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July 21, 2013 @ 12:26 pm
Current rating: 5.00 Stars/1 Votes

Bucs Roster Battle Preview: Defensive Line

Written by Eric
Eric Dellaratta


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Football fans, training camp is right around the corner and optimism abounds throughout Tampa Bay. But before the Bucs can make a serious playoff run, several positions will need to be solidified. Sunday we look at the defensive line, a position that has some question marks entering training camp.
With training camp just a few days away, PewterReport.com is a taking a look at the Bucs roster where key and important battles will be taking place, beginning July 25 behind One Buccaneer Place. Sunday we preview the defensive line position.

As a unit, the Bucs defensive line recorded 21 of the team’s 27 sacks. They finished 29th in the league in sack totals. Of those 21 sacks, former Bucs DE Michael Bennett recorded nine, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim had four, and Gerald McCoy recorded five quarterback takedowns.

Despite all the excitement of Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson, the Buccaneers must improve their pass rush in order to have success. As good as the new Bucs DB members are, they can’t cover receivers forever, and will need pressure upfront to shutdown opposing offenses.

The Bucs improved from worst to first against the run in 2012. However, they were dead last against the pass. In 2013, the Buccaneers focus will be to get to the quarterback more often than they did last season.

Gerald McCoy, Adrian Clayborn, Da’Quan Bowers, Akeem Spence
The Buccaneers are very excited to have defensive end Adrian Clayborn back on the field heading into the 2013 season. The former Iowa standout suffered a torn ACL, which ended his sophomore campaign early. Clayborn racked up 7.5 sacks in his rookie season, and was poised to put up better numbers as a second-year player last season. Heading into his third season as a pro, the Buccaneers are counting on Clayborn to be a major contributor as a pass-rusher.

A trip to Hawaii was granted to defensive tackle Gerald McCoy for having an excellent 2012 season. The Pro Bowler recorded five sacks and was a huge factor in the turnaround of the Buccaneers’ run defense. McCoy heads into his fourth season as a Buccaneer, and the team is expecting the former Oklahoma Sooner to play an integral role in the team’s defense once again.

The newcomer to the group of starting defensive lineman will likely be rookie nose tackle Akeem Spence. Spence is a project player that won’t likely make a major impact as a pass-rusher, but the 21 year old is capable of being a factor against the run. The fourth-round draft pick recorded just 3.5 sacks in three years at Illinois. He’s extremely young and needs quite a bit of work on his technique and overall game. That being said, he has prototypical size and boasts enough potential to project as a solid nose tackle in Greg Schiano’s titled-nose 4-3 defense.

Perhaps the player with the most pressure on them heading into the 2013 season is defensive end Da’Quan Bowers. The 23-year old is heading into his third year with the Buccaneers and looks to be plugged into the starting left defensive end role following the departure of veteran defensive end Michael Bennett. Only recording 4.5 sacks in his first two years as a pro, Bowers needs to make the jump this year or it might be too late. The Buccaneers got a scare when Bowers was arrested earlier this offseason for illegal gun possession. Luckily, the charges were reduced and Bowers is ready to go for the 2013 season. Tampa Bay is counting on Bowers to have a breakout 2013 campaign.

Daniel Te’o-Neshiem, Gary Gibson, William Gholston, Derek Landri, Aaron Morgan
One of the most underrated players on the Buccaneers defense last season was Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, who was vaulted into the starting lineup following an ACL injury that ended Adrian Clayborn’s sophomore campaign. The defensive ends played very well in run defense and contributed four sacks last season. The 26-year old has the inside track for the backup right defensive end gig, but he will be challenged by Steven Means and Aaron Morgan.

Veteran nose tackle Gary Gibson will likely make the roster as the team’s primary backup at defensive tackle. The Buccaneers didn’t add any other players to legitimately compete with Gibson and Akeem Spence at the defensive tackle position this offseason. Gibson has a quick get-off and is an ideal backup for the Buccaneers. He will also push Spence for the starting nose tackle job.

Rookie defensive end William Gholston was drafted in the fourth round by the Buccaneers and figures to be the team’s backup at left defensive end. Following the departure of Michael Bennett, the Buccaneers set out to look for a replacement in the 2013 draft and snagged up the former Michigan State Spartan. Standing 6-foot-7, 278 pounds, Gholston replaces the size lost when Bennett signed with the Seahawks. Coming out of school, Gholston was best known as a great run-defender and an underachieving pass-rusher. The rookie recorded just 10 sacks during his career at Michigan State. That being said, he still has lots of potential and should see the field for the Buccaneers this season. Gholston’s size allows him to contribute as an inside third down pass-rusher, which is something the Buccaneers often do with their larger defensive ends.

Matthew Masifilo, Lazarius Levingston, Markus White, Andre Neblett, Ernest Owusu, Steven Means
The selection of defensive end Steven Means left a lot of Buccaneers fans scratching their heads when he came of the board in the fifth round. A virtually unknown player to most fans and draft pundits, Means offers some intriguing traits as a pass-rusher. He’s very quick and has an explosive first step. Although he is undersized, the Buccaneers have been looking for a speedy edge-rusher for quite some time. Tampa Bay is hoping that Means can contribute on special teams early on his career and develop as a pass-rusher while doing so. Don’t expect Means to push for major playing time as a rookie.

