Buccaneers defensive end Michael Bennett is entering a contract year and he and his teammates are full of confidence heading into the 2012 season due to the arrival of new head coach Greg Schiano. With the offseason Achilles tendon injury to Da'Quan Bowers, Bennett is once again is slated to start at left defensive end.
Tampa Bay defensive end Michael Bennett is looking forward to what the new year brings for the revamped and revitalized defense. According to the fourth year player from Texas A&M, this group of defensive players is not only a competitive group, but also a group adjusting to the new, attacking 4-3 scheme brought in by head coach Greg Schiano and defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan.
“Oh yes, it’s a very competitive group,” Bennett said. “Especially seeing that we have a new defense and everybody is adjusting at the same speed and at the same rate learning this new scheme. Learning the new way the staff is and everybody is becoming good understanding this.”
Bennett, who is entering a contract year after signing a one-year, $2.742 million contract as a restricted free agent this offseason, and 2011 second-round pick Da’Quan Bowers were expected to compete for the defensive end job in training camp until Bowers tore his Achilles tendon in offseason workouts at One Buccaneer Place. He is expected to be placed on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list, and if he isn’t fully recovered by October he could miss the entire 2012 season and wind up on injured reserv.
Last year, Bowers had 1.5 sacks while Bennett had four, which was the second most on the team behind Adrian Clayborn, who posted 7.5 during a sensational rookie season. Bennett had a career high 35 solo tackles as the starting left defensive end, while Bowers had 22, most of which came as a backup.
According to Bennett, the injury to Bowers does not affect how he will prepare to play. Instead, the only affect the injury will have on him is that Bowers is a good friend.
“It affects me because that is one of my closest friends on the team,” Bennett said. “He is hurt and that bothers me. But at the same time, this is the NFL and you have to adjust as it goes because there are going to be injuries. There are going to be people that have to step up. I remember being a young player coming in and having to step up at the same time. I expect the same thing from these young guys.”
Bennett, like all of his teammates, has bought into Schiano’s discipline and detail-oriented system and praises his new head coach for pushing him to be great.
“Coach Schiano, especially for myself, he just pushes me everyday to be better and better,” Bennett said. “Every time I think I am doing something right he tells me I am doing something wrong just to keep making me go harder. I appreciate that – having a coach like that who is always pushing you to be great. That’s the first thing you say about being a coach is being able to take a man to make him great. That’s what Coach is doing right now.”
Bennett said that Schiano’s attention to detail has the team being held to a high standard. If a player cannot become a detail-oriented Buccaneer, more than likely they won’t see the field as Schiano has little tolerance for mistakes.
“I think people are paying closer attention to the detail,” Bennett said. “Coach talked about it and everybody is starting to understand that this is a job and people do lose their jobs if we don’t do the right thing. He is just preaching if you don’t do your job you are probably not going to be playing. That’s the way it should be. Guys that don’t understand it, they probably should not be playing. That’s the right thing. Coach is holding us to a higher standard.”
Bennett’s teammate, George Johnson, has been impressive this offseason and has moved into the backup role behind Bennett at left defensive end, replacing the injured Bowers. Johnson, who is in his second year in the NFL and played college football under Schiano at Rutgers, is also proud of his coach and excited for him to be in the NFL.
“I’m real excited for him and for myself,” Johnson said. “It was a good move for the organization and I’m proud of him for making the jump into the NFL. He’s ready for it. He’s been preparing for this day by building the Rutgers program.”
Even though the Buccaneers completed last season with a 10-game losing streak to finish with a dismal 4-12 record, Bennett is not letting that get to him. He is not looking back, but rather ahead to what the new team and season brings.
“It is always depressing when you are losing, but like I said, this is a new year and everybody is just attacking it like it is a new year,” Bennett said. “We are just a hungry football team. We got Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks and they all bring something to this team that maybe we didn’t have last year. They were winning and they have been at the highest level so they are definitely helping us out understanding how to become great.”
According to Bennett, Schiano teaches confidence to his team and the defensive end believes that confidence is just what his team has for the upcoming season.
“I think the players have confidence,” Bennett said. “Coach preaches it every day – have confidence. A lot of things happened last year [and] people had their head down and this is a new year. We got to come out and understand that the NFL starts over every year. You get a new chance and we got to attack our chance and make the best of it.”
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