Bucs’ state-of-the-Union: Defensive tackles

by Gary Shelton on June 5, 2018 · 0 comments

in general

Tuesday, 3 a.m.

Think of the job as punch to the mouth. Two punches, if you're fast.

He is the defender closest to the ball, and as such, he has the potential to wreck a play. If he is strong enough, if he is fast enough, he can ruin a play before it gets started

He is a defensive tackle, a position that a lot of fans don't notice. Ah, but opposing quarterbacks notice. Opposing running backs notice. Opposing guards, in particular, notice.

Oh, it was that way when Warren Sapp played for the Bucs. You might remember Sapp, who never let a guard or quarterback or fan have a very

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pleasant day. Sapp played the under tackle like no one else, with an uncommon burst that took him all the way to the Hall of Fame. And from the day he left the team, the Bucs have desperately tried to replace him.

This year, they have a pair of contenders. One is Gerald McCoy, who has come as close to any to matching Sapp's play. And No. 1 draft pick Vita Vea, the mammoth tackle out of Washington.

Toegher, those two will try to give some muscle that the interior of the line has lacked for several years.

But McCoy hasn't satisfied a lot of Bucs' fans. And even Sapp himself has doubted whether Vea can carry 350 pounds or so in the Florida heat. So it's up to you to decide. Do you expect greatness from the Bucs' tackles? Or do you expect spottiness?

Of course, there are different kinds of defensive tackles. There are quicker guys (Sapp, John Randle, Aaron Donald, Dan Hampton). There are the heavyweight pluggers (William Perry, Gilbert Brown.) But if the tackle can split a double team, if he can penetrate, if he can disrupt, he can be a difference.

For once, granted, the Bucs aren't just relying on their starters. They also signed Beau Allen and Mitch Unrein in free agency.

One thing seems sure. The Bucs will be a lot more focused without last year's free agent bust, Chris Baker. The only players Baker got to last year were his own teammates after lame penalties.

As a result, only two teams in the NFL gave up more touchdowns rushing than Tampa Bay's 17. Only six gave up more yards per carry than Tampa Bay's 4.7. There was a reason that the Bucs felt they had to rebuild their line.

If McCoy and Vea can close some doors in the interior of the line, it's going to help. If teams have to run wide, or not at all, it keeps traffic off of the linebackers, and it shortens the coverage time for the secondary.

And if not? Well, if a team can't stop a run up the middle, it's going to struggle to stop anything.

Granted, defensive tackles aren't counted on to help rush the passer. That's why Sapp's 16.5 sacks in 2000 seems so staggering. McCoy has four seasons of at least seven sacks, but he's never reached 10.

Could this be the year? Perhaps not. There will be a lot of rotation. But if McCoy and Vea are both dependable players, Tampa Bay will be harder to run against.

Defensive tackles

Top 5

1. Warren Sapp

2. Gerald McCoy

3. Dave Logan

4. Brad Culpepper

5. Anthony McFarland

Pro Bowlers

Warren Sapp (7)

Dave Pear

Busts

1. Chris Baker

2. Brian Price

3. Roy Miller

4. Da'Quan Bowers

5. Darrell Russell

Underrated

1. Brad Culpepper

2. Chris Hovan

3. Chardrick Darby

4. Santana Dotson

5, Clinton McDonald

Top 10 Hall of Famers

1. Warren Sapp

2. Joe Greene

3. John Randle

4. Merlin Olsen

5. Dan Hampton

6. Alan Page

7. Cortez Kennedy

8. Curley Culp

9. Bob Lilly

10. Art Donovan

Projected sacks

Gerald McCoy.       5.5

Vita Vea                  3.0

Beau Allen             3.0

Mitch Unrein        2.0

 

 

 

 

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