Mid-Season Report: Defensive Line

Stylez G. White is as funny as he is hard-working.
Stylez G. White is as funny as he is hard-working. /
There hasn't been much to celebrate about the defensive line this season.
There hasn't been much to celebrate about the defensive line this season. /

We continue our mid-season breakdown of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by examining their defensive line play.

If you were about to accuse me of being overly positive in my assessment of the first half of the Buccaneers season, hold off until you finish this portion of the mid-season analysis. I’m not going to lie, the mere fact that this Buccaneers team, just a year off 3-13, is 5-3 through the first half is absolutely unexpected. So yes, compared to my preseason expectations, most phases of this Bucs team have far exceeded what I thought they would play like. That’s not the case with the defensive front seven.

After spending high round picks on Gerald McCoy and Brian Price, I figured the Buccaneers defensive line was set for a big improvement. The bucs have spent five draft picks on their defensive line in the past two season. In addition to McCoy and Price they’ve brought in Roy Miller, Kyle Moore and Erik Lorig. That’s considerable attention paid to the defensive line. The Bucs have one more sack in the first eight games this season than they spent picks on this group, six. That’s not cutting it.

I understand that this is a young defensive line, but they’re not producing anything, really. They’re not even filling enough space to keep the guards from getting hats on the Bucs’ underachieving linebackers (we’ll get to them next). They generate no pass rush, they can’t stop the run. On a lot of plays they are getting blown back off the ball. There’s plenty wrong with this defensive line right now.

There are a lot of Gerald McCoy apologists that say nobody should be down on him. I still have high hopes for McCoy but you have to admit that when Ndamukong Suh has 30 tackles and seven sacks, and the guy taken one spot behind him at the same position has 16 tackles and no sacks, the contrast alone is going to make it tough not to say something. I know there are nuanced differences in their alignment and what they are being asked to do, but the fact still remains Gerald McCoy has looked far from dominant.

Defensive line coach Todd Wash is a huge McCoy apologist, saying just the other day that McCoy is about five plays away from having five sacks. I say, no #@$%. I’m five plays away from having five sacks. I’ll never be capable of making any of those plays (unless Donald Penn has a brain-fart and forgets to block me) but you get my point, hypothetically anybody is five plays away from five sacks. That’s a dumb, empty statement.

Stylez G. White has been the team's best defensive lineman.
Stylez G. White has been the team's best defensive lineman. /

I’m honestly of the opinion that the Bucs defensive line would have been better off had the Bucs chosen to hang on to Kevin Carter at the end of the 2008 season and never hired Todd Wash. Carter was an exceptionally bright and articulate veteran that was fantastic at mentoring younger players. That would have at least been a benefit to this young group. I’m not so sold on Wash’s ability to coach.

I remember once a college AD justifying the firing of an offensive coordinator by saying, ‘it’s either the horses or the jockeys, and we think we’ve got some pretty good horses.’ The Buccaneers have spent the third overall pick, a 2nd rounder, a 3rd, a 4th and a 7th in just the last two years on talented young defensive lineman. Arguably the most successful of any of them has been Erik Lorig and that’s just because he projects into a very good fullback. Those aren’t the results you’d like to see along a line that the Bucs have invested in considerably the past few seasons.

Granted, it’s early with McCoy and Brian Price is on IR now. But Price wasn’t really making an impact before the inury, and what’s the excuse with the rest of the group? Bottom line, five sacks by linemen all season, no pass rush, no success stopping the run, I think the Bucs needs to make a coaching change. It may still be the players, but it’s a lot harder to get rid of all of them. I also happen to think Mark Dominik is pretty good at player evaluation. I think it’s more that the Bucs need to go invest in a solid D-line coach.

Final Thoughts

Stylez G. White is best lineman on the team, he’s got three sacks and he’s serviceable against the run. I’ll give him a pass, but he’s 31 and not a long-term answer at defensive end. Tim Crowder has the only other two sacks on the line and he doesn’t even start. McCoy and Roy Miller have been largely ineffectual, I watched a game earlier this season where they collided and brought each other to the ground more often than they brought down the ball-carrier.

I don’t know that this will improve over the second half of the season which is why I think making the playoffs at all will be the peak of what the Bucs can accomplish this year. You just can’t win in the playoffs if you can’t generate a pass rush or stop the run. The Bucs can’t do either and they’re no better along the line than they were a year ago at this point.

Grade: F

The defensive line has been hands-down the worst unit on the team. I see talent and potential there, what I don’t necessarily see is progression or great coaching