Yardbarker Horiz

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

2010 Offseason: The Defensive Front

The Buccaneers defensive line was in need of an overhaul after the 3-13 season of 2009.

Interior defensive linemen accounted for just 3.5 sacks (Hovan 0.5, Sims 1.0, Miller 2.0, D. Moore 0.0) and 159 tackles (Hovan 57, Sims 48, Miller 54, D. Moore 0.0) last season which averages out to less than 0.25 sacks per game and around 10 tackles per game.  The unit was ravaged by teams with strong rushing attacks. The edges of the defensive line were in a constant state of flux last year.  The defensive ends as a unit were not nearly productive or disruptive enough to put real teeth into opposing offenses.

But by far the most disturbing defensive statistic for 2009 was the Buccaneers giving up 158.2 rushing yards per game -- worst in the NFL.  No wonder the Buccaneers used the first two picks (and their last pick) in the 2010 draft to update the front wall of the defense.

Defensive Ends
Gilbeaux, Brandon0/06'3" 270 lbs(2010 College Free Agent)
Johnson, George0/06'4" 265 lbs(2010 College Free Agent)
Ruffin, James0/06'4" 263 lbs(2010 College Free Agent)
Lorig, Erik0/06'3" 281 lbs(2010 Draft Pick)
Evans, Maurice0/06'2" 265 lbs(2009 Waiver Wire)
Bennett, Michael0/76'3" 274 lbs(2009 Waiver Wire)
Moore, Kyle0/86'5" 272 lbs(2009 Draft Pick)
2009 Final Game Starters:
LE: Crowder, Tim4/156'4" 275 lbs(2009 Waiver Wire)
RE: White, Stylez8/156'3" 270 lbs(2007 Signee (Arena))

The rebuilding frenzy over the past year at this position is obvious.  General Manager Mark Dominik literally rebuilt this unit from the gound up during the 2009 season.  The men who started Game 1 of the 2009 season, Jimmy Wilkerson (gone to the Saints) and Gaines Adams (traded to Chicago before his tragic passing), are no longer with the team.

There are signs of progress, however.  White was the sack leader last year with 6.5 sacks while only starting half the season.  Crowder contributed 3.5 sacks and finished the season as a starter after being claimed off the wiaver wire (from Denver) after the first game in 2009.  Kyle Moore had a rough rookie season working through some nagging injuries but, along with Micheal Bennett, started to come on late in the 2009 season.

Tampa carried four defensive ends on the 53 man roster last year.  Based on experience alone White, Crowder, K. Moore, and Bennett are the front runners this offseason.  With the drafting of Lorig, however, the team may opt to keep a fifth this year to give the rookie time to develop or may try to transition him to the practice squad.

Defensive Line
McCoy, Gerald0/06'4" 295 lbs(2010 Draft Pick)
Price, Brian0/06'1" 303 lbs(2010 Draft Pick)
Moore, Dre0/76'4" 305 lbs(2008 Draft Pick)
Miller, Roy1/156'2" 310 lbs(2009 Draft Pick)
2009 Final Game Starter:
DT: Sims, Ryan16/166'4" 315 lbs(2007 Trade - Chiefs)

The other 2009 Final Game Starter was Chris Hovan, who was released by the Buccaneers shortly after the 2010 draft.  With an open starting spot here the competition will be fierce.  Keep in mind this is a "group position" for Tampa Bay so the quality of depth is as essential as the starting pair.  Will the Buccaneers give five roster spots to this position in 2010 (only four were carried on the active roster in2009)?  McCoy and Price will be involved starting with Game 1 of 2010, but how much will they be able to contribute?

This will be a telltale offseason for Dre Moore.  Most defensive tackles have a magical third season where everything starts to come together.  Fortunately for Moore this is his third season and he will need the magic to compete with the talent and experience around him.

Ryan Sims has his experience to fall back on but will that be enough to keep the youth from overrunning the position?  If the Buccaneers decide to only keep four defensive tackles on the active roster this season I believe it will come down to a decision between Sims and Moore.  Considering the youth, however, I am pulling for all five men to play in 2010.  Since nobody on this unit is even a consideration for the practice squad there will be a lot of learn-by-playing at this position.

All four of the positions in the defensive trenches will be closely watched this offseason.  Significant improvement here could make all the difference in the 2010 season.

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