Pewter Report Intern
The Buccaneers are counting on defensive ends Da'Quan Bowers and Adrian Clayborn heavily this season to improve Tampa Bay's pass rush. Clayborn is coming off a major knee injury but appears to be well ahead of schedule in his rehab.
Going into the OTAs this week, the Bucs had four starters who were recovering from a major injury last year. Guard Davin Joseph (knee) missed the entire year, both cornerback Darrelle Revis (knee) and defensive end Adrian Clayborn (knee) were injured in Week 3 last year, and guard Carl Nicks (toe) missed the second half of the season.
Joseph, Nicks, and Revis were held out of OTAs, but Clayborn was present and worked with the team for much of the practice. Clayborn did not participate in seven-on-seven or 11-on-11 drills. In the drills he did participate in, it didn’t look like he was holding back. Clayborn looked confident in his knee, which is a great sign for the organization and fans. The fact that Clayborn is on the field with the team while three of his teammates aren’t, shows that he has made great strides in his rehabilitation.
“Rehab is going well,” Clayborn said. “I’m a little bit ahead of schedule and everything is going good. I haven’t had any tweaks or setbacks so it’s going good. I just want to keep it positive. [Being in full pads for training camp] is the plan, for me at least.”
Head coach Greg Schiano was impressed with what he saw from Clayborn during Monday’s OTA workout.
“Adrian is doing well in his recovery,” Schiano said. “Today (Monday) he did like individual stuff. We’re going to keep him out of team periods right now, just for safety. Could he do it? Yeah, he could do it, but there’s no reason to right now. As we get into June, maybe we give him some. I’ll have to talk to Todd more on that. I like where he is. I like what he’s doing, and physically like Da’Quan did – when he was out with an injury that kept him from playing football – he took it as an opportunity to improve his entire body, not just the rehab.
When I look at Adrian I say, that’s a different looking guy than he was six or eight months ago. And I think that’s really going to play benefits when he does get back to going. You’re going to see a guy that’s really able to do well. Because he always played with great effort a long as I remember him, back at the University of Iowa playing with great effort.”
Clayborn needs to have a big 2013 if the Bucs want to make a playoff push. An improved pass rush is vital for this defense, even with the revamped secondary. If the defensive line can’t pressure the cornerback, it won’t matter who is playing in the backfield. And with DE Michael Bennett gone, Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers will need to step up and become double-digit sack guys for this defense.
“It sucks to lose Mike Bennett,” Clayborn said. “(But) learning a new defense, being a year in, I feel like I know the defense a little bit more and I know Bowers does, so I feel like we’re going to make that next step.”
Clayborn had a solid rookie season, notching 7.5 sacks and 42 combined tackles. But Clayborn struggled last season in the nearly three games he played. He didn’t get any sacks and only made one tackle. Clayborn will definitely need to perform better than that this upcoming season.
The Bucs are taking a gamble on Bowers and Clayborn as their starting defensive ends, as both are coming off injuries, and both are relatively unproven in the NFL. But by the looks of it, Clayborn has been going hard in the weight room this offseason. He looked much stronger in the upper body, but admits he still has a ways to go to get back into game shape.
“I’m getting back to my regular weight,” Clayborn said. “I’ve still got a couple more pounds [to lose]. [I want to get to] about 268 lbs. I’m at 273 right now so I’m trying to get down a little more. I just [feel] more comfortable going into the season light, because you never know what’s going to happen.”
Clayborn has always been a high-motor, high-effort guy. He isn’t the fastest or the strongest, but he gives it his all on every play. That resilience and determination probably played a big part in his speedy recovery and will hopefully allow him to improve his game going into a big year for this Tampa Bay defense.
If Clayborn, along with Bowers and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, can stay healthy and play up to their potential, the Buccaneer defense could be special next year. – Mark Cook contributed to this report
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