TAMPA - JULY 31: Defensive tackle Roy Miller #90 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers works out during Training Camp at One Buccaneer Place on July 31 2010 in Tampa Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have not been able to adequately fill the defensive tackle position for years. They got some production out of journeymen and castoffs like Chris Hovan and Ryan Sims, but it took them until 2010 to seriously invest in the position. That's the year they drafted Gerald McCoy and Brian Price with their first two draft picks. Despite that influx of talent, play at the position has been disappointing. This should change next season.
Gerald McCoy got off to a slow start last season, but was a destructive force the 3 games before he went on IR with a torn biceps. He has since fully recovered from that injury, and should be ready to go next season. He has spent the offseason re-sculpting his body, shedding weight to become more explosive and adding upper-body strength. With new coaches that will ask him to penetrate and cause havoc, McCoy is poised for a good season. He has the talent to be a destructive force, and he will be in position to be just that next season.
The Buccaneers have Roy Miller penciled in as starter next to McCoy, and Miller has been a solid player these past two seasons. He won't ever be much of a force on passing downs, but he is a solid run-defender and good nose tackle. While he needs to learn to deal with double teams better, there's little chance anyone beats him out for the starting spot.
That's not to say that no one on the Bucs' roster has the talent to do so. Brian Price has a lot of talent, the quickness to disrupt offenses and the build to hold up as a nose tackle. Unfortunately, Price is also returning from a hip injury and it seems unlikely he'll be ready for the start of the season, let alone the training camp. With some luck he will be able to get on the field early next season, but he will have missed a lot of time in his development and it would be a surprise if he made a big impact in 2012.
Behind Price, the Bucs have a number of young prospects, as they seemingly have at every position. Frank Okam and Al Woods both saw some playing time last season, and will likely have to fight for one roster spot. Okam is a former fifth-round pick with the Houston Texans who the Bucs picked up late last season. The third-year player is different from every other defensive tackle on the Bucs' roster in one way: at 350 lbs, he's huge. This size gives him a unique skill that may keep him on the roster.
Al Woods was a fourth-round pick with the Saints last season who didn't make that roster but, like Okam, was picked up by the Bucs late last season. While he showed more than Okam in limited time last season, he doesn't offer anything that the other defensive tackle can't do. This may make him surplus to requirements and see him missing out on a roster spot, although he does have the talent to fight off Okam and force his way onto the field.
With the young talent they have at defensive tackle, I would be surprised if the Bucs sign a defensive tackle. Even more so because there's really no one of interest on the market to sign.