Lazarius “Pep” Levingston is a player to watch because he will be one of the players that has the best chance to crack the roster in this group. The defensive tackle was drafted by the Seahawks in seventh round of the 2011draft. New Buccaneers director of college scouting Eric Stokes was the Seahawks assistant director of college scouting when Levingston was drafted. The LSU product has ideal size and could slide into a reserve role on the team’s final roster. 

Markus White was originally on the Buccaneers practice squad, but was taken by the Washington Redskins when linebacker Brian Orakpo became injured. White was later released by the Redskins and was re-signed to join the Buccaneers practice squad. The third year pro will be fighting with Steven Means and Aaron Morgan for a reserve role as a right defensive end.

Last modified on Sunday, 21 July 2013 12:38

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  • avatar

    There is so much risk on the DL and so much of the positives is based on hope and not facts. Clayborn was doing nothing in his second season before he was injured. Bowers so far has proven he is adequate, not great. McCoy will be doubled teamed and Spence has much to learn. Our seasoned back ups are still just back ups. We did not address the DL enough in Free Agency and early rounds of the draft. The GM is on a hot ejection seat. Spin it all you want into the positives, but it is still very risky and hopeful that this will come out the way we all want it to. Buc's can win 8-12 games based on the above. For me, this is still a rebuilding year. We need one more Free Agency and Draft to get in the upper tear of the NFL. The Coach is good enough and I am not sure about the GM. He has wasted multiple millions on risky choices. I am still not sure about our scout program yet either, but I do see improvements.
  • avatar

    Horse I agree, but these guys have so few starts between them that there is nothing to base on facts. So that leaves us with, as you say, hope. CB was a huge need and we took Revis in the first basicly and Banks in the second. Lucky we took Banks when you look at the Wright debacle. I like those two additions. This big kid Goldston is a sleeper imo. He has a lot of upside, now we'll see how well he takes to coaching and how hard he is willing to work. If Spence can stop the run he has adequately replaced Miller. If a guy like Means can surpise that would be nice, because we haven't had a speed rusher since Simeon Rice. It's also been a while since a 5th round pick has been a steal. A speed rusher as a situationl pass rusher is a luxury for the Bucs and would be the icing on the cake for the defense. We never know what happens until practice starts. But you're right the D-line will need everything to break right for us to see improvement over last year.
  • avatar

    fully agreed to horses´ comment. @deeznuts: i´m also rooting for dekoda as a speed rusher.
  • avatar

    Glad nitey contributed info on Landri, because PR gave no info on him in this article other than to list his name. What has happened to the DT that played for the Carolina Panthers last year? He isn't even mentioned here at all. I, too, was disappointed that the Bucs did not rush to keep Bennet. I don't even think Means should be here. He should be competing for SLB instead. He still could contribute to special teams this year, however. Neo Tesh'heim is not that hefty either but he really impressed me last year, and could be an excellent backup, so size isn't everything. To me, with some training, Spence may be able to get some sacks, but I do believe he will be the starter and will stop the run and may even be able to push back the offensive linemen and disrupt the pocket, which should help our DEs get a lot more sacks. The problem is that Spence can't play that way an entire game but he can be relieved by Gibson and Landri both.
  • avatar

    Other than Spence, the starters are solid. If they can stay healthy we have a chance. If not, forget it. The back ups unknown.. Bowers and Claiborne have to produce, or our defense is going to have another long year . McCoy won a lot of praise last year, this year he has to show he is the real deal and not a one year wonder.
  • avatar

    im helping launch a new site called shootgap. its becoming a decent site. come join me in making it a nfc south fan blog. we have a blog for every div. those of you who went to espn will enjoy it
  • avatar

    whats up buc fans? GO BUCS
  • avatar

    ROSTER BACKUPS Daniel Te’o-Neshiem, Gary Gibson, William Gholston, Derek Landri, Aaron Morgan...as the saying goes, we are wafer thin, especially when you consider the injury history of three of our starters and the lack of experience of the fourth. this is where years of poor drafting really shows up. hopefully the db's will make the difference this yr.
  • avatar

    Means seems out of place with the type of DL the Bucs are going for. Other than Morgan it seems like the Bucs FO puts a premium on DE's with large wingspans or the ability to be violent with their hands. Means doesn't come off that way though.
  • avatar

    I think we are okay on depth at both 3T and NT, Landri I feel can be a contributor similar to gary gibson and run stunts and shoot gaps. I hope Gerald McCoy keeps playing well, IMO he could gain some upper body strength and make a few more splash plays; he was so close to making many more splash plays last year but couldn't shed his block at the last second. Akeem Spence has some brutal strength- 37 reps of 225 on bench press and he's tenacious; he will be good on run defense. Bowers is a beast but I feel he's better suited as a role player rather than full time guy- one play he absolutely dominates the O-lineman and the next he's nowhere to be found; I still wish we would have matched Seattle's 1yr/$5mill offer to Bennett- we would have had strong D-line depth for the first time in a decade. If we can get 18-20 sacks btw bowers and clayborn our pass d will look much improved. (and one last thing- Dakota Watson needs to rush from the dline more often, he's got acceleration like von miller)
  • avatar

    I think you're overlooking Derek Lantri, only one year removed from an excellent 2011 season for the Eagles, I would put him as the primary backup and contender for the Nose spot with Spence. Lantri has a great motor, a quick get off and has more career sacks than Gibson. I look for the roster DTs to be Spence, Lantri, McCoy and Gibson.
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