Bull Rush: Maintaining Gap A Problem For McCoy

August 15th, 2010
Former Bucs DE Steve White

Former Bucs DE Steve White

JoeBucsFan.com analyst

Former Buccaneers defensive end Steve White (1996-2001) is a devoted student of the game. He’s even authored a coaching guide and coached defensive linemen at the University of South Florida. And after all those years breaking down film with former defensive line coach Rod Marinelli and the other architects and legends of the Bucs’ defense, White shares his knowledge with JoeBucsFan.com readers in his must-read Bull Rush column

Today, White goes very deep into analyzing all things defensive line out of last night’s Bucs preseason opener.

Joe advises you to grab a cold beverage, tell the old lady to leave you alone, and enjoy. This is great stuff.


I’ll admit that I was more than a little anxious to see the Bucs-Dolphins game yesterday. After all the speculation and prognostication, we finally got to see the guys in action.

I’ll start off with some general comments on what I saw and then go player by player with a brief synopsis. Let me know if you like this format or not in the comments.

First, it’s worth acknowledging that the field conditions sucked yesterday. I know Coach Morris has said he won’t let that be an excuse, and that’s cool because a head coach isn’t supposed to allow any excuses. However, I’ve played on that infield and it’s always an adventure. The plain and simple truth is that it’s hard to play football in the trenches when you are slipping and sliding in the sand and mud.

Having said that, our guys seemed to handle the conditions well for the most part. A couple of times guys got put on skates (*cough* Ryan Sims *cough*) in a double team, but aside from falling down there really isn’t much you can do about that.

One thing I was impressed with was how we ran to the ball all night long. I didn’t see very many loafs from any of the guys who touched the field, and several times guys got assisted tackles down the field.

Our pass rush was close to non-existent with a few exceptions.The field conditions had something to do with that, as did the fact that the Dolphins were keeping six and seven in to max-protect at times.

Still, I would have wanted to see more actual pass rush moves made by the group as a whole. Also, one group tried a double TEX pass rush game and the timing was just AWFUL. The defensive ends are STILL not setting up the tackles and the defensive tackles aren’t penetrating. I swear it’s not rocket science. I know it was the backups, but honestly it looked exactly like how our starters ran it most of last year.

I also noticed that we got back to running some line stunts last night. Unfortunately, they weren’t run correctly several times, either.

What is supposed to happen on a line stunt is two guys go inside to penetrate then, once the nose tackle recognizes it’s a pass, he is supposed to cover those two guys who went inside by looping around outside for contain. I don’t think the “looper” did so all night.

It didn’t hurt us against the Dolphins because their quarterbacks aren’t especially mobile, but these days that’s the exception rather than the rule. We have to fix that or we risk letting quarterbacks escape the pocket and making plays with their legs, and/or making big plays in the passing game after buying time and allowing their receivers to get open.

One thing that was really impressive to me is that our offense turned the ball over three times in the first half. and yet the defense didn’t give up a score of any kind on those occasions. That’s big time when you think about it, and the defensive line definitely was a factor in that.

Stylez G. White: Stylez played well and ran to the ball well picking up a couple of assists down the field. I thought he should have tried a few inside pass rush moves as his offensive tackle was setting him for his outside rush. I also thought a few times he drifted up field a little rather than threatening the corner right away on pass rush. He played really well with his hands versus the run.

Kyle Moore: Kyle made several plays in the running game, had a nice hit on the quarterback off a bootleg and he also got his hands on a pass that was almost intercepted by Adam Heyward. Overall, it was a pretty good outing to start the season. Moore needs to work on his get-off, though. Sometimes he comes off the ball as if he is guessing the play instead of just getting off and adjusting as he goes. That would aid every facet of his game.

The Bucs decided to have a special 3rd down pass rush group again, and they moved Moore inside paired up with rookie first rounder Gerald McCoy. I’ve already stated plenty of times why I don’t like that set up and why so I won’t bore you with that again.

I will say this, however, I didn’t see Moore get any pressure from that alignment. Most of the time he was stuck in a “K Lang.” If you don’t remember, a “K Lang” is when a guy gets locked up with an offensive lineman on a pass rush and ends up stuck right in front of him for the most part without getting any penetration or putting any pressure on the quarterback.

If Moore was 6-foot-8 and was going to knock down a lot of passes, I guess that would be ok. But since he’s not, he’ll need to get better at rushing the guards for the Bucs to ever hope to justify kicking him inside on 3rd downs instead of just letting him rush from his position at left defensive end.

