Yardbarker Horiz

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Buccaneers Need Experience, Not More Youth, At DE

Great defenses keep the other team from scoring.  It's not about how many sacks they record (unless you're talking Fantasy Football).  The Buccaneers do not need a defensive end just to accumulate more sacks, they crave the disruption a fast end can create.

But do the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need another young defense end? In 2009, the Buccaneers drafted Kyle Moore, a defensive end from the University of Southern California. That same year they also tapped the waiver wire and swiped Michael Bennett from the Seattle Seahawks and Tim Crowder from the Denver Broncos.

Currently the Buccaneers have 8 defensive ends on the roster, with Crowder and Stylez White being the old men of the group with just five years of experience each.  White, Crowder, Bennett, and Moore along with undrafted rookie Brandon Gilbeaux were all on the Buccaneers roster just after the 2010 draft.  The Buccaneers even tried 2010 draft pick Erik Lorig (a tight end in college) at defensive end for a while.  Lorig is still listed as a Defensive End on the current roster even though he played a substantial number of downs as a fullback last season.

Also during the 2010 season, Tampa Bay traded for Alex Magee, a 2nd year player originally drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs.  Magee came to Tampa as a Defensive End but is now listed as a Defensive Tackle.

Clearly Tampa Bay GM Mark Dominik has been working on this position since he landed in the Big Chair at One Buccaneer Place.  But is there an answer for the Defensive End position in the upcoming draft?

Dominik may be better served to dip his toe in the free agent pool instead.

Taking a look a defensive stats from 2010, there were twelve defensive ends with 45 or more tackles; they are the most productive ends in the league last year.

Tackles Sacks Exp
Justin Smith SF 57 8.5 11
Glenn Dorsey KC 51 2.0 4
Charles Johnson CAR 51 11.5 5
Trent Cole PHI 50 10.0 7
Kenyon Coleman CLE 50 2.5 9
James Hall STL 48 10.5 12
Justin Tuck NYG 48 11.5 7
Calais Campbell ARI 46 6.0 4
Haloti Ngata BAL 46 5.5 6
Vince Wilfork NE 46 2.0 7
Jared Allen MIN 45 11.0 8
Darnell Dockett ARI 45 5.0 8

The average years of experience (last column) of these men is just over 7 years.  Note that there are certainly youthful achievers on this list.  An interesting fact stood out while assembling this table:  all the players in this list with 7 or fewer years in the NFL have spent their entire career with the same team.  None of the players in this list with more than 8 years of experience have spent their entire career with the same team.

My basic point, however, is none of the players in the list above have less than 4 years of NFL experience.

Current Tampa Bay Buccaneer Defensive Ends

Exp Tackles Sacks
Crowder, Tim 5 31 3
White, Stylez G. 5 36 4.5
Bennett, Michael 3 15 1
Moore, Kyle 3 18 0
Gilbeaux, Brandon 2 0 0
Lorig, Erik 2 4 0
Wilson, E.J. 2 0 0
Johnson, George 1 0 0

All in all, it appears the Buccaneers have a steady stream of young talent coming through the ranks at defensive end.  Both Bennett and Moore were drafted players and Crowder and White are productive.  In the Tampa 2 defense it is all about gap protection and avoiding the big play against you.  These men have proven to be a capable part of a strong defensive unit.

Are the current Buccaneer ends on the verge of a breakout?  The group has been more or less in place for a full season now, and they have reached the experience level where big numbers could be just around the corner.  Do they need a young defensive end?  Only if they are willing to give the player time to develop.  And they can because there are productive players ahead of them.

Should the Buccaneers be shopping for some immediate defensive end experience?  That is a big question -- one to examine in the near future.

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