Not since the days of Simeon Rice roaming the field at Raymond James Stadium have the Buccaneers had a proven defensive end pass rusher that puts fear in the hearts of offensive coordinators. While the coaching staff has high hopes for some currently on Tampa Bay’s roster, none are proven, and fans are wondering where the edge pass rush will come from.
Following Monday’s offseason conditioning workout at One Buc Place, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and defensive line coach Joe Cullen talked about the defensive ends and where they may fit in this season.
“(Jacquies Smith) did some good things at left end for us last season, and it’s hard to say that he couldn’t flourish if we left him at that spot,” Frazier said. “He’s (also) going to get a shot at the right-end position. But we know we can play left and play it well, so we’ll see. But to say, today, which of those guys would be the starter would be a tough one to make that decision. We need a little bit more time with them and just see.”
Cullen included Will Gholston and Larry English as players that could see a decent amount of snaps at either end.
“We’re kind of working all of them at both spots, right and left,” Cullen said. “(English) is playing both sides, (Smith) is playing some right, that’s where he’s really more accustomed to playing, but also playing some left. (Johnson) has played both and he’s probably more accustomed to left but he played a lot of right last year when he was in Detroit and then (Gholston) being a swing guy has played both.”
Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
While no one knows if the next double-digit pass rusher will emerge from the current roster, the Bucs have players who have shown promise, particularly in Smith and George Johnson. In his first season with the Bucs, Smith notched 6.5 sacks during 15 games with seven starts, while the latter recorded six sacks in a rotational role in Detroit.When the season begins, Smith will likely be the starter on the right side, and receive the vast majority of snaps. As for Johnson, while the coaches are hopeful that he can build on last season’s success, they’re not going to enhance his role too much from what it was in Detroit.
“We’d like to have a good rotation across the line so when we get to the fourth quarter, our best guys are on the field in key situations,” Frazier said. “So we don’t want to put George in a situation where he has to play 80 percent of the downs, nor do we want even Gerald (McCoy) to play 80 or 90 percent of the downs.
“I think he had a little more than 600 snaps a season ago, so he may end up right around that range again or a little bit more.”
Frazier also mentioned some other young players who might be able to develop and contribute this year.
“We know a little bit more about T.J.(Fatinikun), Jacquies (Smith), a little bit more about Larry English and Will Gholston as well,” Frazier said. “We had high hopes for Michael (Johnson) but we feel good about the guys that are here. We are watching and looking forward to seeing them develop. They are still very young as I mentioned earlier. They only have so many games under their belt, but we expect those guys to get better and better and create problems for left tackles and right tackles as well. We are excited about the guys we have in camp.”
–Mark Cook and Zach Shapiro contributed to this report