table of contents
- Mediocre Play Could Lead To Uncertainty In 2012
- Point-Counterpoint: Should QB Johnson Be Re-signed?
- SR's Fab 5 - October 2011
- Pewter Prospect: CB Minnifield
- In The Lab: RB Madu
- SR's End Zone - October 2011
- Angry Clayborn Has Been A Hulking Presence For Bucs
- 2011 Bucs' Midseason Grades
- 2011 Bucs' Midseason Awards
- How Will The Bucs Fare In The Second Half Of 2011?
- 5 Areas Bucs Must Improve In After The Bye
- Pewter Prospect: WR Wright
Although mild-mannered off the field, Buccaneers defensive end Adrian Clayborn is angry on the gridiron and is taking his rage out on opposing left tackles and quarterbacks during a sensational rookie season.
Since the departure of Steve White after the 2000 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have always had a finesse player at the right defensive end position. Simeon Rice played right end from 2001-06, recording 69.5 sacks for the Bucs during that span. When Rice was released prior to the 2007 season, two defensive ends – Gaines Adams, the team’s first-round draft pick that season, and Stylez G. White (known as Greg White back then) – tried to fill the void.
Like Rice, White and Adams were finesse players, too. Both were known more for their pass rush abilities rather than their run stuffing ability, but neither was close to performing as well as Rice did. Adams took over as the starting right defensive end during the 2008 and 2009 seasons before being traded to Chicago. White took over as the starter at right end during the second half of the 2009 season and never came close to reaching double digit sacks that year or in 2010, which was his last with the Buccaneers.
So with a huge void at right defensive end, and the team missing badly on first-round defensive ends like Eric Curry (1993), Regan Upshaw (1996) and Adams (2007), the Bucs opted to go away from the ultra-fast, finesse players that liked to run around left tackles to get to the quarterback and draft a big, rugged defensive end that prefers to run through left tackles to get to the quarterback. Thus, Tampa Bay made Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn a Buccaneer with the 20th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Clayborn, a hulking, 6-foot-3, 285-pound defensive end from Iowa, fit into the mold of a bigger, tougher, more physical defense that head coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik wanted to create. It is only fitting that Clayborn wears No. 94, which was the same number a tough guy like White wore for the Buccaneers.
In this ridiculous era of political correctness that has permeated America, Morris came under fire for using the word “violent” too much when discussing how he wanted to build a “violent defense” in 2009 and 2010. Now that words has been scrubbed out of his press conferences, but deep down inside that’s exactly what he wants, and seeing a player like Clayborn playing so violently on tape at Iowa is what attracted Morris to him.
To this day, Morris doesn’t understand what triggers the smiling, mild-mannered Clayborn to flip the switch and transform into a raging defensive end once he steps on the gridiron the way Dr. Bruce Banner turns into the Incredible Hulk in the Marvel comic book series. He’s just glad that Clayborn does.
“I don’t know,” Morris said. “But that’s what I saw in the Iowa tape that absolutely made me fall in love with him. When you meet him you have no idea he’s going to be that angry and that violent of a football player. But you turn the tape on and you see how he attacks tackles and how he rushes the person over him every single snap. That’s the kind of guy you want on your football team.”
After Clayborn was drafted he was asked about playing in such as quarterback-rich division in the NFC South that had passers like Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, New Orleans’ Drew Brees and Carolina’s Cam Newton, who was the first overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft. Clayborn shrugged off the question, and instead focused on the offensive tackles he would be beating the living hell out of instead.
“I don’t really have to go against them (the quarterbacks),” Clayborn said. “It is there left tackle I’ll be going against. I’ll be doing that and hopefully taking them to the ground. I’m excited to play against guys like that. I was looking at the schedule earlier playing the Colts and playing the Bears. It is going to be fun. I’m excited.”
Clayborn got his first NFL sack against Ryan in the Bucs’ 16-13 victory over Atlanta in Week 3. He drilled Ryan on third down so hard that Clayborn forced his first NFL fumble on the play.
Against the Colts in Week 4 on Monday Night Football, Clayborn notched his second career sack, dropping Curtis Painter. He also violently knocked Painter to the ground with a big hit on third down to force an incompletion.
In last week’s 24-18 loss in London against the Bears, Clayborn had his best game as a pro, beating left tackle Ja’Marcus Webb like a drum the entire game and finishing with three tackles and his third sack of the season. Clayborn was hustling on every snap and even helped flowed down the line of scrimmage from right to left to help cornerback Ronde Barber record a safety by tackling Bears running back Matt Forte in the end zone.
Clayborn’s three sacks and >>> quarterback pressures lead the Buccaneers heading into the bye week. His three QB captures are third amongst rookies in the NFL behind Denver’s Von Miller (six) and San Francisco’s Aldon Smith (5.5). But with >>> tackles, >> tackles for loss and a forced fumble, Clayborn’s toughness against the run has helped improve Tampa Bay’s once porous rushing defense.
“I consider myself a football player not just a pass rush guy,” said Clayborn. “I like both sides of the game. I think [defending the] run is more fun than pass [rushing]. I like kicking an offensive lineman’s *censored*. That’s fun to me. I like both sides.
“We’ve been doing a better job of stopping the run and then getting after the quarterback. We’re not thinking so much. We’re just playing out.”
Despite allowing big rushing performances by Detroit, Minnesota, San Francisco and Chicago this year, the Bucs defense has stepped up better than last year and absolutely shut down the running games of Atlanta, Indianapolis and New Orleans, and it’s no surprise that Tampa Bay won all three of those contests.
Although he was drafted by Tampa Bay as a 285-pound defender, Clayborn has trimmed down his body fat, especially around his midsection, and is a much leaner 265 pounds. Losing the weight has increased his quickness and his stamina and really allowed him to develop a speed rush to go along with his power rush.
“Coach [Keith] Millard has taught me how to pass rush and set guys up so I can use my quickness,” Clayborn said. “I can use my speed rush all day, but that really doesn’t mean anything. I am setting up my speed rush with my power rush. That’s where my quickness comes in to play – by setting guys up with my power rush first.”
Morris is thrilled with Clayborn’s production during the first seven games as Clayborn. Although he is on pace to finish with 34 tackles, 29 quarterback pressures, 6.5 sacks and two fumbles while splitting time with veteran Tim Crowder, Morris cares less about Clayborn’s stats and more about how he plays and affects the game.
“You got him to hit a running back or hit a quarterback and be a finisher for you,” Morris said of Clayborn. “He’s been awesome. He’s been excellent. That’s what makes you fall in love with a guy like Clayborn. He can go through a game without any stats, but absolutely beat up the other team because he comes at you 100 miles per hour every play.”
Clayborn’s teammates have noticed the intensity and rage he plays with and that rubs off on the entire defensive line and helps set the tone for the unit.
“Clayborn is a violent dude,” said Michael Bennett at who starts at left defensive end opposite Clayborn. “He is just angry. I don’t know why he is so angry. I don’t think he got to eat cereal when he was a kid or something. I don’t know why he is so mean. He does a good job at what he does. He makes me play at a high level, and whenever I see him making plays, I just cannot let Clayborn make that play. I’ve got to go make a play, too. We are in competition, but it is like a good competition because if we both do well then the team is going to do well so we just try to play well with each other.”
Rookie Da’Quan Bowers, the second defensive end selected by the Bucs in the 2011 NFL Draft, also admires Clayborn’s physical presence.
“He’s very, very physical and smash-mouth,” Bowers said. “I actually had a relationship with Adrian before I got here. We spent some time together for the Lombardi Award banquet in Houston. He was one of the first people who called me when I got drafted. He said he was looking forward to playing with me. He’s a hard worker and he’s hungry. Like Coach Rah said, ‘He’s Youngry.’ He’s not going to say much, but he’s going to give you his all and his best effort every day.
“Clayborn is violent. You’ve got to turn the switch on when you go to work. When you strap those cleats on and hit that grass, it’s a different mentality about everything. Those guys you go against are enemies and you have to treat them like the enemy. You have to be ready to kill and defeat anyone who is in your way. That’s his mentality and that’s exactly what Clayborn does.”
Although he doesn’t have the surly demeanor that former Tampa Bay defensive legends Warren Sapp and Hardy Nickerson had on and off the field, at least Clayborn brings that same bad-*censored* attitude to the field and plays with the aggression that the Bucs defense has lacked on a consistent basis since Sapp left in 2003.
“You don’t get that shot at a quarterback too many times,” Clayborn said. “Once you get that shot, you have to make it count. Even if I’m bull rushing or playing over a tight end and don’t get to the quarterback, I want the player I’m going against to think, ‘Damn, this guy just came at me hard as [expletive].’ So then if he thinks I’m going to come hard, the next time I’m going to flip my hips and get around him quicker. You have to let guys know you are coming. You have to make them respect you.
Clayborn does that by beating the snot out of the left tackles and tight ends he faces and you can see the improvement in his performance each week. Still, the Iowa product and all-around nice guy can’t put his finger on why he plays with such a nasty demeanor on the field.
“I don’t know,” Clayborn said. “I’m just driven by something inside me to be that way. I don’t want to be average. I know I haven’t reached that point by any means. Getting to the quarterback isn’t easy. That makes me mad I guess. Once I step on to the field and put my hand in the dirt, something clicks. It tells me that there is a guy in front of me trying to stop what I’m trying to accomplish.”
That’s what makes Clayborn angry. His job is to get to – and hurt – quarterbacks and offensive tackles are attempting to deny him of his mission. Yet he’s done the best job of any Buccaneers defender on that mission through the first half of the season.
SR’s PEWTER INSIDER
• Much was made of the daily training camp battle between rookie defensive end Adrian Clayborn and Donald Penn with the veteran left tackle routinely complaining in a good way about how hard it was to defend against Tampa Bay’s first-round pick. Those training camp clashes helped Clayborn get off to such a good start during his rookie season as he leads the team with three sacks.
Although Penn has officially given up four sacks this season, including two against San Francisco and one against Minnesota where quarterback Josh Freeman held on to the ball too long, he did shine on Monday Night Football against defensive end Dwight Freeney, holding the Pro Bowler without a sack or a tackle. Clayborn thinks Penn is playing at Pro Bowl level himself.
“I really think so,” Clayborn said. “Penn is playing really good. I saw what he did against Freeney, and he’s the best of the best. I think he’s up for the Pro Bowl.”
• The Bucs have been pleased with the conditioning of second-year nose tackle Brian Price, who has dropped a significant amount of weight since reporting to training camp in July where he weighed close to 340 pounds. Price’s weight ballooned up during the offseason as he was limited physically following offseason pelvic and hamstring surgery. By the start of the regular season, Price had trimmed down to around 325 pounds and enters the bye week nearly 10 pounds lighter around 315 pounds.
Sources tell PewterReport.com that his ideal playing weight is between 300-305 pounds and that Price has just 10 pounds to go to reach the team’s goal. Price is still working out and playing through pain in his hamstrings, which were reattached to his pelvis with screws, and it will not likely be until the offseason when he can rest that the pain will actually subside.