Bull Rush: Wilkerson Showed Promise At Tackle

January 20th, 2010

Former Bucs DE Steve White

JoeBucsFan.com analyst

Steve White spent every season of the Tony Dungy era playing defensive end for the Bucs. He’s spent countless hours in the film room with the likes of Warren Sapp, Rod Marinelli and more. Joe is humbled to have White, also a published author and blogger, as part of the JoeBucsFan.com team. Below is White’s weekly Bull Rush column that breaks down all things defense. It’s simply a can’t-miss read for the hardcore Bucs fan.

With the 2009 season over, White is profiling every Bucs defensive lineman and breaking down their strengths and weaknesses, as well as how they may fit in in next season.

Today he looks at Jimmy Wilkerson.


I think Wilkerson’s No. 1 strength is versatility. Over the course of the 2009 season he played every position on the defensive line, even weak defensive tackle a time or two on third down. And he wasn’t just a body out there, he was making plays whereever they plugged him in.

As the starting left defensive end, a position where you normally see the bulk of the opposition’s running attack, he was stout when defending his gap. He ended up with 49 total tackles, best out of all Buccaneers defensive linemen and good enough for eighth on the team overall.

Wilkerson also was probably both our best pass rushing option at left end and at either of the inside tackle positions. The one thing he has that separates him from the other would be left ends on the team is that he doesn’t just bull rush. He has some pretty good hand moves as well as a sneak speed rip move that helps him keep offensive tackles off balance.

When he rushes from the defensive tackle spot he tends to do more bull rushing, which is probably not advisable because of his size, but he manages to slip in a quick inside rush or a quick hands move from time to time. When he does, he has the ability to hit home runs.

He also is a big time hustle guy, and you see him show up in the screen over and over again on breakout runs down the field. His effort is probably the main reason he led the defensive line in tackles.


Wilkerson didn’t really show an explosive get-off during the season.

Now I am not trying to make excuses for him, but I think a lot of that had to do with playing a two-gap style most of the year. But whatever the reason, he was usually about a half a second behind on his get-off on passing downs, and that half a second can be the difference between a good rush and a bad one, or the difference between a hurry and a sack.

Whenever a defensive lineman allows an offensive lineman to set up before they have to block them they are letting them off the hook and making their own job a lot harder. The so called Tampa 2 defense is predicated on the defensive line putting so much pressure on the quarterback that he has to make quick throws before longer routes have the time to develop. That starts with get-off up front and without it the defense doesn’t work.

As much as I like Wilkerson’s one-on-one pass rush ability, I will have to be honest and say his set up on pass rush games sucked.

Running pass rush games is almost an art form and it’s one of the major weapons a defensive line has to even the playing field. Lets face it, we already start off outnumbered five to four, and that’s not even counting any backs or tight ends who may help out with a chip block.

But if the pass rush game isn’t set up and/or run correctly, it ends up being a wasted rush. When Wilkerson learns to set up games better, it will not only open things up in that situation but it will also help him in one-on-one pass rush situations, as now the offensive linemen will have to wonder if they are being set up or if it is a “real” rush.

The Future

Before Wilkerson’s injury I was thought the Bucs would be really smart to try to bulk him up a little and give him a shot at undertackle.

Why? He is very good inside as a pass rusher from either side, he has shown himself to be very tough, he has 7 years in the league, and he is a very smart player.

In my opinion, we have quite a few good young ends who could vie for his left end spot, but we don’t really have another guy on the roster right now who is really a true undertackle in my opinion.

Also, even if we draft a defensive tackle with the third pick in April, it will be a lot better for us if we have someone in front of him at least initially to teach them the position and show them the ropes.

I looked it up and there hasn’t been a defensive tackle with double digit sacks in the NFL since 2006. Want to guess who the last guy was? Warren Sapp.

And make no mistakes about it, people have been saying “the next Sapp” was coming into the league since the early 2000s. From my perspective it hasn’t happened yet and there is no reason to believe it will happen now.

Even if we were to draft Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy at No. 3, I can just about guarantee you that they are going to struggle some their first year. Wilkerson could have helped bridge that gap so they could have worked their way into the line up instead of just being tossed in their before they were ready. Don’t forget Sapp himself wasn’t a regular starter until his second year.

