Former Bucs offensive tackle Jerry Wunsch is a regular and exclusive print contributor to PewterReport.com. Wunsch will share expert insight and opinions regarding the Bucs and the NFL based on his observations and previous playing experiences.
The former Wisconsin standout spent his first five seasons (1997-2001) as a pro with the Buccaneers before finishing his nine-year NFL career with the Seattle Seahawks (2002-05). The former second-round pick started 51 of the 113 games he played in during his NFL tenure.
Although he finished his career in Seattle, Wunsch still lives in the Tampa Bay area and is an active member of the community. He owns three different businesses, including a credit card processing company called Enablest, and heads up WunschFamilyFoundation.org.
Defensive line is a big need for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as they prepare for the 2010 NFL Draft, but the biggest thing that stood out to me from watching the Bucs last year was the defensive line's inability to get after the quarterback. I didn't see the Bucs penetrating, getting in the backfield and disrupting like the old Bucs defense did, and the result was just 28 sacks.
In order to get after the quarterback you have to have more team speed. I don't see the speed along the defensive line, but there are several players in this draft that could help the Bucs in that regard, particularly at defensive tackle, where Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy and Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh headline this group.
McCoy (6-4, 298) reminds me a lot of a lighter Warren Sapp. The early-entry junior is a year younger than Suh and has a lot of upside. He has amazing quickness and has displayed the ability to get into the offensive backfield. -4, 307) can do pretty much anything due to his size and athleticism. You could play him anywhere along the line and could probably even drop him back in pass coverage. These two are easily the top defensive tackles in the draft, and two of the top players in the draft, period.
What should Tampa Bay do of McCoy and Suh happen to fall to the Bucs, who own the third overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft? It would be a difficult decision, but a great problem to have. With the talent and depth in this year's draft from a defensive line position, the Bucs should try to trade down and let a defensive tackle fall to them while acquiring more draft picks, which the team obviously could use after a 3-13 season.
Trading down could be risky since McCoy and Suh likely are rated high on most teams' draft boards, but even if Tampa Bay rolled the dice and traded down with one or both players there, the Bucs could still address the need for a defensive tackle by taking advantage of the depth at the position.
UCLA DT Brian Price (6-1, 303) is projected to go anywhere from picks 15-30, but based on what I've seen this kid do he's a top 10-caliber player that is projected to go lower because of the depth in this year's draft. Price isn't at the same level as McCoy and Suh from a quickness standpoint, but he's a legitimate first-round pick that will fall lower than he should. The same can be said for Texas DT Lamar Houston (6-3, 305), Tennessee DT Dan Williams (6-2, 327) and Cal DT Tyson Alualu (6-4, 294), among others.
Of course, passing on the opportunity to draft McCoy or Suh wouldn't be easy for the Bucs even though they need to acquire more draft picks. Given what type of defense Bucs head coach Raheem Morris is running now, taking a player like Suh would allow Morris to do more defensively, like dropping him back in coverage and blitzing from the outside with the linebackers. McCoy can do that, too, but not to the level that Suh can.
The only thing that concerns me about Suh is he plays too high at times. In the NFL these guys are too good and his physical strength, although impressive, will not be able to overcome that type of poor technique when it's on display. McCoy, on the other hand, plays with a lot lower pad level. I watched him against a lot of double teams, and that's his weakness if you can find one. However, if you're playing the true Tampa 2 defense you're not going to find too many situations where McCoy is double-teamed.
That said, I couldn't even say which player I'd rather have between McCoy and Suh. I could make a good argument for both because they're both so good and talented. I would personally like to see the Bucs trade down to acquire more picks, especially in a draft that that would literally allow the Bucs to completely revamp and solidify their defensive line with enough selections. But McCoy and Suh are unique talents and disruptive forces. The Bucs haven't had that since Sapp, and that's what they need in order to dominate in the trenches. That means the Bucs shouldn't move out of the No. 3 spot unless another team offers a favorable deal.
As good as McCoy and Suh are, the defensive end position could also be a tempting one for the Bucs to address in the first round. USF DE Jason Pierre-Paul's athleticism is off the charts and Michigan DE Brandon Graham is a sack machine. The defensive end position isn't as deep as defensive tackle, so the Bucs could justify taking a defensive end because it is a need, especially after the first-round pick invested in Gaines Adams in 2007 didn't pan out.
But as I'm sitting here today I'm thinking the Bucs need to probably take either McCoy or Suh because they're legitimate top five picks and two of the better defensive tackles to enter the NFL over the last decade. A dominant defensive tackle will help make your defensive ends better, as we saw with Chidi Ahanotu, Marcus Jones and even Simeon Rice during their playing days with Sapp in Tampa Bay. Even on slide protection, opposing offenses know they have to double team the three technique, which puts the defensive ends in one-on-one situations and keeps the offensive linemen off the linebackers. A good three technique can literally disrupt the running game and passing game by himself and make everybody around him better because of how opposing offenses have to game plan for him. You can game plan for a Reggie White-type defensive end by simply running away from him, but you can't do that with a three technique because they are always involved in the play, even when you slide protect.
Sapp and John Randle were arguably two of the best defensive tackles to ever play in the NFL, and I was fortunate enough to play with both of them in Tampa Bay and Seattle, respectively. Do I see that type of potential in McCoy and Suh? You bet, and that's why the Bucs really can't go wrong by betting on either McCoy or Suh in April.
By Jerry Wunsch as told to PewterReport.com editor-in-chief Jim Flynn.