If this is your first ever "day after week one games" experience, then welcome to Overreaction Monday (My official unofficial name for days like today). Today is the day the media will blow everything that happened this weekend out of proportion. Today you will hear things like Michael Vick is a poor quarterback, Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton are in for a slump, and the Jets are Super Bowl bound.
So here is my contribution to this fine day of exaggeration: The Buccaneers defense yesterday looked like a defense corner stoned by the likes of Sapp, Brooks and Lynch. Yes, it is only one game, but excitement for this defense is going to skyrocket in the next few days and there were a few key contributors to that excitement. Some veterans, like Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib, helped the team put up a dominant performance yesterday.
But this post is here to highlight the young players and potential future of this team. While many players were essential to the success, I count four players in particular who should be the new cornerstones of an unstoppable defense in the near future. Hit the jump to find out who.
1) The New Sapp? Gerald McCoy.
Ok, so maybe comparing McCoy to Warren Sapp may be the definition of exaggeration, but you'd be hard press to find a Bucs fan who didn't mistake him for #99 at least once yesterday. McCoy showed why he was the 3rd overall pick just a few years back. He showcased great burst and explosion of the line and reeked havoc for Cam Newton all game long. In fact, had that been any QB not named Newton, Vick or RGIII, Gerald may have had a 3+ sack game.
Even when not chasing Newton, McCoy's presence was felt. He had two more tackles for losses and helped both Roy Miller and Michael Bennett make plays by drawing a large amount of attention from the Panthers. Should McCoy finally shake the injury bug, he may have a pro bowl, if not all pro, season.
2) Keep him contained! Adrian Clayborn.
Many people who watched the game yesterday were disappointed with the lack of Clayborn Newton had all over himself. But after watching the game twice this morning, I am fairly convinced Clayborn was held back a little as far as the defensive scheme goes. It is apparent watching the edge play that the defensive ends were asked to contain Newton more so then attack him. It seemed as if any play that wasn't on an obvious passing down, both Clayborn and Bennett held the outside contain in the pocket, while McCoy, Miller and any blitzing defenders pushed the middle to unsettle Cam.
Even so, Clayborn got great push when he was asked to rush, consistently pushing Jordan Gross into Newtons face. He came away with no sacks, but he got plenty of pressure and should have had a half sack on Bennett's sack fumble. Clayborn showed great power in his bull rush, and while he needs a few more moves in his arsenal, he still started the season strong and should take focus off McCoy and Bennett throughout the season.
3) Welcome to the NFL. Mark Barron.
The first of two rookies on this list is the 7th overall pick, Mark Barron. When watching him play, one word comes to mind, wow. He plays fast, hits hard, and reminds me slightly of another hard hitting safety to dawn the Pewter and and Red, John Lynch. No, I am not trying to say he will be as effective as Lynch or that he will have a similar career, I simply want to point out that they are similar in style of play. More so, I want to point out that while he made one or two rookie mistakes, he also made some huge plays for this team. His late game pass breakup saved a touchdown that could have won the game for Carolina.
Despite being a rookie in his first NFL game, Barron played like a veteran. The speed of the game never caught him off guard and he showed the NFL (and Steve Smith) that he isn't afraid to lower a shoulder or two. Assuming he continues to improve as he should, Barron looks like a potentially dominant force for our secondary.
4) Make the call! LaVonte David.
Of all the players on this list, David was he one I was the most high on coming into the offseason. After watching the game, I felt he had a solid game and did not do anything truly spectacular. Then the game ended and I got to read some of the quotes from the locker room and was absolutely amazed by Davids performance. Why the sudden change? Well, mainly due to the fact that David made all the defensive calls last night.
Yes, David, not Foster, had the green dot. This blows me away. Think about it for a moment, a rookie 3rd rounder who is starting his first NFL game made all the calls on defense after having absolutely no preparation time during the offseason to do so (he found out that he was making the calls during the Saturday walk through). Not only that, he led the team in tackles and led a defense the held last years 3rd best rushing team to 10 total rushing yards. Also, he was the dime backer, meaning that he played every defensive snap last night. I was a huge David supporter during the draft because of his speed and instinct, but last night he showed he has the intelligence to call the defense and to call it very well. LaVonte has the ability to become a difference maker for this team, and while I'm not ready to call him the next great Bucs linebacker, he had a very strong start last night.
Assuming that these four players continue to preform the way they did last night, this team is in for the return of a dominant defense and a strong season.