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Gerald McCoy Is Breaking Out: Leads NFC In Plays Behind The Line Of Scrimmage

Gerald McCoy has been constantly criticized throughout his career, but he's off to a great start in his third NFL season.

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

The surprisingly interesting official Tampa Bay Buccaneers Blog has dug up an interesting statistic: Gerald McCoy leads all NFC defensive linemen in plays behind the line of scrimmage. That is: sacks and tackles for loss. He has eight of those plays in total, five of them tackles for loss with three sacks. Add to that six quarterback hits, one pass defensed and a forced fumble and it's clear that Gerald McCoy is breaking out - as if you needed those statistics to tell you that.

The myth of Gerald McCoy being a bust extends all the way back until the pre-draft process. It was his combine performance on the bench press - an almost completely irrelevant element - that got sports radio talking about his being a bust. McCoy performed 23 reps at 225 pounds - nothing to worry about - but a number that rank on the low end among defensive tackle, and quite a ways below Ndamukong Suh, who was taken one spot ahead of him.

To make matters worse, McCoy then struggled in his first season, recording 3 sacks through 13 games before ending the season on injured reserve. McCoy got off to a slow start, but appeared to 'get it' in the three games before he was injured. Meanwhile, eternal comparison Ndamukong Suh notched ten sacks on his way to the Defensive Rookie of the Year award, and people were starting to compare the rookie to Reggie White (a ludicrous comparison).

Gerald McCoy appeared ready to silence his critics in 2011, when he looked like a top-notch defensive tackle. He managed one sack, but established the line of scrimmage and was especially in impressive in run defense - but after first suffering a high ankle sprain and then another torn biceps, he once again lost a chance to show the world that he was a good player. Sports radio continued to label him a bust - he was playing terrible football (not true) and he was on injured reserve (sadly true). McCoy hadn't done enough to break that label, in their eyes. But anyone who studied the game tape could tell that McCoy was going to be a special player, as long as he stayed healthy.

So far this year, that's exactly what McCoy has done. He may be the best defensive tackle in the NFL right now (if we don't count J.J. Watt as a defensive tackle), although Geno Atkins is giving him a run for his money. With three sacks through four games he's certainly putting up the numbers, but his play has been even more impressive. He and Michael Bennett have been the main reason this Tampa Bay defense has looked halfway decent, especially against the run. And McCoy's play hasn't gone unnoticed among his critics: radio host Ian Beckles went from complaining about a bench press to singing his praises.

If McCoy can keep this level of play up and, more importantly, stay healthy he's going to be an incredibly important player for this team for years to come out. He's finally breaking out on the stat sheet, but he's played some incredibly football for years on end. All he needs to do now, is to stay off that injury report.