Gerald McCoy has been the best Buccaneer defender since the day he was drafted. However, is the best still to come for the 29 year old defensive tackle, or has he plateaued as a player?
Buccaneers all-pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy made waves on Monday when he proclaimed to the Tampa Bay media that he hasn’t done enough to help his team win and get to the playoffs. Throughout the last seven years McCoy has frequently been criticized by many in the media and fan base for not closing out games and not being consistent enough for four quarters, and McCoy seemed to echo some of those sentiments in his press conference. Among other topics related to his play, McCoy focused in on the fourth quarter.
"The great ones make the plays when it’s necessary. If I want to be considered one of those guys when my career is over, that’s what has to be done. I haven’t been watching games or my film. I’ve been watching all of my fourth quarters. Where’s my energy level in the fourth quarter? Is my technique dropping in the fourth quarter? Am I making the plays that I need to make in the fourth quarter?"
McCoy spoke with a sense of urgency, noting that his knees hurt and that he knows time is ticking if he wants to become an all-time great. He talked about battling fatigue via diet, and being the type of dominant defensive cog that Warren Sapp and other greats have been. It’s not uncommon for players to be critical of themselves in order to fan their own competitive fires; we see quarterback Jameis Winston constantly critiquing his own game even after a great performance. But is Gerald McCoy actually on to something? Is there an untapped level to his play that we haven’t seen yet?
The answer, to me, is absolutely, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the 2017 version of Gerald McCoy becomes the best one yet. Now, it won’t be easy given just how good McCoy has been over the course of his seven seasons. Despite missing time with numerous injuries, McCoy has lived towards the top of the sack leader-board among defensive tackles since 2010; he has 42 sacks, good for third most among active tackles in that time span.
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McCoy’s ability to jump the snap and furiously burst through gaps has become his calling card, and it was on full display through much of last season. McCoy registered a team-leading seven sacks, two forced fumbles, and a couple of key knockdowns at the line of scrimmage, one of which sealed the teams week one victory over Atlanta. With that said, those seven sacks were a four year low for McCoy, and he’s yet to put together a ten sack season. Several factors played into the Bucs missing the playoffs, including McCoy’s poor performances against Dallas and New Orleans late in the year. Therein lays where McCoy can improve: consistency, game-to-game.
McCoy’s 2017 improvement will depend on how consistently he can be the player we know he’s capable of being. Even more-so than fourth quarter sacks, McCoy has to eliminate the games in which he’s a stat-sheet ghost. Stats are, famously, for losers, but players with McCoy’s aspirations cannot have games with one or zero tackles and no explosive plays. Fewer duds sandwiched in between great games would without question lead McCoy to that elusive ten-sack mark.
Working in McCoy’s favor is the defensive line that the Bucs brass has surrounded him with. With Robert Ayers and Noah Spence blazing off the edges McCoy will have more opportunities to crack the pocket and find quarterbacks falling right into his lap. Adding veteran tackle Chris Baker will help spell McCoy and avoid fatigue, as well as fight offenses’ propriety to double team McCoy. Mix in William Gholston, Clinton McDonald and potentially a rookie and you’ve got a defensive line that can really help free McCoy to make more plays on a more consistent basis in 2017.
Over the last four seasons Gerald McCoy has plateaued as a player; he hasn’t gotten better, but also hasn’t gotten worse. What do you think the odds are of a “breakout” season for McCoy in 2017? Do you think he can finally hit that ten sack number? Sound off in the comments!