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)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have once again lost a massively talented defensive lineman to injury. Da'Quan Bowers tore his Achilles tendon, which usually means months of rehab, and a year or more before a player is completely back to form. While Bowers seems intent on returning during the 2012 season, it's not clear whether that's a realistic goal, and if he'll be able to actually make an impact this year. That will depend on the extent of Bowers' injury, and the team has not announced whether he suffered a full or partial tear.
Instead, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers must now turn to fourth-year defensive end Michael Bennett, who experienced somewhat of a breakout season last year. Bennett led the team with 12 tackles for loss, while his 4 sacks and 8 quarterback hits onlytrailed Adrian Clayborn. While Bennett managed to do well against the pass, he was a real force in the run game. While losing the incredibly talented Bowers is a blow to the depth at defensive end, Bennett is no slouch as a starter, and could be a better player against the run than the very raw and inexperienced Bowers would be.
But this hurts the Bucs' depth along the defensive line, something the team has struggled with for years. Tampa Bay's defensive line played well early in 2011, but when Gerald McCoy suffered an injury the team's lack of depth was exposed, and the entire defense collapsed. The Bucs can't let that scenario unfold again, and they must find a quality backup for Michael Bennett and Adrian Clayborn, who plays on the other side. Currently, the Bucs have Daniel Te'o-Nesheim and George Johnson as backups. Those two players have a combined one sack in the NFL. Can they mold those players into quality backups, can they find one in free agency, or will the Bucs once again see their defensive line collapse after injury?