Another thing I noticed was that a couple off times when they went to this alignment there was no A-gap rusher. Both Moore and McCoy ended up rushing in the B-gaps leaving both A-gaps open. Again, this wasn’t that big of a deal because the Dolphins quarterbacks were pocket passers. But if that isn’t fixed, it will come back to bite them big time.

Gerald McCoy: McCoy did some really good things and some not so good things, typical for a rookie. I thought he really did well splitting a few double teams. He did, however, miss the tackle after he split the double at least once. He also was particularly active in running to the ball. He didn’t end up with any stats to speak of but he was hauling ass trying to get there.

One thing he has to work on is a slip-block where the guard posts his inside shoulder then continues up to the linebacker, and the offensive tackle to that side slips inside and cuts him off from his B-gap. McCoy allowed the tackle to cut him off several times last night but luckily the ball didn’t end up cutting back into his gap.

But trust me on this one, it will. Especially when teams see that he can be cut off on film. I don’t know if he needs to line up a little heavier (closer) on the guard or what, but the more he shows he can’t maintain his gap on that blocking scheme, the more he’s assured of seeing it.

On his pass rush the one thing I would tell him is to keep his hands closer together and not reach so much.

Coming up playing defensive line in little league on up through college you get taught to reach for the offensive lineman’s shoulder pad to make a move. The problem is most of the offensive linemen in the NFL are really good and those moves no longer work.

Worse still is when you reach like that you give them your chest to punch. What you really want to do is be able to knock their hands down right in front of your chest since you know that’s where they are trying to put them anyway, and continue on your rush. After you’ve done that a few times they start holding their punch back and THEN you can try swatting the shoulder.

But if you never knock their hands down they will just continue to punch you in that bullseye you are putting on your chest.

In fairness, McCoy saw the center slide his way most of the night on pass rush anyway. Which brings me to another thing about that third-down personnel. It appears that McCoy is going to just stay on the right side regardless of the formation/pass protection. That means if he does become the ferocious pass rusher we all want to see him develop into, it’s going to be very easy for opposing teams to simply slide the center his way most of the time.

If we have another guy whose we’re expecting to be as good rushing inside like maybe Brian Price, then that’s all good because that just means he will tear them up when they single-block him. But if not, if Moore is destined to rush inside on third-and-longs, then they need to have McCoy moving to the side away from the center slide in the cases where they can identify it.

Just my opinion.

Roy Miller: Roy played well in limited action. He looks like he has really improved at splitting double teams and staying low not giving up ground. He had a really nice play on Rickey Williams where he split the double and then made the tackle. That’s not something you saw a lot of last year out of any of our defensive tackles. He also had a nice assist running down the field after a quick pass.

He has to be careful, though, because I saw one play where he crossed the center on a pass rush. It wasn’t a pass rush game, either, and you don’t want to have both the A-gap and B-gap open on one side ever.

I know the tendency is to go the route of least resistance but sometimes you simply have to work your own gap even if it seems fruitless, so the rush lanes are even and the quarterback can’t step up or take off running when someone else gets close to them.

We also ran some zone blitz with Roy in the game where he has to cross the center’s face. This can be a perfect opportunity for him to get pressure from the nose tackle position. But he needs to be more sudden in his movements, and he needs to gain more ground with his inside step.

It would also help to throw his hip into the opposite gap, making it harder for the center to catch up to him and block him after he has already stepped to his initial alignment. We should be getting more out of Miller in that situation in my opinion and putting more stress on the offensive line to block the blitz.

Not sure if he has watched any old film, but he should try to find some with Brad Culpepper on it because he was great at crossing the center’s face and still getting pressure.

Michael Bennett: Bennett had the best game of any defensive lineman last night, and it wasn’t really close in my opinion. He has the best get-off of anybody on the team, and he is consistent with it.

He had a really nice sack off an inside move from the left side and almost had another hunting down the quarterback on a bootleg. I have been saying that I thought Crowder should be on the left side backing up Moore to give him a run for his money, but it turns out Bennett isn’t messing around, either.

I thought he flashed last year with his speed and athleticism, but I also thought he was more suited to the right side. I still believe that, but he showed last night that he is no slouch on the left side either.

He was also good on the run using his hands well against the Dolphins’ tight ends and moving well on a few line stunts and getting penetration making the running backs go laterally rather than downhill. Bennett almost made a helluva tackle for a loss also but just missed the tackle in the backfield.

