TAMPA, FL - JULY 29: Defensive end Adrian Clayborn #94 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practices during the team's first pre-season training camp practice July 29, 2011 at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
It's another day, and that means we have some more rankings. Yes, those are always fun. This time, Ryan Van Bibber looked at the Bucs' defensive line, ranking them 27th in the NFL:
The Bucs took one on the chin when Da'Quan Bowers suffered a torn Achilles tendon this spring. That puts Michael Bennett on the hook for most of the snaps opposite second-year end Adrian Clayborn. A season of health from Gerald McCoy gives them some power in the middle. Gary GIbson has a knack for generating pressure inside as a rotation player.
And as always, looking at what happened last year, it's tough to disagree with this ranking. But I would argue that, when healthy, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the talent of a dominant defensive line. And that was seen through the first four games of the 2011 season, when key cog Gerald McCoy was still healthy. Over that period, the Bucs won 3 of their 4 games, amassed 10 sacks, allowed opposing running backs to run for 4 yards per attempt and limited opponents to a 57.9% completion percentage.
Yes, the Bucs faced the Vikings and Colts over that period - but they also faced the Falcons and Lions, who were certainly more impressive offenses. More compelling, perhaps, is that Da'Quan Bowers barely featured in those games, and the success was built on four players: Gerald McCoy, Adrian Clayborn, Michael Bennett and Brian Price. All four of those players are now available, and at least Brian Price should be more healthy when the season starts. The key will be whether the team's depth can hold up better, and it should: signing Amobi Okoye and Gary Gibson gives the team more legitimate competition at defensive tackle than they had last year.
Improving depth was key this offseason, and the Bucs have done so. Now they have to hope that their defensive linemen can continue to improve and stay healthy - or it may all be for naught.