Tampa Bay is officially midway through its 2007 regular season. The 4-4 Buccaneers plan on building on the first half of their season. That includes rookie defensive end Gaines Adams.
The fourth overall selection in the 2007 NFL Draft, Adams entered the league and joined the Bucs with high expectations. He has produced mixed results thus far.
Adams has recorded 21 tackles and 1.5 sacks while splitting playing time with defensive ends Greg Spires, Kevin Carter, Patrick Chukwurah and Greg White.
Some people expected Adams to have more than 1.5 sacks at this point in the season, and he is one of them.
"Most definitely, but that's what any defensive end would say," Adams said when asked if he thought his sack total would be higher. "This is a tough, tough league. I just have to come out here and keep getting better at what I'm doing."
But Adams' sack total might not be as disappointing as some might think initially.
Take the four defensive ends that were drafted in the first round behind Adams last April. Atlanta Falcons defensive end Jamaal Anderson has 12 tackles and no sacks. Denver's Javis Moss has recorded 12 tackles and one sack, and Dallas' Anthony Spencer has recorded 20 tackles and one sack this season.
Adams, who is part of a Tampa Bay defense that currently ranks eigth overall in the NFL, is outperforming all of them on the football field.
"I still have room for improvement, but I've done some good things," said Adams.
It might also take Adams some more time to get comfortable enough in Tampa Bay's defensive scheme to make a significant impact as a pass rusher and run defender.
That was the case with Houston defensive end Mario Williams, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. During his rookie season, Williams notched just 4.5 sacks. However, Williams already has four sacks midway through his second season in the league.
One of the reasons why Tampa Bay felt comfortable releasing defensive end Simeon Rice, who failed a team physical due to a lingering shoulder ailment and refused to reduce his base salary from $7.2 million to approximately $5 million and accept a one-year contract extension on July 26, was because of Adams.
Although Rice has 121 career sacks, his production through eight games last season wasn't much better than Adams' numbers, and he's still looking for his first sack as a Denver Bronco.
Rice notched 21 tackles and two sacks in eight games before going on injured reserve with a shoulder injury in 2006. While he was battling through the shoulder ailment, Rice started eight games and received approximately 70 percent of the snaps at defensive end while Adams is still looking for his first career start and has played only about 30 percent of the snaps though the same number of contests Rice participated in last year.
The 6-foot-5, 258-pound Adams played sparingly vs. Jacksonville last Sunday due to the fact that the Jaguars' offensive line featured big and physical players, which prompted the Bucs to play bigger defensive ends like Spires and White instead.
At one point during Tampa Bay's 24-23 loss to Jacksonville, Adams came to the sideline and slammed his helmet to the ground.
"It was just frustration," said Adams. "I'm just a competitor and want to play. There was really nothing to it.
"The snaps aren't the issue. It's just wanting to play and wanting to be out there with your teammates."
With Spires sidelined due to a calf injury and Chukwurah still nursing a shoulder ailment, there's a good chance Adams will get his wish for more playing time, starting Sunday vs. the Arizona Cardinals.
"It's a tough loss with Greg going down because he's a great player, but whatever the coaches have in mind I will be up for it," said Adams.
As for leading the league in effort, which is what Bucs head coach Jon Gruden demanded the former Clemson standout do on a consistent basis this season and throughout his NFL career, Adams feels he has done a good job in that department.
"Coach Gruden told me that before he even drafted me," said Adams. "He told me to lead the league in effort, and for the most part I feel like I'm doing that."
Adams has made steady improvement in areas such as handwork and technique and playing with the proper pad level, but he still has room for improvement when it comes to effort, according to Gruden.
"There are some aspects that I'm really excited about," Gruden said of Adams. "He does give a good effort, is he leading the league in effort? Gaines you're not leading the league in effort. Kyle Vanden Bocsh from Tennessee leads the league in effort. I saw that last week and I think Gaines Adams had now a half of a season to get a feel for this league, who's in it, how the game is played, and I believe he's ready to take off. I believe Gaines Adams has an opportunity now to sit back and look back at the first half of the season and understand that he belongs in the league, he knows how to play, he understands our defense now, and we expect big things from him."
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