot of things do run through that. So I’m excited about him.”

Tristan Wirfs is a weapon, too

The Bucs may not have a better player than offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs. After making a seamless switch from right to left tackle, he earned another selection to the Pro Bowl.

Wirfs’ athleticism is off the charts. At 6-foot-5, 325 pounds, he can jump out of the shallow end of a pool in a single bound. Usually you think of receivers, running backs and tight ends as your best offensive weapons. But Coen looks at Wirfs and sees an opportunity to pull him off the edge, get him in space and more involved in the screen game.

“Those guys get paid for a reason, and he’s a special talent,” Coen said of Wirfs. “I’ve heard great things about him as a worker. Making the adjustment moving from the right side to the left. That’s not easy to do. ...

“Really excited to be able to get to work with him because weapons aren’t just out on the perimeter. Weapons are up front as well.”

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