FAB 4. Sleeper Pass Rushers On Bucs’ Radar

While Tampa Bay likely needs to spend a first- or second-round on an edge rusher next year to help the team’s ailing pass rush it would be wise for general manager Jason Licht to consider doubling up at the defensive end position later in the draft. Not just to hedge his bet on the first-rounder but also to add more weapons to restock Tampa Bay’s pass rushing arsenal.

In hindsight, the Bucs should have drafted former Georgia defensive end Leonard Floyd with the ninth overall pick instead of trading down to No. 11 with Chicago to select cornerback Vernon Hargreaves. Floyd has four sacks this season and has 11 in 19 games, along with two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery for a touchdown and a safety. Hargreaves has just one interception in 22 games and was demoted to nickel cornerback last year in Tampa Bay’s loss at Buffalo.

The long, explosive pass rusher was deemed to be too lanky and not powerful enough to play defensive end in the NFL. But Floyd has bulked up to 251 pounds, which is 10 pounds heavier than Tampa Bay’s Noah Spence and is playing outside linebacker in Chicago’s 3-4 defensive scheme. That’s the type of edge rusher that the Bucs have lacked since Simeon Rice was released in 2006, and the kind of defensive end the team thought it was getting in Gaines Adams, Tampa Bay’s first-round pick in 2007.

UTSA DE Marcus Davenport - Photo courtesy of UTSA Athletics
UTSA DE Marcus Davenport – Photo courtesy of UTSA Athletics

There are a couple of intriguing athletic edge rushers that are climbing the draft boards of many NFL teams this fall.

University of Texas-San Antonio senior defensive end Marcus Davenport is a late bloomer and has drawn some physical comparisons to Dallas’ David Irving. He’s 6-foot-6, 250 pounds with a long wingspan that enables him to extend his sack and tackle radius. Davenport has 162 tackles, 32 tackles for loss, 19.5 sacks, eight pass breakups, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in his Roadrunners career.

Davenport showed promise in a 10-tackle, two-sack effort against Rice as a sophomore and finished 2015 with 49 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and three pass breakups. Last year, the Roadrunners’ leading sacker had 67 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup. Against Texas A&M, he had 11 tackles and a sack in a 23-10 loss.

Davenport has matched that sack total already this season. He’s got 32 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 6.5 tackles for loss, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. UTSA scored a major upset of Baylor in Week 1 and Davenport had four tackles and two sacks. He had eight tackles, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble in a 29-26 win over North Texas and 11 tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery for a touchdown versus Rice in a 20-7 win.

Davenport will likely be invited to the Senior Bowl and could be this year’s big riser, as Tampa Bay’s Noah Spence was in 2016 and Kansas City’s Tanoh Kpassagnon was this past January. Spence and Kpassagnon were both drafted in the second round after starring in Mobile, Ala.

Georgia DE-OLB Lorenzo Carter - Photo by: Getty Images
Georgia DE-OLB Lorenzo Carter – Photo by: Getty Images

Georgia senior Lorenzo Carter is similar to Floyd, and not just because he played with him on the Bulldogs defense. Carter is 6-foot-6, 243 pounds and has 18.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks with six fumble recoveries and five forced fumbles in his career. Carter had 4.5 sacks as a freshman and another five last year as a junior, in addition to two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, including one he returned for a touchdown, as a defensive end-outside linebacker hybrid.

This year, Carter has 5.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, three fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles for the undefeated Bulldogs. Like Floyd was last year, Carter could be a late riser and may wind up in the first round if he tests well at the NFL Scouting Combine after the Senior Bowl.

“I played against him, but I can’t really remember much about him, but I do remember playing against him,” said Bucs tight end O.J. Howard, who played against Carter two years ago when he was at Alabama. “I just remember he was a fast, physical guy. That’s what he was. He seemed like a really good player, I’m not sure what kind of season he is having this year, but I remember him being a really good player.”

Wyoming junior defensive end Carl Granderson is a big, athletic defensive end that is starting to appear on scouts’ radars. At 6-foot-5, 243 pounds, Granderson has recorded 101 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, three forced fumbles, one interception and one safety in his time with the Cowboys.

Wyoming DE Carl Granderson - Photo by: Getty Images
Wyoming DE Carl Granderson – Photo by: Getty Images

Granderson has 46 tackles, a career-high six sacks and two forced fumbles this year. In a 24-3 loss at Iowa in the season opener, Granderson had 10 tackles, one sack and a forced fumble. In a 28-23 win at Utah State, Granderson had six tackles, a sack for a safety and an interception. In last week’s loss to 24-14 loss at Boise State, Granderson had 12 tackles and two sacks. Those are impressive tackle numbers for a defensive end that speaks to how active he is.

