Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp Preview: Defensive Ends

This has to be the group with the most turnover from last year to this year: the defensive ends. The Bucs were unable to get to the passer last season, and drafted two defensive ends at the top of the draft to remedy that problem. Adrian Clayborn is expected to step in at right end, and should immediately boost the run defense. He may not ever become a premiere pass rusher, but he does have the makeup to be a very good all-around defensive end. 

The second-round pick Da'Quan Bowers is perhaps even more intriguing. He had the talent and skill to be a top 5 draft pick, but fell all the way to the 19th pick in the second round due to injury concerns. It's not clear to what extent his knee injury will limit Bowers either this season or in his further career. If he is healthy, though, he has a chance to be a tremendous player. He played with tremendous leverage in college and showed versatility in playing on both the right and the left side. There's a good chance he starts at left defensive end this season, if his knee can handle it. 

With Clayborn and Bowers tentatively penned in as starters, the Bucs have little depth behind them. Michael Bennett and Kyle Moore are the only defensive end on the roster with any kind of experience. Bennett has a lot of athletic potential and at times flashes skill as well, but did not produce much when he got the chance to start late last season. Despite that, Bennett seems like a lock to make the roster and could turn out to be a starter if Bowers or Clayborn aren't ready. 

Kyle Moore was a fourth-round pick in 2009, but has not produced at all since then. He has been a non-factor as a pass rusher and has not been a great run stuffer either. Despite that he got the chance to start last season, hanging on to that job until his season ended due to injury. Moore has a lot of athletic potential, but he will have to fight his butt off to even make the roster this season. 

Behind those two, the Bucs have a lot of bodies. Alex Magee showed some promise last season in limited time, but a citation for marijuana this offseason might prompt the Bucs to think twice before keeping him. Still, he's talented and was effective last season, and is likely the most productive defensive end on the team so far. 

The rest of the bodies the Bucs have are all practice squad candidates, but you never know when one is going to break out and force himself onto the roster. Second-year player Doug Worthington has a decent chance of doing so, as does E.J. Wilson who appeared in 2 games for the Seahawks in his rookie season before being picked up by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brandon Gilbeaux and George Johson both have a shot to make an impact, but any of these players will really have to show up in training camp to make the roster. 

With all of these bodies, it may be unlikely the Bucs bring in any free agents. Certainly with two top draft picks spent on the position, they're not going to go after any of the premier players out there, like Ray Edwards and Charles Johnson. They could use an experienced body at defensive end, though. Tim Crowder and Stylez White are both scheduled to leave the team, but for the sake of continuity and experience the Bucs could easily re-sign one of them, most likely Crowder. Mathias Kiwanuka and Raheem Brock are two experienced players the Bucs could decide to bring in to offer competition in camp.

In the end, I expect the Bucs to bring back Crowder and allow this big group of defensive ends to compete against each other in training camp. Competition improves players, and with all of these bodies at defensive end the Bucs are at least making sure there will be competition. 

 

Previous Installments: 
Quarterbacks
Offensive Tackles
Offensive Guards
Center
Tight Ends
Running Backs & Fullbacks

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