To say that the Tampa Buccaneers have invested heavily in the defensive line in the past few seasons is an understatement. The Bucs spent two first- and second-round selections on defensive tackles (Gerald McCoy and Brian Price) and ends (Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers) in 2010 and 2011.
But Tampa Bay's plan to build a dominant defensive line for the next six to eight years hasn't exactly worked out to this point. The Bucs had a league worst 23 sacks last season and had the NFL's worst run defense.
Now, McCoy is coming off his second season-ending biceps injury, Bowers is currently out with a torn Achilles' heel, and Price was traded to the Chicago Bears last week.
The Bucs are looking to turn things around though, and they have their lineup set headed into this season – for the most part.
At right end, Clayborn, who had 7.5 sacks as a rookie last season, is looking to improve upon his success last year. On the other side, Michael Bennett will start while Bowers is recovering from his injury. Bennett started 10 games for Tampa Bay last year and had 4.0 sacks.
McCoy is healthy and ready to get back to work at undertackle. He was really coming into his own last season before he tore his right biceps against New Orleans last season.
But with Price now with the Bears, who is going to be the starting nose tackle?
Fourth-year man Roy Miller has been getting the most first-team reps in training camp so far, but head coach Greg Schiano says former Houston Texans first-round pick Amobe Okoye and Gary Gibson, who had 3.0 sacks in St. Louis last season, are also in the mix to start.
"I think Gerald, as I’ve said before, he’s got the ability to be an elite guy with get off and the motor he plays with," said Schiano. "Then we have to figure out how we’re going to deal with the other position and how we’re going to create depth at the three technique. As we work through it, Gary, Roy, Amobi and then whoever else we throw into that mix, it’s just going to be competition. Whoever performs the best will get the bigger chunk. Then next best will get a little bit smaller chunk and we’ll just roll it through."
Whoever gets the nod has to step up. The Bucs were absolutely dreadful on defense last season and it started up front with the defensive line.
Miller may have the edge right now, but he'll need to play better than he has in recent years if he wants to hold onto that starting position.
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