Did Gerald McCoy's new attitude show on Sunday?

McCoy's play has been disappointing on the surface. After all, the Bucs run defense doesn't appear fixed and they have the fewest sacks in the league. His stats aren't awe-inspiring: a measly 10 tackles, 1 pass defended and 1 forced fumble in 6 games started. For that reason, the backlash to the offseason hype around McCoy seems to have started. There has been no instant impact on the defensive line, and the hype for the 3rd overall pick in the draft suggested he'd be a magical cure-all. The fact that Ndamukong Suh has been blowing up people left and right certainly isn't helping matters, as Gerald McCoy is always going to be compared to the guy drafted one spot above him - just like Ryan Leaf and Peyton Manning. Now that comparison sounds scary. 

One of the people disappointed with McCoy's production is Pewter Report's Scott Reynolds, who wasn't calling McCoy a bust yet in this article but he was certainly disappointed in McCoy's production so far: 

It’s way too early in his career to start calling McCoy a bust, but that talk – warranted or not – will begin soon. He certainly hasn’t shown that he’s a first-round-caliber talent yet, especially one worth taking with the third overall pick. 

Well, this week this was supposed to change. McCoy came out and said that he had an epiphany late in the game against the Saints, that he realised he was thinking too much and not playing fast enough. This week he was supposed to have a coming out party, so when he posted just one tackle and one assist that's understandably viewed as a disappointment. But beyond the stats, did we see improvement on the field? Yes we did, and that fact is getting lost.

The problem with pointing to a stat like tackles is that tackle numbers are fairly meaningless here. The Rams ran outside quite often, and when McCoy got penetration Jackson cut away from him. And the key is in that sentence: McCoy got penetration. He looked sharp and had a good burst off the ball, and throughout each play he kept working hard to get past his man. Now, it wasn't all rosy of course: there were plays where he got pushed to the side and he certainly wasn't perfect. But you could see him do what he did in the first two games: get up the field and into the backfield. I'll let Steve White add a few words to that:

The most significant and noticeable change was how he got off the ball and up the field. The only problem was that he got reached a couple of times. But the reality is it was worth it to have him pushing the offensive line backward and making the running back have to cut deeper or bow his track a little. He still didn't notch his first sack but he did have a good rush on a rip and run. The more he continues to get off the ball and get up field like that the higher the more plays he will make and those sacks will surely come. 

One thing that helped McCoy is that he played almost exclusively at undertackle. In previous games, he would be moved around, playing some DE in both a 4-3 and 3-3-5 alignment. Playing him outside his usual position limited his impact: he looks best rushing against guards and centers, not tackles. The fact that he was at undertackle for a full game was encouraging to me, and I hope Raheem Morris keeps that up. 

Gerald McCoy is still adjusting to the NFL. The transition from college to the NFL isn't easy for most players, including Defensive Tackles despite what Suh's stellar start would make you think. It can take a few years before things finally click: just look at Chris Long, the star defensive end of Sunday's opponent. But there's nothing to suggest that Gerald McCoy doesn't have the ability to dominate at this level, and indeed you can see flashes of that domination if you watch him for a game.

To answer the question asked in the title: yes the attitude showed. And if he can improve every game, he could dominate in this league. Gerald McCoy has the ability to be a star, it's up to him if he's going to be one. 

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