Granderson is coming off a torn ACL in 2016 that caused him to miss the last seven games of the season. But he was off to a great start during his sophomore year, recording a sack in four of his first six games, including one against Northern Illinois in a 40-34 overtime win and against Nebraska in a 52-17 loss.

There may be a few other pass rushers that emerge as the college football season winds down, but Davenport, Carter and Granderson are three names to know for next April. They are already on the Bucs’ radar.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

31 COMMENTS

  1. If Coach Smith does not make significant changes in his scheme, in spite of the terrible performance of his defense, then he will be fired. He may not even make it through week 17. And if Coach Koetter is resistant to leaning on Smith to make a change, and/or if he is reistant to letting Smith go if he does not adjust, and if the end result is 6 or fewer wins this season after everybody expected double digit wins and continued improvement from last seasonn, then the Glazers will fire Koetter.

    If the Glazers fire Koetter, they will likely not extend Licht’s contract. They will end up offering the new head coach control over the roster. particularly if they were to hire Gruden. I believe if they hire Gruden they’ll fire Licht too.

    I am not necessarily advocating any of the above … but this is what the Glazers do. They will keep doing it until they can produce a consistent winner in Tampa. It’s business.

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    • By the way, the Tampa Bay Times just put up an interview this morning with Warren Sapp. He rips the present coaches for not dealing with Gerald McCoy the way that Rod Marinelli worked with him. And says explicitly that Smith is using McCoy all wrong.

      Read it – very damning stuff.

      If this is really what’s going on, and he won’t budge, then Smith needs to go, now.

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  2. Scott, it’s not McCoy’s job to tell his coaches how to best utilize their players talents. That’s what coaches get paid for! If anyone needs to bang some heads for answers it’s Licht. Is Licht deaf, blind, and dumb? Surely he sees what you, and I do. If you know McCoy isn’t happy along with other players, shouldn’t he know it? This is a complete, and utter failure on his part, along with the whole coaching staff. What will the Glazers do? I’ll tell you. They’ll give this crew all the rope they need to hang themselves. Gruden is the wild card, or as he would put it the joker in any changes the Glazers might make. By that I mean if Gruden wants back in it’s a done deal. Firing another staff after two years would make the Glazers look impulsive, and incompetent, but if you fire Koetter for Gruden, who could fault them. Scott you spent some time with Gruden this summer. Did you ever ask him what he’s learned from his time away from the sidelines? What would he do different this time around? I read where he said the Tampa 2 is dead in todays NFL, what would he run? How has his offensive philosophy changed? Would he want complete control over everything, or would he trust whatever G.M. is put in place? I think these are the questions the Glazers are asking themselves, because I think it would be Gruden or bust for them. One other thought. The timing of Grudens induction into the ring, along with the kiss, and make up with the Glazers, tells me they were putting an ace up their sleeve in case this season went where it’s going. Your thoughts.

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    • Surfer,

      The man call himself a “meathead”. Nobody ever questioned his honesty!

      http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/bucs/new-bucs-gm-licht-proud-of-meathead-scouting-roots/2162408

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    • Actually, it IS McCoy’s job to provide honest feedback to his coaches. He is no kid – he is a 30 year old man and a professional and very good at what he does – 5 time Pro Bowler, 3 Time First Team All Pro, anchor of our D-line and leader of the defense, and has been for years.

      If such a member of the team cannot engage in honest discussion and feedback with his coaches, then we a problem – with the coaches. And we know we have a problem with one of the worst defenses in the league this season.

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      • Please provide reference to the “3 Time First Team All Pro.” Which system are you referencing? The Associate Press selection is the only one that matters for HoF consideration, however I realize that there are others out there. Gerald has just 1 First Team All Pro award from the Associated Press writers.

        I have seen many people writing that McCoy has more sacks than any other DT in the league since he was drafted, which is also not true. Suh has 5 more sacks than McCoy over the EXACT same period.

        Gerald McCoy is more popular than good. Absolutely he is talented. But, he has mastered the art of public perception, while doing little for the art of winning when it counts. He is laser focused on getting the glory play, the sack while neglecting the lunchbox plays like tackling anyone not called QB.

