Pass Rush has been the Buccaneers biggest issue for the almost a half-decade Over the past four seasons, or the Mark Dominik era, the Buccaneers have never finished the season with 30 plus sacks or finished with an under 20 ranking. Fixing this problem has also been a main focus in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafting strategy. Starting from 2009 Tampa Bay has drafted: Roy Miller (3rd), Kyle Moore (4th), Gerald Mcoy (1st), Brian Price (3rd), technically Erik Lorig (7th), Adirian Clayborn (1st), Da’Quan Bowers (2nd), Akeem Spence (4th), William Gholston (4th), and Steven Means (5th). That is a lot of picks to spend on D-Line over five years. Its also important to note that during that time no Buccaneers in that span tallied 10 sacks; Michael Bennett was the closest last season with 9 and he was allowed to walk.
But as Mark Dominik has proven before, he has something up his sleeve. I like Mark Dominik because he manages like the worlds best poker player. He never lets the media or the league know what cards he is holding and he is never afraid to take calculated risks. This off-season Dominik has taken the biggest risk of his career by letting Bennett and Miller walk and praying that the injury-prone Bowers and Clayborn will revitalize the great 90′s Buccaneers pass rush.
Bowers and Clayborn were both risky picks during the draft as well. Clayborn was diagnosed with Erb’s Palsy and had a knee injury in college and Bowers fell from a high first round-prospect to a second-rounder because of his own knee issues. Also because of their knee injuries since entering the NFL, it appears as if Dominik made the wrong drafting decisions. But have faith in Dominik, like a true card player, he only lets you see what he wants you to see.
The injuries of Clayborn and Bowers have been a possible blessing in disguise, like a gut shot on the flop. For a young player the biggest questions are football IQ and durability. Through injuries, Clayborn and Bowers have been given the opportunities to extensively rehab their pre-exhisting conditions while getting extra time to study film and perfect their reads. The two explosive defensive ends were also granted a great schedule this year. The Buccaneers play 6 teams that were below the league average of 36.5 sacks allowed and 5 team below the league average of 24.9 turnovers lost.
Dominik’s confidence in his two young bull rushers leads me to believe that he has a winner in his hands. The Buccaneers defensive line might be the best one in nearly a decade if it can remain healthy. I predict that Clayborn will be the first Buccaneer since Simeon Rice in 2005 to reach ten sacks. I pick Clayborn because he had 7.5 sacks his rookie year before he got hurt. Clayborn also has the help of Levonte David behind him and Spence at his side to draw double teams. In addition, the 2013 Buc’s will have a lot of speed and power to the left with McCoy, Bowers, and occasionally Dekota Watson at linebacker.
If this recent off-season pans out the way the Buccaneers hope, Tampa Bay might have one of the best defensive lines for the rest of the decade. If they produce as anticipated, Bowers and Clayborn would be fairly cheap to resign because of their past injuries. With the money the Buccaneers will save by not fixing the problem with a big-name free-agent, the Buccaneers can keep other great young players like Martin David, Barron, and Foster. Tampa Bay has some quality D-Line depth now with Daniel Teo-Nesism, who played huge when Clayborn got hurt, and drafted three athletic MonStars in Spence, Gholtson, and Means. With Bowers and Clayborn going into their second year of the Schiano system, it’s very likely that Domink might have a straight with diamonds suited in his hand, so let people doubt Tampa Bay.