Looking For An EdgeDecember 31st, 2013
The Bucs have an edge rusher in Adrian Clayborn, but Greg Schiano, Butch Davis, Bill Sheridan and Dave Wannstedt, the Bucs’ old defensive braintrust, thought Clayborn was deficient off the edge.
That’s why Clayborn was moving around from side to side. That’s why he was standing up so much. That’s why he was rarely double-teamed. That’s why he couldn’t capitalize nearly enough for playing alongside a manbeast, disruptive defensive tackle like Gerald McCoy.
So what will the Bucs do to get the edge rusher needed for a stout defense?
When Lovie Smith needed an edge rusher in Chicago to beef up his struggling defense, ranked 17th in 2009, the Bears turned to Julius Peppers.
The future Hall of Famer was a free man in free agency and signed a six-year deal worth a whopping $84 million. That worked out pretty darn well. Peppers hasn’t missed a start, has made three Pro Bowls and an All-Pro team, and he drew all kinds of attention from opposing offenses.
Len Pasquarelli penned a piece for NationalFootballPost.com recently that dove into the availability of another ferocious pass rusher raised among the Panthers of Carolina. That would be 25-year-old Greg Hardy, coming off a 15-sack year after his breakthrough 11 sacks in 2012.
Pasquarelli notes that Hardy not only comes off the edge but has an edge, as well.
After the game at the Georgia Dome on Sunday afternoon, Hardy was asked about his dominating play. He responded that he even “dominates breakfast.” Said the ever quotable Hardy, who in the preseason noted that his goal for the year was to ring up 50 sacks: “I dominate everything I do.”
That might not be totally true, but Hardy probably will dominate the free agency wish lists of some teams in a couple months. “When he puts his mind to something, there’s almost no stopping him,” Panthers defensive tackle Dwan Edwards said. “He’s a force. He’s everywhere.”
Against the Falcons, he, indeed, was almost everywhere, lining up at both end spots and even moving to tackle on occasion to torment the Atlanta interior linemen. Said Falcons left guard Justin Blalock: “He’s big and he’s fast and . . . what can you say?”
A sixth-round pick in ‘10, after his stock dropped following injuries and inconsistent play at the University of Mississippi, one doesn’t have to say much about Hardy. His play speaks volumes and, what it doesn’t say, the verbose Hardy will articulate for himself, it seems.
Asked about his motivation, Hardy said that he wants a championship, but also acknowledged that if his sacks prompt sack-loads of dollars, he won’t exactly be unhappy about it.
“I like the money,” Hardy said. “I won’t lie to you.”
One thing certain of the Bucs’ new regime, it will be active in free agency. The Bucs already have cap room, and they have big contracts on the books that could be purged in a shakeup of the offensive line.
Somehow, the Bucs must find their edge rusher. If they don’t want to wait until the draft, Hardy could have a pewter and red bull’s-eye on him.