The Bucs defensive line apparently broke out against the Atlanta Falcons. With four sacks, four hits and seven tackles for loss the Bucs defense did well in the official stats department. Brian Price and Adrian Clayborn were the two defensive linemen to record sacks, while Dekoda Watson and Mason Foster both notched one as well. Price, Gerald McCoy and Mason Foster recorded quarterback hits. But those stats don't tell the whole story.
I wanted to know which defensive linemen did what, so I just decided to chart the passing plays. On 53 passing plays the Bucs managed to get pressure on 24 of them. Yes, 24. Matt Ryan was constantly under fire. He only managed two drives in which he was relatively clean: the last drive of the first half, which ended with an interception, and their last drive of the second half which ended with a field goal. Incidentally, Ryan ran a hurry-up offense in both drives.
On to the actual stats. Disclaimer: these are not official and all based on my own faulty charting. I notched a pressure if a player affected a Ryan throw (either by hitting him or forcing him to throw early or off-balance), or if they were barreling down on him but he got the ball off just in time anyway, or if they forced him to scramble. Sacks should be self-explanatory, while hits are defined by getting the quarterback on the ground, not just touching him.
Note that some sacks are also hits, but not all of them. When the ball is stripped but the quarterback isn't taken to the ground that is a sack but not a hit, as with Dekoda Watson's sack. Most quarterback hits are pass pressures, but not all of them. And finally, if someone gets a sack I did not note a pass pressure. This means that Brian Price may have had one sack, two hits and one pressure, but those came on a combined two plays.
A couple of players really stand out here. Gerald McCoy with his eight pressures was a consistent presence in the backfield, but didn't notch a sack. He did manage two quarterback hits, and a ticky-tack but dumb Roughing the Passer penalty. The stat sheet undervalues his contribution to the pass rush, and McCoy played a very good game overall.
Starting defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Michael Bennett were also destructive forces, as the two managed four and five pressures respectively, with Clayborn adding a sack to give both players five impact plays.
Two players stand out in a negative way: Da'Quan Bowers and Tim Crowder. Neither player managed to do much, although in fairness neither got as many pass rushing snaps as the other four defensive linemen. Frank Okam and Roy Miller are also entirely absent here, but that's no surprise: neither is a pass-rushing threat.
I think it's clear who the Bucs' best linemen are right now: the starting four of Clayborn, McCoy, Price and Bennett. I think the dropoff from Price and McCoy to Miller and Okam is biggest, though, and this small exercise backed that up. Both Price and McCoy bring terrific quickness and explosion, while Miller and Okam are mostly run-stuffers who are tough to move. If I were coaching the Bucs, I'd make an effort to have one of those two explosive interior rushers on the field at all times, because the team really lacks an interior rush when they aren't.