2013 fifth-round draft pick Steven Means was kind of a forgotten man in 2013, but believes the new coaching staff, and addition of some new players will help him make an impact in his sophomore season in the NFL.
When being selected in the fifth round of the NFL Draft, the odds are usually stacked against a player even making the team, much less having an impact on the football field. For Bucs defensive end Steven Means, who was drafted in 2013 out of Buffalo, that was certainly the case. Means made the team out of training camp, but played sparingly over the course of the 2013 season, seeing action in just 10 games and collected only five tackles all of last year.
Means however thinks 2014 is the year where he makes the proverbial jump and can contribute every week.
“I feel like I am a lot further ahead of the curve, especially mentally,” Means said. “God strengthened me and gave me the strength to keep grinding and pushing me. He kept my head straight and he brought in a great coaching staff.
“It was tough last year. After you lose focus it gets frustrating but I am happy it happened because I feel like it was a test. He allowed me to go through it to now be able to tell the testimony, and that is going to happen this year.”
Bucs head coach Lovie Smith sees potential in the Buffalo native.
“If you just look at size, speed, long arms, you notice him on the hoof a little bit,” Smith said. “He’s that prototype guy that we’re playing with, with that speed. He’s not the biggest guy around we don’t care about really, so much size, but want to have a lot of fast guys that can come off the edge and rush the passer. He’s been here working extremely hard, we’re just getting the guys all in position right now.
"We have excellent defensive line coaches in Joe Cullen and Mike Phair working with the guys, but I can’t wait of course to see those guys go against them. Our one-on-one battles offensive versus defensive lines should be something to see.”
Means, who collected 19.5 sacks in college, admitted last season’s scheme was a little more complicated than he had played in previously and believes defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier’s defense will allow him more success.
“This is only my second year on the job and in the league, but I just feel like it is God, bringing this coaching staff here, with this type of scheme that will allow us to roam around free,” Means said. “He is going to bless me with a lot of opportunities to get on the field this year.
“Right now we are just trying to learn the base fundamentals. The thing I have to focus on and hone in on is flipping my hips. They want us to, right now, just go hard in everything we do. We can clean up everything else later.”
Means went onto to explain the detailed parts of football the new staff, that includes defensive line coaches Joe Cullen and Mike Phair, are stressing as they work with their linemen.
“Flipping your hips is the difference between getting a sack or not getting a sack sometimes,” Means said. “When you have to close in on a sack, that could be the difference between a quarterback hit or a sack. You have to be able to torque your body away – like tight to the offensive linemen – but keep your body away from him so he cant get his hands on you. Create a smaller target area from the offensive linemen.”
Some players might feel threatened when new players are brought in during free agency, but Means said the addition of defensive tackle Clinton McDonald and Michael Johnson were welcomed.
“Two more professional football players added to our meeting room,” Means said. “Clinton is just a professional. I could see it in him, and Gerald [McCoy] of course. Even [Adrian] Clayborn is stepping up. Mike [Johnson] is a vet, and that brings professionalism to our room.
"I'm just going to keep God first. Keep Him first and He will take care of the rest."
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