Fresh off his first Pro Bowl berth, Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy says his leadership ability has to go up this season. McCoy also said that Tampa Bay head coach is letting his leaders do more of the leading in 2013.
After seeing his first two seasons in the NFL end prematurely on injured reserve with a pair of torn biceps, Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy saw his 2012 season end in Hawaii as a first-time Pro Bowler, coming off a career-high five sacks.
But that was last year, and this is this year. Don’t call McCoy a Pro Bowler anymore.
“No, I’m not,” McCoy said. “It’s 2013. I haven’t done anything. That’s my motivation. I’m not a Pro Bowler. Last year I was. This year I haven’t done anything. We’re two days into our workouts. Right now, I’m just a guy.”
While McCoy wants to dispute his Pro Bowl credentials, there is no disputing that he had his best season in the NFL a year ago. The team captain plans to step up his leadership and now takes ownership of the Tampa Bay defense.
“My leadership ability has to go up,” McCoy said. “I have enough years under my belt where I can say this is my defense. Like I said, my leadership ability has to go up. I have to improve on the things I didn’t do well last year.”
McCoy acknowledged that Bucs head coach Greg Schiano has toned things down at One Buccaneer Place and is letting his leaders lead instead of micromanaging every detail as he did a year while installing his system as a rookie head coach.
“Coach is a smart guy,” McCoy said. “He’s a great coach and I think he makes a lot of great decisions. Even if he didn’t say it, just from a players’ standpoint we knew that he had to set the tone last year. Well the tone has been set. Now when the new guys came in he didn’t even go about it the same way. He doesn’t feel like he has to go through everything point for point for point because he has guys that have been here. He’s depending on his leaders to step up and make sure all of those things get done.
“From a players’ standpoint, that’s how we like it and how we want it. Honestly, if you want to make it to where we want to be, it has to be that way. You can’t wait for a coach to say, ‘Okay, leaders, I need you to do this.’ It just has to happen. As far as what we’ve been doing here the past two days, we work here. That’s what we do. Coach Schiano demands that. The past two days I guarantee you that we’ve been working.”
McCoy, who is always looking for ways to improve his game, did say that he picked up on some traits of some of the best players in the NFL while at the Pro Bowl.
“Just the overall experience of seeing guys that had been there multiple times and how they approach the week,” McCoy said. “We don’t really practice. We have walk-throughs. If you look at the intensity of guys’ eyes like Drew Brees during practice or Adrian Peterson during practice … there are a lot of guys that joke around, but the guys that are consistently in the Pro Bowl and consistently at the top of this league, when it was walk-throughs or anything with football their focus was locked in. It was at a different level. I was able to take that away from those guys.”
While McCoy is proud of the fact that Tampa Bay’s run defense went from worst to first in the span of just one season, the Bucs had the worst pass defense in the league last year, surrendering 297.4 yards per game. In order for the Bucs to take the next step and build on a 7-9 record in 2012 to get to the playoffs in 2013, the pass defense has to improve. That could prove to be a challenge without defensive end Michael Bennett, who was the team's leading sacker last year and signed with Seattle in March.
“Obviously, I’m going to say the pass,” McCoy said when asked about what aspect of the defense had to improve in the coming year. “You can’t be first [in run defense] and last [in pass defense]. It just doesn’t mix. We definitely have to improve in every facet of our pass defense. We were number one in the league [in run defense] but we still didn’t reach our personal goal for yardage per play. We can build on that. Just being a better defense overall instead of just focusing on one area. We are looking to build on everything.
“Our unit is the D-line and we put all the pressure on our backs,” McCoy said. “Even when we were working out there yesterday and today, we were saying – and I was pushing it and forcing it – this defense doesn’t move unless we move. If we don’t hold up those guys or get penetration or make the cutoff, these linebackers can’t run free. Then they have to take on guys and it opens up gaps. If we don’t get to the quarterback and pressure, we aren’t helping our DBs.”
McCoy noted the improved play of the secondary in Tampa Bay’s 22-17 upset victory at Atlanta in the 2012 season finale when Matt Ryan was held to just 238 yards and a touchdown.
“There were a lot of holes early [in the season],” McCoy said. “Holes meaning blown coverages – guys still trying to get the hang of things and being where they were supposed to be. The pressure up front was inconsistent. In some of those games it would be flashes in games where it was like, ‘These guys are unstoppable.’ Okay, now what? In the end, all that came together. We were pressuring Matt Ryan. In the end, guys knew where they were supposed to be. Guys just played within the scheme and it worked out. That’s what Coach was trying to tell us all year. Just keep doing it, keep doing it. We’re not going to change what we’re doing. Just keep doing it until we get it and it all came together that last game.”
One player that could definitely help Tampa Bay’s secondary is New York Jets Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis, who has been linked to the Bucs in blockbuster pre-draft trade talks. McCoy said that he has not been following the daily Revis-to-Tampa Bay trade rumors on the Internet.
“I’m not following it,” McCoy said. “I’m just worried about who we’ve got. We have a lot of great players here already. That’s what I’m focusing on. I trust the guys upstairs and whatever decisions they make, they make. I’m focusing on whoever is here and the brotherhood we have to build. If they bring some more people in then they do. The draft is coming up and they are going to bring some people in. Bring them right in and keep them rolling. All I’m really worried about is who is here now.”
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