One thing he should work on is ripping off blocks so that he doesn’t have to try to attempt so many arm tackles, especially when its a tight end blocking him.

The one thing I didn’t see coming was how well he rushed inside as a defensive tackle with the second 3rd-and-long group. He got some good pressure a couple of times and one time he beat two guys in very impressive fashion. Because I have actually seen him make moves and be successful (even though it wasn’t against the starters) I wouldn’t mind seeing him given an opportunity to rush on third downs if he isn’t starting.

That way Moore gets to stay outside at left end and get better pass rushing at the spot where he will be playing more than he will playing the overwhelming majority of his reps.

Just a thought.

Tim Crowder: Tim played well as usual. He made a tackle down the field on a draw and he also got pressure on the quarterback from left end on the same play where Moore tipped the pass. He had some good edge rushes from the right end, getting to level of the quarterback just after he released the ball. He at least attempted an inside move, but unfortunately it happened to be a time when the center and guard were sliding his way so the guard was there waiting for him.

He, like most of the other guys, needs to work on getting off the ball though. His technique is very sound and he is a very smart player, but he is slow off the ball and that gives the offensive lineman a fraction of a second of an advantage.

I think sometimes players get so conditioned not to jump offsides that they end up being afraid to jump the count, but you can’t let that happen. You want to be disciplined and you don’t want stupid penalties, but as soon as the ball moves you have to be coming out of your stance.

I think maybe Crowder and the others would also benefit from turning their heads in and looking at the ball. Many time nowadays guys are taught to see the ball out of the corner of their eye, but that’s kinda hard to do with a helmet on. We used to turn in and look at the ball and then change our focus once we got off. Not sure if that would help but it wouldn’t hurt to try.

Ryan Sims: I referenced Sims getting put on skates in the infield but he played decent for the most part. He still has to work on staying lower and getting off the ball, but other than that one time he was pretty stout in run defense. And he was good on the line stunts.

The one thing that still drives me crazy about the guy, though, is that he doesn’t punish people with his power on pass rush. You can see him at times pushing guys back to the quarterback but he doesn’t seem to want to use a bull rush all the time.

If it were me I would tell him to use power until they could stop it, providing that when they sat down he ripped off to make the play. He is wayyyy too big to be messing around with finesse stuff, but you still see him doing swim moves instead of punching guards dead in their chests.

I still think there is a place for Sims on our roster but he is going to have to start making more plays as the preseason goes on, in my opinion.

Dre Moore: Dre had an up and down game. He was pretty good against the run but he also was one of the players who kept forgetting to loop around for contain on the run stunts versus pass. He got a really nice tackle when he crossed the face of the center on a base block. He also had a tipped pass. But then he also was too high on a goal line play and got punched back into the endzone. And he was also stuck in some “K Langs” in pass rush.

One thing is for sure though, he looks much better than he did last year. You can see that he has the ability to play but he has to sharpen up his skills and he has to concentrate on using his technique more than just reverting back to just going off athletic ability at times.

James Ruffin: Ruffin was in with the second 3rd-down group, and he looked ok rushing at right end. He didn’t get any hits on the quarterback, but he was coming around the horn pretty good and you could see him working moves. He did miss a tackle, however, and he got caught peeking inside on a reverse as well. Maybe most importantly, he looked like he knew what he was doing every play while he was in.

He was, however, one of the guys who ran the terrible double TEX game. If anybody reading this sees him, scream at him to get his tail up the field and really sell the game before he loops inside instead of being greedy and going early.

Carlton Powell: I had to vote on which guy was most dreading watching film today I would have to go with Powell. He had a rough one last night. He got pancaked twice and even when he managed to remain upright he got pushed around quite a bit. He also tried to do a spin move one time and ended up doing a pirouette right in place instead. And he was also a guy who didn’t loop for contain on a line stunt. I don’t say any of these things to make fun of him but just to tell the truth. And the truth is if he doesn’t get better, and I mean MUCH better, in a hurry well….you know the rest.

Eric Lorig: Lorig had an ok game. He showed a lot of hustle on one play when he ran down the running back across the formation on a run to the right from his left end spot. He also had a nice tackle when he folded inside after taking a zone drop in pass coverage off a zone blitz.
On the downside, the ball went through his gap on the TD. He just played to heavy into the offensive tackle and couldn’t get off the make the play. Oh, and he was also the left end running that terrible double TEX game. (See also Ruffin.)
I also noticed that he had a tackle on punt team, which can’t hurt for a defensive end. All in all a decent start for the rookie.

