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June 2, 2011 @ 6:26 am
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Bucs Have Big Expectations For Bennett

Written by Scott
Scott Reynolds


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Despite the fact that Tampa Bay spent two high draft picks on defensive ends in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Bucs have big expectations for Michael Bennett along the defensive line this year. Bennett has spent time working out with Gerald McCoy and Adrian Clayborn in San Diego this offseason.
Although the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted two defensive ends in the first two rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft, the team does not believe that the cupboard was necessarily bare at the defensive end position. Both head coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik singled out Michael Bennett in press conferences during the draft along with Gerald McCoy and Brian Price when talking about the team’s building blocks that are already in place to join newcomers Adrian Clayborn and Da`Quan Bowers heading into the 2011 campaign.

Bennett, who wound up starting the last couple of games at right defensive end over veteran Stylez G. White, finished his second NFL season with 21 tackles, four tackles for loss and one sack after notching five tackles and a sack during his rookie season in 2009. While Clayborn and Bowers are slated to start at some point in time at right end and left end, respectively, the Bucs are counting on the athletic Bennett to provide some key snaps in pass rushing situations all across the defensive line.

“This year the Bucs have talked to me about playing in a lot of different places so I don’t want to get too big while I’m training. I’m weighing the same as last year – about 268 or 270,” Bennett said. “They are going to move me around. I’ll be playing left end, right end and even some nose tackle in certain defenses. They’ll put me inside on some plays.”

Tampa Bay likes Bennett’s versatility and the 6-foot-4, 270-pound lineman will play a role similar to that of former Bucs utility players Ellis Wyms and Tyoka Jackson and backup virtually every position. Before the NFL lockout began in March, Bennett spoke with new defensive line coaches Keith Millard, who will be responsible for the pass rush, and Grady Stretz, who will be responsible for teaching run-stopping techniques.

“I talked to them and they were pretty cool,” Bennett said. “We talked about how we’ll be playing defensive line this year as opposed to last year. It’s going to be a lot different along the defensive front this year. It’s going from more of a read-and-react style to penetration. Coach Millard was talking about his time in Oakland and how he had those guys getting upfield.”

Millard, a former Pro Bowl defensive tackle with the Minnesota Vikings, coached Bucs legend Warren Sapp with the Raiders and received Sapp’s endorsement when he was interviewing with Tampa Bay. After spending two years under defensive line coach Todd Wash, whose philosophy for the defensive line was to essentially fill gaps at the line of scrimmage rather than penetrate, Millard and Stretz will be getting the defensive line back to the penetrating style of play that Rod Marinelli, Sapp’s former coach in Tampa Bay, used to teach. This new style should benefit the Bucs’ quicker, athletic players like Bennett.

“We are now working with Coach Millard and I think working with Coach Millard will be good because he’s had results with a lot of different players and helped their careers,” Bennett said. “He understands the pass rush and how to bring out the best in each player. I can’t wait to get started.”

But while Bennett and his teammates anxiously await the end of the NFL lockout, he has been training in his home state of Texas and also made it out to California recently to work out with McCoy and some his Bucs defensive line teammates.

“I’ve been training in Houston and also out in San Diego with some of the guys that have been working out there,” Bennett said. “Gerald, Clayborn, myself and Kyle Moore were training together. I met Clayborn out in San Diego, and he is a hard worker and he’s pretty strong. He’s pretty good. Learning about your teammates is important and that’s what this trip was about. He’s pretty athletic from what I could tell.”

Even though it likely meant he would no longer have the chance to be a starter, Bennett said he was unfazed by the team’s decision to draft Clayborn and Bowers in the first two rounds of the draft back in April because he knows he will still be playing a lot of snaps on Sundays.

“What’s my reaction to it? I think it was a good idea because we need more young defensive linemen,” Bennett said. “It was good news. We’re trying to change the whole mindset of the Bucs defensive line. We have a whole bunch of new guys learning a new system up front under Raheem this year. It’s going to be a different kind of defense. The more competition the better, especially when guys know that they could lose their job.”

While training in San Diego with McCoy, Bennett said he noticed a difference in the Bucs’ first-round pick from a year ago with how driven he is and how he has attacked this offseason.

