Under Siege

August 31st, 2016



In an initial conversation between Warren Sapp and Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay’s Hall of Fame defensive tackle told his young protégé that the strength of the pack is the key to an effective pass rush.

Six years later, those words still ring true.

McCoy has reported for duty at One Buc Place since 2010, waiting for a group of defensive linemen to emerge all around him.

That wait may be over.

New defensive line coach Jay Hayes, who was adept at rotating players in and out at Cincinnati, has talent and depth. The emergence of a swarming unit is the most significant development for Dirk Koetter’s football team since players gathered for training camp.

Against the Eagles and Browns, Tampa Bay’s defensive line was a frenzied, marauding unit. Buc fans couldn’t get enough. It seemed like everyone got into the act — and that’s precisely the idea.

McCoy isn’t a bad place to start this discussion. He’s an elite player frustrated by losing and injuries, but his passion for the game is undiminished. He has always said the right things, even if at times he didn’t believe the words.

Until now.

“It’s guys rushing as a unit, playing together, feeding off of each other,” he says of the sack dances that have marked the preseason. “When you rush as a unit, not as individuals, that type of stuff can happen.”

Clinton McDonald and Akeem Spence are solid run-stuffers inside while Robert Ayers, Jacquies Smith, Howard Jones and rookie Noah Spence offer pressure off the edge. William Gholston is a valuable, versatile presence at tackle or end.

Feeding The Offense

That’s a talented group intent on separating Matt Ryan from the football and from his senses in Atlanta in 11 short days. If this defensive line is as good as advertised, opposing quarterbacks won’t be completing 70 percent of their pass attempts again this fall.

As any Buc fan will attest, this defense couldn’t make stops in 2015. They couldn’t get off the field and turn it over to the most productive attack in franchise history.

And yes, an erratic defensive line was a primary culprit. McCoy was playing hurt, fellow team captain McDonald missed the final 10 games with a pectoral injury, and the Bucs lacked depth up front.

Times, and roster spots, have changed.

“We brought in some guys,” McCoy says. “Robert Ayers is a vet and he’s a really good player. He has a lot of nastiness to him, which helps us out a lot. Noah Spence is coming along strong. Clinton McDonald is Clinton McDonald … we call him ‘The Hammer’ for a reason. So guys are developing: Will Gholston is really having a good camp, he really is. And Coach [Mike] Smith’s scheme is great man, it leaves opportunities for everybody to make plays.”

You don’t need a Pro Bowler at every spot to make an impact up front. The last time the Bucs boasted a Top 10 defense, they featured a nice blend of youth and experience along the defensive line.

Lessons Of 2008

In Jon Gruden’s final season in Tampa, the Bucs were 9-3 before a December collapse ushered in a coaching change. The only time that 2008 club allowed more than 300 passing yards in a game was in the season opener at New Orleans against Drew Brees.

Who manned the front line that season? It was Kevin Carter, Chris Hovan, Gaines Adams, Stylez White, Jovan Haye, Jimmy Wilkerson and Ryan Sims.

It’s silly to argue that group is more formidable than the current crop of defensive linemen in Tampa, but those guys played together, encouraged each other and got the job done — so Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib could do their jobs.

There’s a danger in reading too much into preseason play. The games don’t count and starters are on a snap count.

Still, the depth and skill of Tampa Bay’s defensive line offers a lot of encouragement that passers won’t have more shocking field days.

It appears McCoy finally has his pack to run with. It should make for an interesting fall, unless you’re an opposing quarterback under siege.

11 Responses to “Under Siege”

  1. Dick Butkiss Says:

    Great piece. In Mike Smith we trust!

  2. Buc1987 Says:

    Good stuff Ira.

  3. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Good article Ira…..again!!!

    As for it only being a preseason success…..well, I’ll take that for now.

  4. LifeOfABucFan Says:

    There’s something big about to happen with this group…and bringing in Robert Ayers was that one piece of beastly playing and bad azz attitude we needed.

    Love Smitty!!!

  5. Jolly Bucs Fan Says:

    Praying to the football gods for a 16game healthy McCoy this year.

    That will be the difference this team needs

  6. tmaxcon Says:

    no excuses they need to make it happen. Ayers nastiness was much needed.

  7. Strider ....Sec 147 Says:

    I wonder who licht will bring in to help us…

  8. Bucsfanman Says:

    Great stuff! Go get ’em Bucs!

  9. Pickgrin Says:

    Great article Ira! Having you here on JBF is working out REALLY well. Keep up the good work.

    It all starts up front. Stop the run and make the QB uncomfortable. Winning formula.

  10. Piratic Says:

    Lessons Of 2008

    In Jon Gruden’s final season in Tampa, the Bucs were 9-3 before a December collapse ushered in a coaching change.

    —December 8, 2008 was a very dark day. It could be argued that the Bucs STILL haven’t recovered from the lesson that the Panthers gave us 2,824 days ago. Jason Licht has us on a steep upward trend, (I believe) but we still have everything to prove, and I hope the players feel the same way.

  11. Mike Johnson Says:

    Enough with the excuses and we shall overcome bit. GET IT DONE BUCS!!
    You won 6 last season. Anything less than 8 is a failure. Us old heads are sick and tired and tired and sick of Coulda/Woulda/Shoulda. None of’em are game winners.
    Great article here IRA.