Adrian Clayborn No. 24June 19th, 2012
There were few bright spots for the Bucs in the dismal 2011 campaign, highlighted (lowlighted?) by the grotesque 10-game losing streak to close the season.
One bright spot was Adrian Clayborn. In Pat Yasinskas’ countdown of the 25 best players in the NFC South on ESPN.com, Clayborn comes in at No. 24.
What he did in 2011: Clayborn was one of the very few bright spots in Tampa Bay last season. As a rookie, he claimed a starting spot immediately and picked things up very quickly. He played the run well right from the start and got better as a pass-rusher as the season went on. Clayborn finished his first NFL season with 7.5 sacks, but 4.5 of those came in the final seven games. Clayborn also forced three fumbles and finished the season with 42 tackles.
Why he’s No. 24 in 2012: Clayborn should only continue to get better and could quickly become the NFC South’s best all-around defensive end. Tampa Bay didn’t lead often last season, so it wasn’t like Clayborn had a lot of sack opportunities and was falling into them. He’s had an entire offseason program for the first time in his career. With a new coaching staff comes a new defense. But Clayborn’s job isn’t changing that dramatically. He’s supposed to make things happen at the line of scrimmage and behind it. Clayborn could be helped greatly if defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price are able to stay healthy and generate a pass rush from the interior.
Joe knew Clayborn was special watching him play for Iowa. In two games alone, Clayborn owned Penn State and in one game at Happy Valley literally took over the game himself, blocking a punt and returning it for a score.
So when Clayborn showed early last season when he nearly decapitated Matty Ice it was clear that Clayborn was going to be a fine Bucs player.
There’s no reason to believe Clayborn cannot continue to shine for the Bucs.