“Yeah, I’ve seen a big change in Gerald,” Bennett said. “You can sense he wants to change. He doesn’t want to be a good defensive lineman. He wants to be a great defensive lineman. When you have guys leading like that – if you don’t follow, you better get out of the way. It’s good that he wants to be a leader. He’s working hard and you see it in his body. You can see it in his explosion. You can see it in his mindset.”

Both Bennett and McCoy showed big improvement last year towards the end of the season with each notching their first sack of the season against San Francisco in Tampa Bay’s 21-0 shutout win. The Buccaneers began last year allowing an average of 23.75 points per game over the first eight games of 2010. But the defense improved and stiffened during the final eight games, allowing an average of just 16 points per contest. The team surrendered over 20 points in five of those games, and over 30 points in three contests.

Down the stretch, Tampa Bay allowed opponents to score more than 20 points only twice – both of which were losses at home (28-24 to Atlanta, 23-20 to Detroit). The Bucs did not allow more than 28 points in any of the team’s final eight games and beat two playoff teams in Seattle and New Orleans to end the season on a high note.

“We started hitting our stride at the end because we started improving and playing together,” Bennett said. “That’s what Coach Morris wants us to do. Along the defensive line you need to have everyone doing their jobs – not just one person. When one person is doing their job you’re giving up the run and not getting to the quarterback. But when we have everyone on the D-line doing their jobs we can be unstoppable. We are young group that is growing together.”

The Bucs expect Bennett to be a big part of the team's plans along the defensive line in 2011.
Last modified on Thursday, 02 June 2011 06:46

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  • avatar

    As fas as Bennett, I have been saying since after the draft Bennett and Crowder are the only 2 DEs I think the team should keep from last year, although they might keep 5.
  • avatar

    I agree with johngruden that no one on this line has proven anything yet. I do think McCoy is going to be a stud though. Penetration and disruption is what he does. Holding him back last year should explain why Walsh is gone. THis is a young line, but from what we have heard and read: McCoy, Miller, Price, Clayborne, Bennett, and Bowers with the chip on his shoulder are all hard workers who want to get better and some (McCoy and Clayborne) have said thy want to be great. That attitude, along with the new coaches......... This COULD be the best D-Line in football within 2 years.......... of cours Detroit might be right there with them.
  • avatar

    No one knows what happened to BF47. I suspect he was the one person who disrobed and stood on Rockytop when Armagedon happened a couple of weeks ago and was actually taken to the mother ship. In short, he was beamed up.
  • avatar

    George: It was 1976 not 1967. Been right there with you in the good times and a lot of difficult times. I even have my aluminum bench from the old Tampa Stadium and my original Buc shirt that I can't squeeze into anymore. As a Buc fan I often felt like Rodney Dangerfield with his phrase, "It ain't easy being me." You , Horse and I didn't have much to cheer for sometimes. Each off-season we had little to do but hope for the best. I always used to just wish that we wouldn't be the worst team in the league. After last season's success; things do look promising this off-season in spite of jonnyg's skepticism. He just doesn't want to get his hopes up and be disappointed like we've all been so many times in the past. It's like BF47 afraid to ask the pretty girl to the prom for fear she'll say, "get away from me you little creep." So to keep from experiencing that dejection he asks the equally desperate and dateless Really Big Barbara. Remember the old show Name That Tune where contestants would claim they can identify the song with the least number of notes played? Some of our more pessimistic fans would be the ones playing it safe with their predictions.
  • avatar

    What happened to BF47, I enjoyed his flavor?
  • avatar

    I'm sorry disgrunted Buc Fans, I have been with them since day one, and some of you new commers must have patient and faith in the new commers on the block. I had a disagreement with the first two picks. I would have taken Jordan and trade up with NE in the late part of Round 1 to select that Impact RB. But that is just myself view point. But again what Tampa did with Clayborn and got Bowers also is a double. And Fans Just what if you look to see that Tampa bay in Veterans FA market Get that big time Defense Lineman and another CB & Safety along with some of these undrafted FA. Tampa Team could be something special. I don't care what Atlanta did in Rd-1, I think he is just an average WR. Because in 2012 the cream of the crop of WR for several years to come will be available. Guys and Gals one thing I love to do is watching the Tampa Bay vis internet follow each play play in practice and early pre-games. And guess what each player brings. Each player has some positive and some negative points but what comes down is what these players do day in and day out. One thing I've learned that certain players have come above to show the rest of the players and the team that they care. Like Freeman & McCoy. I've believe you will see the difference McCoy vs Detroit Suh. That McCoy may have a breakout year in his 2nd NFL Year. But we will see I have heard rumors that some of the major owners and other parties are involve to get a new contract done. I'd hope so. GO BUCS since 1967.
  • avatar

