Get Some Sacks!July 2nd, 2014
If there will be a lasting image of the 2013 Bucs defensive line, it won’t be poor Gerald McCoy getting double- and triple-teamed regularly.
It won’t be linemen running around in bizarre stunts play after play as if they were auditioning to be dancers in a Beyonce show.
No, the image will be of Adrian Clayborn.
No, not Clayborn making a quarterback eat dirt. No, not Clayborn disrupting plays in the backfield. Nope. The play in question was when some Bill Parcells-wannabe on the Bucs coaching staff decided to have Clayborn cover one of the fastest players in the NFL, Darren Sproles, in pass coverage.
It was one of the most absurd things Joe has seen on the NFL level. Someone, presumably with a sober mind, actually lost sleep hatching this scheme, thinking it was a savvy call to have Clayborn cover Sproles in pass coverage. Can you imagine?
Well, this year, to the shock of no one, Bucs coach Lovie Smith won’t be playing games with his defensive linemen. Multimedia maven Scott Smith, of Buccaneers.com, explains how the paltry number of sacks the Bucs had last year must improve.
Of course, it’s an even greater concern now, because the defense Smith and Leslie Frazier are installing will place a premium on getting to the passer with a four-man rush as opposed to sending extra blitzers. The Bucs want four strong pass-rushers on the field for as many snaps as possible, and that’s why they’re very first signings in the nascent hours of free agency were defensive end Michael Johnson and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald.
It’s not news, of course, that a strong pass rush is important. With the ever-increasing efficiency of passing attacks in the NFL – with rules that generally favor the offense – the best way to keep a quarterback like Drew Brees or Tom Brady from overwhelming you is to disrupt the pass before he can get it off. Of the 12 teams that made the playoffs last year, seven ranked in the top 10 in sacks per pass play on defense, and another ranked 14th. The only team to make it into the postseason with an anemic pass rush was Philadelphia, which ranked 31st.
The Buccaneers ranked 22nd, which is probably higher than some would have guessed. That’s the good news, really – defensive tackle Gerald McCoy had 9.5 sacks and looks like he could be a rare inside rusher that gives you double digits. When the Bucs do choose to blitz, they have linebacker Lavonte David, who had six sacks last year. And Adrian Clayborn, who is moving over to left end to accommodate Johnson and who has shown at least seven-sack potential, and the cupboard wasn’t bare to start with.
Joe likes the way Lovie is already pushing buttons with his defensive linemen. He did not pick up Adrian Clayborn’s fifth-year option, basically telling the Show Me State native to show him he can earn his keep. Lovie already had his defensive line coach Joe Cullen publicly call out Da’Quan Bowers — in June no less! — even after Bowers had knee surgery.
Just by the messages Lovie (and his assistants) are pumping out before the NFL went into its summer siesta, it’s pretty clear this coming season will be a far cry from what Bucs fans were treated to last year from the pass rush.