Now with Wilkerson’s injury I would say his status is in limbo.

His contract is up and although it seems (and is) cruel, the Bucs have no obligation to resign him just because he got hurt playing for them. I am hoping they do the right thing and at least give him a one-year deal because Jimmy Wilkerson exemplifies what we want players on our defense to be about.

If he does come back, however, I am not sure that they will want him to bulk up while trying to rehab his ACL. It’s hard enough getting a knee back to 100% strength after reconstructive surgery, but to do it when you are carrying more weight makes it even harder. And because Tim Crowder has shown the ability to make plays at left end and rookie Kyle Moore came on strong at that position at the end of the year, Wilkerson’s option at his old position may be limited.

No matter what happens, I appreciated his efforts and production this season. And I wish him well in the years to come.

9 Responses to “Bull Rush: Wilkerson Showed Promise At Tackle”

  1. Jonny Says:

    Good article Steve, I hope Bucs sign Wilkerson to a 1 year deal like you said. BTW, why do you think Wilkerson had like 6 sacks in the first half of the season and could not get even 1 in the next half ?

    Also, when do you think another live chat is possible.

  2. RustyRhino Says:

    Great Information again Mr White thank you. I did not get to watch many games this year, as i live in AZ. i like it that you make your observations known on Joebucsfan and your own blog. Do you get any feedback from the players you sometimes call out or praise? I am looking forward to going next year to watch the Bucs play the Cards, here in AZ. But even the cheap seats are now pricey, now that the Cards have had a few years of success. But it is close to my area and I WILL BE THERE!! I to beleive that Wilkerson deserves to be resigned 1-2 years he has earned his Red & Pewter in my book for his Play and his work ethic. thanks again for your inside view of the defense and the DL play.

  3. JDouble Says:

    Too bad about Jimmy’s injury. I doubt he’ll be back and though it is probably the right decision for the team, it’ sucks to seem him go out like that.

  4. sgw94 Says:


    Yeah that was kind of weird but sacks tend to come in bunches. He actually got better rushing inside in the 2nd half of the season and he didn’t really drop off when he was at left end. I think some of it may have had to do with the zone blitzes we started using and the 3 man rushes but I can’t be sure. As for a live blog I am sure we will be doing another one sometime in the future

  5. sgw94 Says:


    I am glad you like my stuff. I haven’t heard back from any of the players about my blogs but then I didn’t really expect to. I imagine I have written some things they have liked and some they didn’t but I just try to call it like I see it and let the chips fall where they may. I really hope they resign Jimmy too but you just never know.

  6. Trox Says:


    Really enjoyed your insight on your website about Gaines Adams. What a tragedy. Being a father myself, I really feel for his children. In your opinion, are clubs doing enough in the way of tests to evaluate if players are developing heart problems? So much attention and rightfully so has been about concussions and head trauma, I wonder if it is time to further evaluate the strains on the heart of an athlete more fully.

  7. sgw94 Says:


    I am still pretty much in disbelief about Gaines. As for your question I think that teams could and should be doing more in the physicals such as the echocardiogram that Joe talked about several times on the blog. But there is also another side of the coin that you won’t find many people talking about. There are guys who may have problems but don’t want to know about it or rather don’t want teams to find out about it because that can affect their contract status as well as their career. But I think you have to put players’ safety above all that and make certain things mandatory. The brain and the heart are two organs that take a lot of stress from football and I personally believe both should be thoroughly evaluated each year before a player is cleared to play. Now nobody knows how long Gainies had his condition so its possible that it still would have slipped through the cracks but you have to still try no matter what. Either way its still such a tragedy and a reminder of how precious life is

  8. BigMacAttack Says:

    Steve, what do you think about the Bucs trading for Glenn Dorsey as Joe mentions on the site today? Why didn’t the Bucs run more pass rush games when Raheem took over the defense? I heard you complain about this a few times, but it seems as if the Bucs’ position coaches aren’t familiar with them or the players haven’t been taught how to run them. If this is the case, what the heck are their D line coaches doing? Don’t they have 1 coach for ends and 1 for tackles? 2 coaches for 4 positions? Just asking?

  9. sgw94 Says:

    @BigMacAttack I left a comment in the thread about trading for Glen Dorsey. As for the coaching staff, I really am not familiar with any of those guys.