After being shut out of the stat sheet for the first two weeks of preseason, rookie defensive end Da’Quan Bowers made his presence felt Saturday night against Miami by recording his first two professional tackles and one sack.
Head coach Raheem Morris took notice and didn’t waste time praising the 6-foot-4, 277-pounder out of Clemson on Monday afternoon at One Buccaneer Place.
“He played strong, played physical, played fast,” Morris said of Bowers performance at Miami. “I don’t know whether he’s getting healthier or he’s just starting to pick up the scheme things they’re doing a little bit faster right now, but his technique was sharp.”
The third-year head coach admitted that it wasn’t until watching film that he truly recognized how well Bowers played.
“I actually didn’t see it right away on game day,” he said, noting that other Bucs may have overshadowed Bowers on the surface Saturday. “You felt [Frank] Okam. You felt [Michael] Bennett. You felt Dekoda [Watson]. You felt Adrian [Clayborn]. And then when I went to watch the tape I was like, ‘Man!’ I was really fired up about Bowers, he played strong and physical.”
Morris specifically pointed out the first-and-goal sequence Tampa Bay faced late in the first half. Bowers made his first pro tackle on third down when he got into the backfield and caught Miami quarterback Chad Henne trying to escape the collapsed pocket for only a 1-yard gain. The play – which nearly gave Bowers two sacks – helped limit the drive’s damage to a 21-yard Dan Carpenter field goal.
“On the play before that he absolutely destroyed the 5-technique,” Morris added. “Split him in half, split him open.”
Bowers official sack came with 8:29 left in the third quarter when he dropped Henne for a 7-yard loss on first-and-25.
When asked if the impressive night has affected the depth chart, Morris said nothing has changed in that regard. Third-year pro Michael Bennett has started all three preseason games, and, as of Monday, will remain in that position for Thursday night’s final tune up at Washington.
While Bowers (second round) and fellow defensive end Adrian Clayborn (first round) are the Bucs’ high-profile draftees this year to bolster a struggling pass rush, Bennett has been making any final decision on who’s starting at left end a difficult one for the Tampa Bay coaching staff. Bennett had a monster night Saturday, totaling three tackles (all for a loss) and a sack. Through three games, has made five tackles (four solo and one assist) and recorded 1.5 sacks.
In 13 games and two starts with Tampa Bay last season, Bennett totaled 15 tackles, one sack and a pass defensed. The Texas A&M product has made 20 tackles and recorded two sacks during his time as a Buccaneer since being claimed off waivers from the Seattle Seahawks on Oct. 12, 2009.
“It’s always hard to talk about exactly what his role will be,” Morris said of Bowers. “Right now Michael Bennett is the starter. Bowers went out there and played well for us last week. He certainly gives us that great depth at the left end spot. Obviously when you have that rotation up front – those seven or eight guys all playing and being productive – it usually works out best for the team.”
“[Bowers] certainly raised expectations this weekend,” Morris continued. “With how well he played, how physical he played, how strong he looked – it reminded me of Kevin Carter in his heyday. [It] reminded me of a Michael Strahan-type of player. I’m not saying he is [one of] those guys yet. He looks different than anybody we had besides Kevin Carter.”
Though it’s not a reflection on what Bucs will be lined up on the defensive front come Week 1 against Detroit, Bowers could see his first start as soon as Thursday night in Washington. According to Morris on Monday, defensive starters will not be seeing the field against the Redskins. That leaves left end duties up to Bowers, Kyle Moore and Alex Magee, who dressed but did not play Saturday against Miami.
With Clayborn sitting with the rest of the first team, the duties on right end will be handled by Tim Crowder and George Johnson.