Questions On Defensive FrontJuly 2nd, 2013
Yes, much was made last year of the near-historic NFL worst pass defense of the Bucs, where wide receivers ran free as if they were running cone drills. It was no less than an insult to Bucs fans.
Bucs rock star general manager Mark Dominik loaded up on secondary help in the offseason, essentially obtaining three new starters. But now the front seven, which played so well against the run last year, may have the most question marks on the team.
The Walter Football people seem very down on the Bucs’ front seven in their 2013 season preview.
It’s clear that the Buccaneers’ secondary will be much better than it was last year. However, it may not make that much of a difference if the defensive line can’t pressure the quarterback. The aforementioned Bennett had nine sacks in 2012, which was a third of the team’s overall total. The defensive end who had the most sacks after that was Daniel Te’o-Nesheim with four, but he’s just a situational rusher. The starters at the position will be Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers, chosen in the first and second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, respectively. Both have injury concerns, unfortunately. Clayborn is coming off a torn ACL, while Bowers always seems to be dealing with some sort of malady. He’s two years removed from a knee injury and he tore his Achilles last season.
Gerald McCoy had the most sacks last year of any returning player (5). A major disruptive force in the interior of the defensive line, McCoy is one of the reasons Tampa Bay was so stout versus the rush in 2012. Having said that, the other reasons were Bennett and Miller, who both moved on, as mentioned earlier. Gary Gibson will be asked to start in Miller’s place, which has disaster written all over it. Perhaps fourth-round rookie Akeem Spence can claim the job.
The defensive line will get overwhelmed at times, which will put even more stress on a pretty pedestrian linebacking corps. The only player in that group who performed well last season was second-round Lavonte David, who was an all-around stud. However, Mason Foster continued to struggle in the middle, where he’s completely out of place. The strongside linebacker last year was Quincy Black, but he was released. Adam Heyward, who was barely on the field in 2012, will take his spot if he can beat out Jonathan Casillas.
Joe somewhat agrees. Few, if any, raged over Dominik letting Bennett and Miller go as Joe did, especially for the price, until Joe learned the duo were damaged goods. In retrospect, it made all the sense in the world.
But strongside linebacker is a huge concern here. The reason Black was released is because he has nerve damage to his shoulder and his football career is likely history. With solid coaching last year, Black actually played pretty well.
When it’s July and the Bucs still are not sure who will start at strongside backer, that’s not a good thing. Then you look at the three candidates, including Dekoda Watson (who Joe likes but is really untested), released Saints veteran Jonathan Casillas and hanger-on Adam Hayward, who couldn’t crack the starting lineup even when the Bucs had the worst linebacker unit in the league. This doesn’t help Joe sleep well at night.
If Bucs defensive assistant Bryan Cox (Joe believes Cox and Bob Bostad are the best Bucs assistants) is again able to get the front seven to play strong football like he did last year, this guy just may be a defensive coordinator assistant somewhere next year.