    Good article, thanks. While I'm just not a huge believer in rookies winning games for you, the two" rooki"e coaches of the D Line might just change my mind! A young D Line is just a young line without good teaching. If these guys are good coaches, Dom and Rah may have provided suffiecient raw materials for success. McCoy, Miller, Bennett have shown some stuff. If one or two of the younger guys can respond to coaching - and stay healthy - we may not be a total mess. Still, I see too many young guys on the defensive side of the ball to be optimistic. Hope's hanging on some of the "unknown" guys that have a year or two notched ... Okum for example. Otherwise, let's hope Josh can put up thirty points a game. Go Bucs!
  • avatar

    His affective manner led me to believe that he was g@y. Shooting a gun at your sister's boyfriend is an effective way to get arrested.
  • avatar

    I hate to be the silver lining in this buccaneer cloud but nothing is proven yet. Everyone on the DL is coming off of injuries except Clayborne and they are unproven so lets settle down folks before we think they are the 85' Bears. Schemes mean nothing if the players aren't affective, you could have Dick Lebeau but if he had Stylz White, Tim Crowder and Kyle Moore it would mean nothing get my point!
  • avatar

    James, your such a Debbie Downer LOL!
  • avatar

    Hey "Allen" only our user names when being called out-lol
  • avatar

    Great article Scott. Its nice to hear about the players that arent necessarily the stars of the team. Hopefully Bennett and Moore can become better football players under Millard and Stretz. Our D-line is gonna be amazing!
  • avatar

    Jawbuc I hope you're right and this meeting gets a new CBA. The owners must know that sooner, or later they'll be paying players, would'nt it be better to have them properly trained for the season? They invest alot in their players, and with this lock out they aren't getting much of a return. With no OTA's all the young players league wide will be little use to the teams paying them. Even though the clock is ticking, most training time can still be made up in July when all teams take the month off. This is the month that needs to have something done, if we drag it till august, we're gonna see some crap brand of football.
  • avatar

    PI always quenches my thrust for Bucs information. An oasis in this football lockout desert. Love reading these articles and comments. Also maybe there is something to the supposed clandestine meeting between some prominent owners, DeMaurice Smith and Goodell.
  • avatar

    Well said, jawaosbucc.
  • avatar

    Wonderful article. This is the first time we've heard straight from one of the horse's mouths (no offense, it's just how the expression goes) how these new D-line coaches will use the players. I agree with JDouble that it's music to my ears. McCoy, Price, Clayborn, Bowers and Bennett can all thrive in that system. I'm not so sure about R. Miller, Okam and McGee as they seem more like power guys to me, but I do want to give them the benefit of the doubt. Especially since I like Roy's attitude.
  • avatar

    I love hearing how McCoy is driven to be great. Early he seemed very weary of lofty expectations, especially when being compared to Sapp, and somewhat rightly so. However, it appears he is driven to be great or at least the best in his draft class and considering his competition those too are lofty expectations. I hope they figure this stupid lockout, there is more than enough money to go around in the NFL. Work this out and GO BUCS!!!
  • avatar

    mccoy sounds like he has something to prove...thats good.
  • avatar

    The lack of penetration by the D-line drove me crazy the last couple of years. Watching Brees just calmly pick us apart was maddening. I used to be more excited when our defense was on the field than when we were driving w/the football. I would love to see our defense return to form and once again be something we can be proud of. The whole league used to fear our defense! I miss that so much! Let's get that back!
  • avatar

    I agree JDouble...penetrating style of defense is the way to go...stop the run on your way to the QB!
  • avatar

    Things are defintely looking up on the defensive side. I am excited that we have much depth on the DLine. That always makes it easier to move players around and keep fresh players in the game. Fired up! Go Bucs!
  • avatar

    I remember the 1987 strike. Replacement football. Regular prices. Made the play offs. I am an admitted NFL junky. But I am so over the CBA dust up. Go get King Solomon and let's settle this deal.
  • avatar

    Every time I hear about Millard and Stretz and how they plan to get back to penetration first philosophy instead of just controlling your gap.....I get very excited for this season.
  • avatar

    Jdouble Nice Avatar!
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