By Tom Krasniqi
The defensive line is the backbone for the Tampa 2. Pressure from the front four is paramount to the success of Lovie Smith’s defense.
Defensive end Adrian Clayborn knows it. The 4th year man out of Iowa was asked about last year’s pass rush.
“What rush?,” Clayborn replied sarcastically.
He was half kidding and half serious. Last year, the Bucs were tied for 23rd in the NFL with 35 sacks.
“It wasn’t that great,” Clayborn said regarding last year’s ability to get to the quarterback. “It wasn’t gelled together—we weren’t working together. A lot of stuff went on but I expect better this year.”
It has to improve—or else. If the front four can’t apply pressure to the QB, it’s going to be a long season. Especially in the same division with Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton.
Clayborn is going through a transition of his own. He’s going from right defensive end to left defensive end. It’s a big change. One that Clayborn is slowly adjusting to.
“It’s different,” Clayborn said. “It’s not all the way there, but it’s getting close.”
Clayborn and the rest of the starters will play well into the 3rd quarter in Saturday’s preseason game at Buffalo. He will need every single snap as he continues to acclimate himself to his new position.
Clayborn was the 20th overall pick back in 2011 and had a terrific rookie season with 7.5 sacks. A torn ACL limited him to just three games in 2012. Last season, Clayborn played all 16 games and tallied 5.5 sacks. He’s shooting for a double-digit sack season.
“That’s the goal that every defensive lineman should have,” Clayborn stated. He believes Gerald McCoy and Michael Johnson can also get to that plateau.
2014 is a huge year for the 26-year-old Clayborn. Back in the spring, the team declined the 5th year option on his contract (which would’ve been worth $6.9-million) so he’s set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
“I don’t want to say [this year] is a make-or-break [season],” Clayborn said before Wednesday’s practice. “It’s my contract year so I guess I gotta impress somebody. If not here, then somewhere else.”
News & notes:
- CBs Alterraun Verner (hamstring) did participate in Wednesday’s practice but his status for the Bills game is uncertain.
- DE Michael Johnson (knee bruise) returned to practice.
- CB Mike Jenkins (hamstring) did not practice again. DE Da’Quan Bowers (groin), DE William Gholston (shoulder), CB Rashaan Melvin (ankle) and safety Major Wright (back) were among the others who didn’t practice. Head coach Lovie Smith says Jenkins will not play at Buffalo.
- Lovie on Bowers and the other injured players: “I think everyday you don’t practice, you’re hurting your chances.” Strong message right there.
- RT Demar Dotson on facing a good Buffalo pass rush this weekend: “This is going to be a good test to see where we’re at.” Last year, the Bills were 2nd in the NFL with 57 sacks.
- Lovie is pleased with the new NFL rule to expand practice squads from 8 to 10 players: “I think it’s a great thing.”
- Lovie says the starters will play into the 3rd quarter on Saturday against the Bills— and that includes DT Gerald McCoy.
- The team released veteran WR Lavelle Hawkins on Wednesday.
- On Saturday afternoon, the Bucs travel to Buffalo to take on the Bills in preseason game #2. Our coverage begins at 2pm on 620wdae and 95.3FM. For more details on Bucs stories and practice sound, check out 620wdae.com and buccaneers.com.
- Keep it locked on 620am WDAE and 95.3FM as well as the Bucs blog at 620wdae.com for the best Bucs coverage.