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 ProFootballFocus.com 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.