Brandon Gilbeaux: Didn’t get to see a lot of this guy but I did want to at least acknowledge his magnificent JOP (jump on pile) not long after he checked into the game. I know how it is when you wa\nt to get your name on the stat sheet by any means necessary. lol

That’s all for this week. Let me know what you think. And if you have a question, fire away in the comments.

32 Responses to “Bull Rush: Maintaining Gap A Problem For McCoy”

  1. RustyRhino Says:

    Again Steve,
    Thank You from a laypersons perspective having you break down how plays work and why they do not work is invaluable to us fans!!
    And the reference to Culpepper’s abilities in the Dline makes me smile. He was and still is one of my favorite Buc Players, i think people forget that he was a very good player. I have not. 6th all time in sacks with 33.0 in 5 years thats not to bad..
    Again thank you for your great incite and observations.
    Your in my list of favorite players as well.

  2. Radio Mushmouth Says:

    Rumor has it Brian Price looks really awesome when he’s slapping tackling dummies aside …

  3. Gatorbuc15 Says:

    Great points Steve. Another great post once again!

    I wouldn’t worry to much about McCoy though, he’s just a rookie and he’ll learn. That’ s what the pre season is for! He’ll probably do much better in the next game, with Price lined up next to him.

  4. George C. Costanza Says:

    i like the individual analysis. thanks for the effort, steve.

  5. pat Says:

    Great article! I sure hope the coaches will see the same things and make adjustments. You ever think about coaching (for the Bucs) Steve?

  6. Blackmagic00 Says:

    Nice job Steve. I do have a question though. I keep reading that Miami used 7 men on the line and I was wondering if you think our Dline would look much better lining up against a more traditional line? Or am I way off base the way I’m interpreting this? Maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about. lol Insight?

  7. Dew Says:

    That was great. And with all our new guys upfront it really helps getting your thoughts. Like someone else said on here, I felt like we won last night. A good start. Thanks.

  8. Apple Roof Cleaning Tampa Says:

    Great Breakdown Steve! I subscribe to your Blog, but wish you wrote here more.
    The insight you provide from an ex players prospective is unique. You call it like you see it. A far cry from all the azz kissers on national TV who seldom give us this information.
    I, as a Fan, am tired of the sugar coated poop fed to us by “Color Commentators” on Fox, NBC, and BSPN who think THEY are the show.

  9. goodfellajay Says:

    Radio Mushmouth ..wow ur lame

  10. YearOBucsfan Says:

    Does any of this get back to the players? Do you ever contact these guys, Steve? Thank you for the analysis.

  11. jester03 Says:

    Love the article very insightful hard to see all of that. Hard to beleive you werent a better player than you were.I dont mean that as an insult.Ithink the line will be much better with Price if he is the practice wrecker they say he is.

  12. Jamie Says:

    Great, great article Steve. Nobody else actually gives such detailed commentary on players that aren’t already superstars.

  13. sgw94 Says:

    Thanks all


    Dolphins used dome two TE sets but thats about it. And every offense, including our own, uses that set at times. The Dophins offense was pretty standard last night.

  14. sensiblefan Says:


    I assume the ole “K Lang” technique is named after former Cleveland Brown great Kennard Lang? Lmao! That’s cold man!

  15. frank Says:

    Love all the info. I could read another 20 paragraphs. Steve, how many times do you have to watch a game to get all this? Would you say any of our D-lineman are above average when it comes to the rest of the league? That’s what scares me.

  16. BigMacAttack Says:

    Steve, How many of these lineman can they actually keep? Who? and who ends up on the practice squad if any? Is this pre-season Dre Moore’s last shot?

    What did you think about at Heyward at MLB? I like that guy and he is stout.

  17. Capt.Tim Says:

    Mr.White- great, great stuff as always! Love the individual breakdowns. Reading your post makes it alot easier to understandwhy the Bucs drafted two DT’s this year. Two DT’s with pass rush skills will make the double team on both players alot harder to pull off! Hopefully McCoy and Brice can grow together into a pair of pass rushing monsters! Your comments about Crowde and Bennet give us hope for our DL!

  18. Baz Says:

    LOVE the comments and the format! Thanks so much for everything you do, can’t tell you how much I appreciate reading your insight into the d-line, not to mention other aspects of the Bucs’ football team!
    You rock, please keep it up, and thanks again!

