Pewter Plank Mailbag: Can the Buccaneers Defensive Line Be Better in 2013?


July 30, 2011; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Roy Miller (90), defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93), defensive end Adrian Clayborn (94) and teammate Da

It’s time for another question from the Pewter Plank mailbag, and this one was e-mailed in by Brian. He asks the following…

"We, as fans, know the Buccaneers’ love for McCoy, Clayborn and Bowers. However, with the absence of Roy Miller and Michael Bennett and the additions of Landri, Spence, Gholston and Means among the names of players starting or in rotation, do the Buccaneers stand the possibility to send forth a better defensive line this year from a talent standpoint?"

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Thanks for the question. So let’s get to the answering…

Brian is correct, the Buccaneers do love Gerald McCoy, Adrian Clayborn, and especially Da’Quan Bowers. The love for the two defensive ends was the main motivation behind allowing Michael Bennett to walk, as his role was not going to be as prominent with the presumed health of Bowers. and the assumed recovery of Clayborn. Bennett was outperforming even the most ambitious goals that could have been set for him, and the former undrafted rookie just wasn’t seen as a value when he was commanding a payday of around five million dollars per year. And while the depth would have been nice, I don’t think the Buccaneers lost much with Bennett moving on to Seattle.

May 29, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) during organized team activities at One Buccaneer Place. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Nor do I think they lost much with Roy Miller’s departure. Far too much was made of Miller’s role in the middle of the number one run defense, as his role was simply to take up space, something he did until the last month of the season, when he started playing fewer and fewer snaps. Whether this was health or performance related is unclear, but the money it would have cost to bring Miller back wasn’t worth it compared to the bargain price of bringing in a comparable player with a bit of upside on a dirt cheap rookie deal.

So the question is, will there be more talent in 2013? The answer is yes, for now.

The two previously injured defensive ends are both capable of outperforming Michael Bennett on their own, as they both have top-notch talent which led to them receiving very favorable grades on draft day. Bowers has elite upside, as he was a dominant player in college who plummeted down the draft order due to health concerns. Clayborn is a sturdy, versatile player who can still make an impact with some flashy plays, as well, and is truly a compliment to Bowers on the other side. Combine them with a strong nose tackle and one of the best 3-technique tackles in Gerald McCoy, and it appears there is plenty of talent to be had.

But can that talent stay healthy? Gerald McCoy has always struggled with injury issues, and Clayborn and Bowers obviously spent large chunks of last year off the field. So at the start if the season, if the defensive line is Clayborn/Spence/McCoy/Bowers, then an upgrade in talent has been achieved. But if by week 14 the cast is totally different, the Buccaneers’ may miss Michael Bennett, and find that they’re not as well off as they were last year.

As for the newcomers besides Spence, they all represent role players and backups who would likely fail to provide solid contributions as starters in year one. Derek Landri is probably the exception, as he has shown flashes of brilliance at defensive tackle, and is versatile enough to give the Buccaneers options on how to use him. But Gholston and Means are both projects who may see the field in 2013, but it will be in one-play-at-a-time roles, and they’ll be groomed for the future. Luckily, Daniel Teo-Neshiem is still around to provide solid backup for the two ends, and hopefully keep them fresh enough to remain healthy.

I personally think that Bowers can take a big step forward in 2013, but I also feel like there’s a huge risk he’s forced to sit out with an injury, and therefore ruin the plan for the front four. But if the band stays together, and the Bucs have their intended front four for most of the season, I think they’ll be more talented than last year’s version.