        Since coming into the league, Ndamukong Suh has 94 more total tackles than Gerald McCoy. I know tackles are not sexy, but every tackle is a DEFENSIVE STOP. THAT’S 94 MORE DEFENSIVE STOPS. How many times have the Bucs failed to stop a drive that would have won the game with one more stop? Last week comes to mind. In fact, every loss for the Bucs this year except perhaps arguably the Cardinals game could have been won with one more stop. Gerald McCoy is at the middle of the league, tied for 42nd in 2016 for DL tackles, 14 of those were interior lineman. Suh was 7th and his team made the playoffs. Damon Harrison was 1st and his team made the playoffs. Gerald has never made many tackles comparatively, and he has never been to the playoffs. Is there a connection? Defensive stops matter.

        McCoy knows that sacks will get his face in front of the cameras, where he loves to be; nothing make him happier. Sacks get TV time, and help to win the Popularity Contest called Pro Bowls. Gerald knows what makes him happy and tackling a RB is not on the menu it seems.

        Many people question what it is about some fans’ opinion about McCoy; why some fans complain about him. Well, Gerald McCoy is uber talented with one of the best “get-offs” in the league, but he comes off as a Drama Queen, more concerned about people’s perception of him than whether or not his team wins. If you want Gerald McCoy to get angry, say he is not good enough. When have you EVER seen McCoy angry about losing? I cannot recall a single time, yet every year, twice already this year he gets upset because fans say bad things about him. Don’t mess with his popularity is his focus, and winning has nothing to do with it.

        If anyone has ever had a beautiful girlfriend, but she is a diva or drama queen, they can relate. Sometimes no matter how beautiful she is, the drama BS becomes too much. The thing about drama queens is they are never as good as they think that they are, and that fact is compounded by the fact that they will never see it. To them, they are perfect and everyone should see that.

        When Gerald McCoy starts taking over games, making critical stops in the final minuets to win, then he can talk. Until then, he needs to STFU, and earn the right to be the highest paid player on the team, because recently, he has not earned it. JMHO

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        • Long winded way to declare you are a McCoy hater. That’s all we needed to know.

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    • You may also be interested to know where others would rank our GM. See #27.

      http://ftw.usatoday.com/2017/05/nfl-gm-general-managers-rankings-2017-bill-belichick-john-schneider-john-elway

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  3. I’m not sure you’re using the term “gambit” correctly Scott…

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    • Also, the headlines read as if you know what the Glazers are thinking – but Fab 1 is just speculation…

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      • Didn’t you learn in pre-school or kindergarten what a question mark is, and what it means?

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  4. If we draft any DE under a legit 6’3″, it is a big mistake.
    The next 2 games will say it all. Go Bucs! Up to you to show us you can win!

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    • Horse,

      Excuse me for looking at a mock draft so early and as you know everything can and probably will change. This is WalterFootball. I think you will like the pick but like me, hate where we are picking. See Round 1, pick #6. Yikes!

      http://walterfootball.com/draft2018.php

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      • Not going to make you feel much better at #8, but looks like its DE….

        http://drafttek.com/2018-NFL-Mock-Draft-Round1.asp

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      • Macabee; Thank you. I hope we are wrong and the season ends up being better than the way it looks right now. Like some fans, I’m getting too old to be waiting every year for next year to be the year.

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    • Where’s the Beef? Agreed need bigger DE.

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  5. The problem for the Bucs is that Jason Licht has put the team into a position that it has to pick a defensive end in the first round because the Bucs have the worst defensive ends in the NFL.
    I like Jason and I think he has done a lot more good than bad but the Bucs had a glaring need last offseason at defensive end and they did nothing, the Bucs had a glaring need at corner and did nothing. The Bucs also had a glaring need at running back and almost did nothing.

    It is not prudent to put the team in a position where there is such an overwhelming need that the Bucs may be forced to spend two of their first three picks at one position yet still have glaring weaknesses at two other positions(corner and running back).

    If the Bucs have a receiver, tight end, QB, Offensive lineman or line backer at the top of their board when one of their first four round picks come up next year they are going to have to pass on the player because they are in such a dire need at defensive end and corner.

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  6. Never said Licht was dishonest. I think he honestly doesn’t know what he’s doing. Yes McCoy should be giving his coaches feed back, but that’s a lot different then telling them how they should coach, Christ that’s what they get paid for, putting their players in position to be most successful. Isn’t that what Smitty himself said? He said he welcomed feed back from his players, and would run a scheme that fits the talents of his players. That seems like B.S. now, if that’s the line the Glazers bought, they must be feeling buyers remorse.

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  7. A lot of people have short memories. Less than a year ago, most Bucs fans were panicked that we were going to lose Mike Smith to a head coaching position. Now everyone wants his head. This is a fickle game. We’ve lost three games by 5 or fewer points and we had a chance to win all three, even the Arizona game that we once trailed 31-0. Even without a good running game, this offense is on pace to finish in the top 5, perhaps number 1. Koetter is one of the best offensive minds in the league. I’d be disappointed if they fired him unless the Buccaneers lose 10 or more games. New Orleans is built a lot like the Buccaneers except for having a more experienced quarterback. This year they put more emphasis into the defense and they’re hanging in there with a good chance to win the division. We need to hire a new defensive coordinator and use Free Agency and the draft to get some pass rushers, improve the secondary, and find a running back.

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    • It doesn’t really matter what we fans want. It totally matters what the Glazers want. This Fab 5 is about trying to discern what the Glazers might be thinking, and takes into account their history of how and when they make decisions to fire and hire. These are not patient people.

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  8. great info on the upcoming prospects Scott. Are there any elite/proven free agents on the radar next year? I would hope the scouting dept has several guys targeted.

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    • Eric a great place to view 2018 free agents is http://www.spotrac.com/nfl/free-agents/2018.

      They also give detailed contract analysis of every player in the league and how it impacts the teams salary cap.

      Teams in great cap position next year:
      LA Rams, Colts, NY Jets, Redskins, Browns, 49ers, Lions, Bucs and Vikings

      Teams in awful cap position next year:
      Jags, Cowboys, Dolphins, Raiders, Ravens, Panthers, Eagles, Chiefs and Steelers

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  9. If we are talking draft I would definitely work on the trenches my draft would start with chubb in the 1st then if Maurice Hurst is there at the end of round 1 or top of round 2 I do what i do whatever to draft him cuz he wud b the replacement for McCoy. If hurst is not available there a big corner from aubirn who is big and looks the part of a shutdown cb.Then I look to get a more athletic left tackle or a true center i love ali but he is a guard . Secondary i look at free agency we need bigger cbs trumaine Johnson would b my pick up definitely. And mayb a veteran left tackle. I really feel like we will pick up more wins I really believe we are a 10 win team don’t ask me why I just believe in this team I feel they need a confidence builder and the next two games against familiar foes can b a good thing and help the mental side of the game. Remember we got going against Carolina last year. Go Bucs

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  10. I know that Malcolm passed away in 2014. Had he already passed the torch to his kids? I was just wondering how many of these changes were his and how many were the son’s.

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  11. And, with all of this damning Bucs reporting; they are actually only two games from .500 with all of their division games left. This season is still salvageable. Koetter, get this team back to the schemes from the end of the season start lighting some fires under some a#$es! C’mon, man!

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  12. It’s been well documented lately how the scheme and alignments we are operating under on defense are “inept” and “idiotic”. Makes it hard to evaluate the current talent of players and would stymie any talent we brought in. 1st round draft picks aren’t super human. They still need to be put in positions to succeed or else they become a scapegoat. Even our best, most dominant defender, McCoy can’t succeed in what seems to be a sabotage of a defensive scheme. Vernon Hargraves has been the best DB of the preseason the last 2 years. A place where super secret squirrel schemes aren’t over thought and raw talent can shine. I’d like to see how he’d look with competent coaching in scheme that’s not built to fail and hang young players and seasoned veterans out to dry.

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  13. I remember the days when being 2-4 would have been cause for celebration. I remember the days wishing we just weren’t the worst team. I remember the days when I was happy to score a few points. I remember the days when I got excited that the QB completed 50% of his passes. I remember the days when Punter Dave Green was game MVP. I remember the days there were games we almost won. I remember the days when seeing another orange clad fan was akin to seeing a unicorn. I remember the days when it was inevitable that the Bucs would be on the clock for the first pick the day the season started.

    Those were the days my friend, I thought they’d never end. Those were the days my friend, Oh no, not again.

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  14. Great article Scott, Don’t that last year the Bucs were struggling defensively then halfway through the DC Mike Smith simplified the defense after which they started winning

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  15. Great article Scott, Don’t that last year the Bucs were struggling defensively then halfway through the season, DC Mike Smith simplified the defense after which they started winning

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  16. Great article Scott, If you remember that last year the Bucs were struggling defensively then halfway through the DC Mike Smith simplified the defense after which they started winning

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  17. No need to worry about Hard Knocks next year, Scott. Teams with new head coaches aren’t required to participate 😂

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