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Q: What the three most important positions in football?
A: 1.) The quarterback 2.) The guy who protects the quarterback 3.) The guy who attacks the quarterback
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers haven’t had a player reach double-digit sacks in a single season since Simeon Rice in 2005 (14), and on top of that, Tampa finished 29th in total sacks as a team with only 27 all last year.
“But hey, it’s not all about stats! Some important parts of the game can’t be shown in statistics, especially in the trenches!”
Stats are for losers.
– New England Patriots head coach, Bill Belichick
That statement is true, but those who use it are usually defending a team that is great against the run — they have strong talent on the line, but not explosive or versatile talent. Well, Tampa was the best in the NFL against the run last season, but on the flip side, they were also the worst against the pass. At some point, they’re going to have to neutralize the opposing quarterback in the form of putting him on his back, instead of just pressuring him.
I am here today to tell you that Bucs fans may not have to use that quote to defend their D-Line after this season; this team has the potential to get after the quarterback at all angles.
Da’Quan Bowers (LDE):
Some reading this may be wondering: “Why did he start with Bowers?” The reason for this is because I believe Tampa’s D-Line, and perhaps their defense in general, will only be able to achieve its maximum potential if Bowers brings his Clemson confidence into his every-down play as a Buc.
Prior to the 2011 NFL Draft, Da’Quan Bowers was projected to be a top 3 pick, here’s why:
His stock fell because of injuries concerns and tearing his achilles in May of 2012 didn’t help him redeem those speculations, but every year he has gotten better.
However, H.O.F. Buccaneer, Warren Sapp, thinks Bowers’ time as a young learner has passed and this needs to be his year to breakthrough and breakout — in less friendly words.
I’m issuing a challenge to Da’Quan Bowers. Last time I checked if you wear pewter and red, you’re hunting the quarterback here.
Son, it’s time to wake up. You wear pewter and red. We hunt, here. That’s the way it is. That’s the rule. That’s the law.
– Hall of Fame Buccaneer Defensive Tackle, Warren Sapp
It’s Bowers’ time, and Sapp isn’t the only one who believes that. Bowers has been through adversity — in injury and in playing time — but now it’s time to show Bucs fans where that adversity has brought him. Is he the next Simeon Rice? Maybe he isn’t, but maybe he’s even better. The only way to find out is to let him loose. Let’s start the show.
Gerald McCoy (LDT):
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hadn’t had a Pro Bowl defensive lineman since 2003, until last season. McCoy’s recognition as one of the NFL’s best was well deserved as he was able to start all 16 games of the regular season for the first time in his career while accumulating 5 sacks, 30 tackles and a forced fumble. In doing so, he establishing himself as the cornerstone and leader to the NFL’s best run defense.
McCoy’s outlook on 2013 is even better. He’s motivated to get his body in the best shape it needs to be in to get the most out of his skills.
“I actually came in 10 pounds lower than my goal weight. People always keep asking me, ‘What are you going to do different after you made the Pro Bowl?’ Like I said a long time ago, that’s in the past. The only way to repeat or keep it going is to work harder than ever before. (The team) gave me a (target) weight and said come in at this weight. I said, ‘I’ll show you.’ I came in 10 pounds lighter than they wanted me to.”
– Buccaneers defensive tackle, Gerald McCoy
Adrian Clayborn (RDE):
The sophomore slump hit Adrian Clayborn hard in 2012, but not in the traditional way; He tore his ACL in Week 3 and was lost for the season.
In his rookie campaign, Clayborn lead the team with 7.5 sacks, so the expectation to improve is still fully alive, even from the head man himself.
“Adrian looks great. We were real cautious with him in the spring, but Adrian I think is going to have a great year. He’s a guy that played really well as a rookie, and then had last season cut short right away in the second [or] third game of the year. I think he’s a guy that especially now that he hasn’t had the game for a little bit, he’s hungry and ready to go. I expect big things.”
– Buccaneers head coach, Greg Schiano
Clayborn has been participating in training camp since Thursday (first day of camp), and according to SB Nation’s Buccaneers blog, he showed people the beast is back.
Akeem Spence (RDT):
Akeem Spence started as a backup player on the depth chart, however, after the coaches saw how well Spence translates his insane gym strength to the field, there’s a great chance he gets the start on Week 1.
“He’s not going to come in here and take a backseat to anyone, just because he’s a rookie. This guy is really powerful. He’s not only physically strong, but he can generate power. He holds up at the point of attack, and he can move the point.”
– Buccaneers defensive coordinator, Bill Sheridan
A key component to Tampa’s success against the run in 2012 was DT Roy Miller — now with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Miller’s play style was a run-stuffing DT that could take up multiple blockers; Spence provides a similar play style.
When a RDT can take up multiple blockers, it allows players like Bowers, McCoy and Clayborn to focus on one blocker and not face double-teams.
If you allow me bring this article full circle, THAT’S the kind of player that stats alone cannot justify the importance of.
It seems as though the Bucs have assembled the correct — and I use that word with precision — styles of talent at each position on the D-Line to succeed in the stat sheet as well as in plays that tend to go unnoticed, and as 2012 proved, in the NFC South they need to maximize all the talent they’ve got against the likes of Newton, Brees and Ryan.