TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 04: Defensive end Da'Quan Bowers #91 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers closes in on running back DeAngelo Williams #34 of the Carolina Panthers during the game at Raymond James Stadium on December 4, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
With the addition of defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers now have an unprecedented amount of talent along their defensive line. The Bucs have four former first-round picks at either defensive tackle or defensive end (Gerald McCoy, John McCargo, Adrian Clayborn, Amobi Okoye), as well as two former second-round picks (Da'Quan Bowers and Brian Price) and one very talented undrafted defensive end (Michael Bennett).
No other team in the NFL can come close to that kind of collection of talent. But this also brings into focus the Bucs' problem: the greatest collection of talent in the world is useless if that talent isn't healthy, hasn't developed the skills to be effective, or can't play as a cohesive unit.
To an extent, those problems all plagued the Bucs in 2010, as the team collected a league-low 23 sacks. In the most significant injury hit, Gerald McCoy was lost early in the season after being a considerable force in the first few games. But other injury issues plagued the team as well: Da'Quan Bowers was limited in his play and practice time because of an pre-existing knee injury. Brian Price never looked fully healthy after undergoing hip surgery during the offseason, and Michael Bennett missed significant time and saw his effectiveness diminished because of various injuries.
More troubling, though, may have been the lack of skills among some of those players, as well as their inability to play as a unit. Da'Quan Bowers is a massively talented individual, but he was maddeningly inconsistent in 2011, especially against the run, for instance. Similarly, Adrian Clayborn was out of his gap just a little too often, and Brian Price struggled to use his talent effectively. Add in the massive(ly talented) Albert Haynesworth who didn't seem to understand the whole concept of being in a gap, and you have a group of talented players who didn't seem to know how to utilize that skill.
The fact that they couldn't play as a unit hurt them even further. 'Contain' seemed to be a foreign concept to these players at times, as quarterbacks could scramble around willy-nilly whenever one of the linemen got some pressure: inevitably someone had lost contain on the other side, allowing the quarterback to escape the pocket. The same thing happened in run defense: one player would burst into the backfield, but the back would easily be able to avoid him because someone else was out of his gap.
These issues in part were caused by a short offseason and a very youthful offensive line, while the cohesiveness was certainly limited because of the many injuries along the defensive line. These problems can be fixed, and having a full offseason should help the players progress in those aspects. But it's good to remember that talent is one thing, but production is another thing entirely - and that doesn't apply just to the defensive line.