The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost a close game to the Dallas Cowboys today, and they may have lost a key player in the process. On one of four sacks for the defense today, defensive end Adrian Clayborn injured his right knee. According to the Tampa Bay Times he was wearing a brace on his leg, and "early indications" are that his injury is serious, "with several players suggesting it is season-ending". This would be a tough loss for the defense, as Clayborn led the team in sacks last season with 7.5. Having lost Da'Quan Bowers to an Achilles injury earlier this year, the Bucs lack depth to properly replace Clayborn.
Still, the loss may not be as bad as it may seem. While Clayborn had a good season and showed some promising moves this year, he wasn't playing up to his previous levels. He's been coming off the ball late, and hasn't made an impact on passing downs, although his play in run defense was strong. The Bucs will likely ask Daniel Te'o-Nesheim to replace Clayborn, as he did this game after Clayborn's injury. George Johnson should be in the mix as well, although the defensive end has been inactive the past two games. Te'o-Nesheim has mostly been a pass-rush specialist for the Bucs, and the former third-round pick for the Philadelphia Eagles has looked okay in that role.
Still, this puts even more pressure on DT Gerald McCoy and DE Michael Bennett to carry the defensive line. McCoy and Bennett have had absolutely terrific starts to their seasons so far, as both have three sacks through three games and are the most disruptive players on a very stout defensive line. Replacing Clayborn will be tough, but if Bennett and McCoy keep up their level of play, the defense should be fine. Now for the offense to catch up.