  19. safety Says:

    I like the individual player breakdown format. Awesome stuff.

  20. Pete Dutcher Says:

    Great defensive line breakdown. It’s good to see certain players doing well. I suspect Raheem is going to have a hard time when cuts come up.

  21. ZeroExpectations Says:

    Steve, damn fine, high quality work here! Joe is lucky to have a guy like you leave such meaningful Buccaneer opinion.

    I’m re-watching the recorded game tonight for fun. I slowed down quite a few plays in the fist quarter, specifically from our 1st string defense. It seemed early on we were getting beat by the run. We also seemed to get a few breaks with Brandon Marshall dropping a few and a few other Dolphin penalties and drops.

    I did notice Crowder getting up in the Henne’s kitchen on the Dolphins backed up deep, 3rd down and 11. He was able to step inside and slide by the blocker, and move up quick on the QB, then Moore put his hand up and got the tip almost allowing Hayward to get an INT.

    I seem to see Ruud sitting on plays seemingly too long, then falling down or getting blocked out. I also saw Hayes over pursue and get blocked out of plays too, althougj he made a good play to break up a pass.

    But to me I’m concerned about our LBs getting out of position, and the ends and DBs diving early and letting tackles slip tbrough their hands (it was wet).

    I wondered while re-watching, if our defense has fundamental flaws against the run, with overpursuit and guys not quick wrapping up on tackles low, and buys like Ruud, Hayes sort of being out of position?

    I notice this when I slow the game down to frame by frame, as the plays in live action happen so fast, its hard to pick up.

    Should our run defense be penetrating and pushing the oline back or down rather than letting them push us back? Should the LBs be aggressively running in hard plugging holes rather than sit back and wait to get juked out f their shoes?

    Or am I seeing some other game? Thanks!

  22. Greg Says:

    Joe, are you going to give us the quarter blogs during the preseason, or will we have to wait until the start of the regular season? Steve, great job man, wish someone on the Bucs staff would take heed of your inputs!

  23. admin Says:

    Joe here,

    Greg – Joe hasn’t decided yet on the trademark quarter-by-quarter blogs for the preseason. But they’ll definitely be going during the regular season. …Thanks for asking and remembering.

  24. Fish Says:

    Like the format and love the analysis and jargon used by professionals. I played a little WR and CB in college but I’ve never heard and/or you never see D-line analysis like this anywhere… especially coming from someone who has played in the league.

    Focusing on the most important position group on defense, I love seeing a thorough breakdown of player-by-player strengths and flaws. Our 1st stringers looked fantastic in general and I’m really looking forward to the start of the season… Go Bucs!

    Freeman looked pretty sweet, btw.. especially in crappy conditions…

  25. Joe Says:


    What Joe is thinking of (for the regular season as well), is have a live chat for the game and people can follow Joe on Twitter for more immediate interactive feedback during the game, with short recaps of each quarter on this site.

    Nothing etched in stone. Still bouncing things around as far as game coverage. The way Twitter has blown up, it seems that’s more interactive and popular, while providing a live chat for those who, for what ever reason, are allergic to Twitter.

    Joe just did a little Twittering Saturday night and was shocked at the feedback on Twitter. That suggests to Joe that may be the way to go.

  26. DRB Says:


    Who do you think is our best D-Lineman against the run/double team?

    In other words, who gives us the best chance not to get gashed up the middle when teams have a lead on us?

  27. AAA Says:

    I like this format.. EXCELLENT!

  28. Jonny Says:

    A nice analysis by Mr.White confirms football has started.

  29. sgw94 Says:

    Not to be rude but let me give a general answer that will apply to a lot of the questions. This was the first preseason game and the starters aside from McCoy didn’t play that much. And the backups were going against…backups. So while I was encouraged by some things I saw there is no way to extrapolate any further than just that game. For all I know guys who did well this week will tank next week or vice versa. After the 3rd preseason game I will probably have a good feel for what we have and don’t have on the team and I will be better equipped to answer many of the questions then but for right now its just wayyyyy too early.

  30. sgw94 Says:

    Oh and thanks again for all the compliments. Glad you guys liked the post

  31. BamBamBuc Says:

    Here’s the most simplistic question to be answered in the near future…… Is this D-line any better than what was on the field last season? If the answer is yes, then we are moving in the right direction and wins will follow.

  32. Greg Says:

    Joe, that’s a great idea about the live blog. I really enjoyed the quarter blogs last season, there were some of the funniest blog entries I’ve read on this site during some of the games!