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2011 Season in Review: Defensive Tackle

What happened in 2011

What looked like a posiition of potential strength in 2011 turned out to be perhaps the biggest weakness on the team. Most of that was the case because for the second time in two seasons, Gerald McCoy suffered a season-ending injury. The second-year player started the season in excellent form and he looked like he would fulfill the promise of his draft status. His play against the run was especially strong. Unfortunately he suffered a high ankle sprain in week five, and suffered a season-ending biceps tear a couple of weeks later. