The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense has seen its defensive sack production climb steadily for three straight seasons, but last year’s total of 36 still falls short of expectations.
If the team plans on pushing that number into the 40s – something not seen from a Bucs defense since Simeon Rice was leading the rush in 2004 – it needs more pressure coming off the edge.
Charged with that task in 2015 will be a pair of defensive ends who first entered the league as undrafted free agents but are trying to become reliable NFL starters.
Tampa Bay enters training camp with Jacquies Smith and George Johnson penciled in to bookend its line. Smith impressed last year after being signed in September, racking up 6.5 sacks that put him two behind team-leader Gerald McCoy in that category. Johnson is back in Tampa Bay after beginning his career with the Bucs in 2010. He enjoyed his most successful season last year when he racked up six sacks in a backup role while in Detroit.
There’s a lot of practice, preparation and review time coming up before Week 1, but McCoy said Saturday he’s confident moving forward with Smith and Johnson on the ends. While waiting out a lengthy weather delay on the first day of training camp, the Pro Bowl defensive tackle spoke at length about both teammates.
“Jack is what we call him, which is Jacquies, and he was in Buffalo [before] and we watched him play,” McCoy said. “The crazy thing is when we watched film on them they played Carolina, I think, the week before us last year and he kept standing out. In our room we kept saying, ‘Who is this guy?’ When we brought him in, coach said, ‘Hey, that’s that guy we were watching on tape.’
“So he always had something to him, but once he got comfortable and he stopped thinking so much he was able to produce the way he did. And he’s only going to get better because now he’s really relaxed. He puts all the same work in and works even harder but now he’s comfortable out there.”
“George, he was here in my first year here,” McCoy continued, switching to Johnson. “So this is my second go-around with George. He’s always been able to rush the passer. When George couldn’t do anything else, when he got here he could rush the passer.
“He’s done nothing but mature and he’s just going to keep growing. He carries himself completely different than what I remember and that’s a good thing because he’s ready to roll.”
Also competing for playing time at either defensive end position will be veterans Larry English, T.J. Fatinikun, William Gholston, Lawrence Sidbury Jr., George Uko and Da’Quan Bowers, as well as rookies Jamal Young and Ryan Delaire.
I definitely like Gerald’s comments about Jacquies Smith(repeated in this article). This observation suggests we’ll get an even better Jacks.
George Johnson was intrigueing the first time he was with the Bucs. We’re getting a faster version now, and no doubt a vet and someone who’s studied more. So, yea, I think we can have lots of confidence in our De’s this year.
Then, we have some guys behind them in Larry English(I’m pretty sure he’ll be the third De at least; George Johnson might worry a little bit though). T.J probably in fourth.
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Not a lot of big names at the DE position, but I think the position has a chance to really emerge as a strength with all the depth at the DT position. Plus, if the new linebackers can get the defense down, I think the Bucs will be really tough to run or pass against. Looking good on paper so far…
We have to do the best with what we have. We are staffed with re treads from other teams or players we brought in as rookies and let go and now have back on the Roster. It’s not pretty. Staying healthy and playing consistent will be paramount. If one of them becomes a consistent pass rusher, who can put the QB on his back or block a pass, and McCoy can get consistent pressure and stay healthy, who knows ? maybe our defense can come out of the cellar. But if not our Secondary is going to have a long year.
I think because Lovie can’t find his premier edge rusher he is going the Seahawks route of pass rushing by committee.
Believe he wants to keep throwing fresh legs in waves against the offensive line and wear them down.
This is where the loss of Spence is going to hurt us. The kids had three sacks last year and you could tell his overall game had gotten better.
Spence, along with Melton, would have kept McCoy and McDoanlds legs fresh for the fourth quarter when it seems like McCoy especially seems to wear down since he is in on almost every snap.
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