The “Secret Superstar”

June 23rd, 2012

When it comes to late-June and July, Joe mines the interwebs for Bucs news and information far more than usual. That’s because it is the unofficial NFL downtime until training camp kicks off.

So Joe was browsing the website of the football geeks and came across a headline that made Joe wonder if he slipped something a bit stronger than cream in his coffee.

Michael Bennett a superstar? Well, author Nathan Jahnke didn’t exactly go that far but he does classify the Bucs veteran defensive end as a “secret superstar.”

Bennett is a perfect example of why we grade players in addition to keeping track of various other statistics. He finished tied with Leger Douzable for the 10th-highest Run Stop Percentage for 4-3 defensive ends at 8.6%. While that hints at his talent, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Bennett does an excellent job at pushing the man blocking him back and disrupting the play so the running back has to alter his path. This gives his teammates the opportunity to make the play and get the glory. Among 4-3 defensive ends over the course of the season, only Jason Pierre-Paul and Terrell Suggs had better run defense ratings than Bennett.

In 2010, Bennett managed just one sack and 16 hurries in his 263 pass rushes. The Buccaneers draft picks showed they were looking to upgrade their pass rushing, but they may not have expected Bennett to also be one of the solutions to the problem. In 2011 he increased his pass rushing snaps to 336, but also increased his sack total to four, his hit total to six and his hurries to 28. The teams overall sack numbers dropped in 2011 fro the previous season, but that was because the blitzing linebackers couldn’t get to the quarterback nearly as often as they should have.

Late in the season, Bennett missed two games with a groin injury, and also showed up on the injury report with a toe injury. That didn’t slow him at all, with two sacks, a hit, and six pressures in the Buccaneers’ last three games. His improved pass rushing can allow Bennett to be a three-down player rather than just an excellent run stopper.

If there was one coach Joe hated to see leave last year when Raheem Morris was jettisoned after a grotesque 10-game losing streak to end the season, it was the dismissal of defensive line coach Keith Millard.

Every defensive lineman Joe has spoken to revered Millard. Joe wonders if part of Bennett’s success last year was as a result of working with Millard?

If Bennett — who will get loads of playing time with the injury to Da’Quan Bowers — can continue to improve, that will suggest to Joe he is indeed a secret superstar.

11 Responses to “The “Secret Superstar””

  1. Big Marlon B Says:

    interesting premise, but this guy lost me when he said Terrell Suggs is a 4-3 DE

  2. Have A Nice Day Says:

    I found this really exciting considering Bennett received that rating while playing 92 less run snaps than Suggs and 86 less run snaps than Pierre-Paul.

    Bennett is a large reason I am not too concerned with Bowers injury. So long as Bennett can stay healthy as well, that is.

  3. Have A Nice Day Says:

    @Big Marlon The Ravens being a 4-3/3-4 has been a source of debate for the past couple seasons. Suggs played most of his snaps with his hand on the ground as DE in a 4-3 this past season. The Ravens played in a base 4-3 for 36% of their defensive snaps last season. They played in a base 3-4 only 6%.

    Suggs is definitely a “hybrid’ DE/OLB but for grading purposes they call him a 4-3 DE because that is the position he played most.

  4. Have A Nice Day Says:

    Correction: Suggs played with his hand on the ground as a DE in a 4 man front(4-3 and 4-2) more than playing OLB with a 3 or 2 man front.

  5. espo Says:

    I don’t care about the number I just care about this:

    Breakout season. He will be a force this year.

  6. Big Marlon B Says:

    @ Have a Nice Day

    Thank u for the figures. I know they are a bit of a hybrid defense, and i remember there was a big debate about it when he got the franchise tag (he said he should be paid as a DE, and the Ravens wanted to pay him as a LB). I don’t remember what the final verdict was. Those #s are interesting, but i still wouldn’t classify him as a pure 4-3 DE like Bennett and JPP. Good to see knowledgeable people that actually back stuff up with facts though, I commend you sir lol

  7. Stevek Says:

    Gotta love what Bennett brings to the table.

    “pushes his lineman in the backfield as mailing the ball carrier alter his path”.

    Good stuff.

    Let’s see of Bennett can do the dirty work and McCoy and crew can clean up.

  8. Stevek Says:

    *”making the ball carrier alter his path”*. Sorry stupid iPhone auto correct.

  9. Miguel Grande Says:


  10. Big Picture Guy Says:

    I too hated to see Millard go. It will be interesting to see how Brian Cox does as the defensive front 7 coach, and I guess this guy Randy Melvin too.

    I just thought that given there was no offseason, our D-line showed incredible promise and most guys were getting better; they’re just plagued by the injury bug.

    But so much was also made by the players about how Millard was a teacher. I really feel like his style would fit in under Schiano. Detail oriented, technique-heavy, and all about speed.

    Maybe we could see him back some time? Is he employed by anyone this season?

  11. Have A Nice Day Says:

    @Big Picture Guy Millard is an assistant coach with the Titans now.