Football fans, training camp is right around the corner and optimism
abounds throughout Tampa Bay. But before the Bucs can make a serious
playoff run, several positions will need to be solidified. Sunday we look at the defensive line, a position that has some question marks entering training camp.
With training camp just a few days away, PewterReport.com is a taking a look at the Bucs roster where key and important battles will be taking place, beginning July 25 behind One Buccaneer Place. Sunday we preview the defensive line position.
As a unit, the Bucs defensive line recorded 21 of the team’s 27 sacks. They finished 29th in the league in sack totals. Of those 21 sacks, former Bucs DE Michael Bennett recorded nine, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim had four, and Gerald McCoy recorded five quarterback takedowns.
Despite all the excitement of Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson, the Buccaneers must improve their pass rush in order to have success. As good as the new Bucs DB members are, they can’t cover receivers forever, and will need pressure upfront to shutdown opposing offenses.
The Bucs improved from worst to first against the run in 2012. However, they were dead last against the pass. In 2013, the Buccaneers focus will be to get to the quarterback more often than they did last season.ROSTER LOCKSGerald McCoy, Adrian Clayborn, Da’Quan Bowers, Akeem Spence
The Buccaneers are very excited to have defensive end Adrian Clayborn back on the field heading into the 2013 season. The former Iowa standout suffered a torn ACL, which ended his sophomore campaign early. Clayborn racked up 7.5 sacks in his rookie season, and was poised to put up better numbers as a second-year player last season. Heading into his third season as a pro, the Buccaneers are counting on Clayborn to be a major contributor as a pass-rusher.
A trip to Hawaii was granted to defensive tackle Gerald McCoy for having an excellent 2012 season. The Pro Bowler recorded five sacks and was a huge factor in the turnaround of the Buccaneers’ run defense. McCoy heads into his fourth season as a Buccaneer, and the team is expecting the former Oklahoma Sooner to play an integral role in the team’s defense once again.
The newcomer to the group of starting defensive lineman will likely be rookie nose tackle Akeem Spence. Spence is a project player that won’t likely make a major impact as a pass-rusher, but the 21 year old is capable of being a factor against the run. The fourth-round draft pick recorded just 3.5 sacks in three years at Illinois. He’s extremely young and needs quite a bit of work on his technique and overall game. That being said, he has prototypical size and boasts enough potential to project as a solid nose tackle in Greg Schiano’s titled-nose 4-3 defense.
Perhaps the player with the most pressure on them heading into the 2013 season is defensive end Da’Quan Bowers. The 23-year old is heading into his third year with the Buccaneers and looks to be plugged into the starting left defensive end role following the departure of veteran defensive end Michael Bennett. Only recording 4.5 sacks in his first two years as a pro, Bowers needs to make the jump this year or it might be too late. The Buccaneers got a scare when Bowers was arrested earlier this offseason for illegal gun possession. Luckily, the charges were reduced and Bowers is ready to go for the 2013 season. Tampa Bay is counting on Bowers to have a breakout 2013 campaign. ROSTER BACKUPSDaniel Te’o-Neshiem, Gary Gibson, William Gholston, Derek Landri, Aaron Morgan
One of the most underrated players on the Buccaneers defense last season was Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, who was vaulted into the starting lineup following an ACL injury that ended Adrian Clayborn’s sophomore campaign. The defensive ends played very well in run defense and contributed four sacks last season. The 26-year old has the inside track for the backup right defensive end gig, but he will be challenged by Steven Means and Aaron Morgan.
Veteran nose tackle Gary Gibson will likely make the roster as the team’s primary backup at defensive tackle. The Buccaneers didn’t add any other players to legitimately compete with Gibson and Akeem Spence at the defensive tackle position this offseason. Gibson has a quick get-off and is an ideal backup for the Buccaneers. He will also push Spence for the starting nose tackle job.
Rookie defensive end William Gholston was drafted in the fourth round by the Buccaneers and figures to be the team’s backup at left defensive end. Following the departure of Michael Bennett, the Buccaneers set out to look for a replacement in the 2013 draft and snagged up the former Michigan State Spartan. Standing 6-foot-7, 278 pounds, Gholston replaces the size lost when Bennett signed with the Seahawks. Coming out of school, Gholston was best known as a great run-defender and an underachieving pass-rusher. The rookie recorded just 10 sacks during his career at Michigan State. That being said, he still has lots of potential and should see the field for the Buccaneers this season. Gholston’s size allows him to contribute as an inside third down pass-rusher, which is something the Buccaneers often do with their larger defensive ends. ROSTER BUBBLESMatthew Masifilo, Lazarius Levingston, Markus White, Andre Neblett, Ernest Owusu
, Steven Means
The selection of defensive end Steven Means left a lot of Buccaneers
fans scratching their heads when he came of the board in the fifth
round. A virtually unknown player to most fans and draft pundits, Means
offers some intriguing traits as a pass-rusher. He’s very quick and has
an explosive first step. Although he is undersized, the Buccaneers have
been looking for a speedy edge-rusher for quite some time. Tampa Bay is
hoping that Means can contribute on special teams early on his career
and develop as a pass-rusher while doing so. Don’t expect Means to push
for major playing time as a rookie.
Lazarius “Pep” Levingston is a player to watch because he will be one of the players that has the best chance to crack the roster in this group. The defensive tackle was drafted by the Seahawks in seventh round of the 2011draft. New Buccaneers director of college scouting Eric Stokes was the Seahawks assistant director of college scouting when Levingston was drafted. The LSU product has ideal size and could slide into a reserve role on the team’s final roster.
Markus White was originally on the Buccaneers practice squad, but was taken by the Washington Redskins when linebacker Brian Orakpo became injured. White was later released by the Redskins and was re-signed to join the Buccaneers practice squad. The third year pro will be fighting with Steven Means and Aaron Morgan for a reserve role as a right defensive end.
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