It began on the first day of training camp, when head coach Raheem Morris publicly declared that if Gaines Adams, former No. 4 overall draft pick, didn’t reach double-digit sacks in 2009, he’d be considered a bust.
And you know what happens to busts: They get shaken out of town.
So was the fate of Adams, who was traded to the Bears on October 16. Since the trade, defensive end Stylez White has helped fans forget about the beleaguered Adams.
"I have been very pleased with how Stylez White has stepped up," Morris said. "He was able to get in there and cause some disruptions. He has been playing the run well. I have been very happy with Stylez."In the last three games, White has led Buccaneer defensive lineman with 13 tackles and 3 sacks, surpassing the 8 tackles and 1 sack recorded by Adams in the first five games. He is currently on pace for 35 tackles and 11 sacks, which would both be career highs.
"You have to give credit to what Stylez has been able to do with the extra playing time." Morris said.
Now, White is hardly setting the world on fire at defensive end, but he is clearly an upgrade from Adams, whose 13.5 career sacks is the kind of output you’d expect in one season from a high first-round pick. At 30 years old, White is likely not the future at the position, but filling in admirably until a permanent solution can be discovered.
On the other side, Jimmy Wilkerson is on pace for 42 tackles and 11 sacks, which would also be career highs. At 28, Wilkerson is also nearing the end of his NFL shelf-life, putting defensive line near the top of the Buccaneers’ concerns to address in free agency and in the draft.
We will learn a lot more about White and Wilkerson and how they defend the run in the coming weeks, as in five of the next seven games they will face teams currently ranked in the top five in rushing yards per game.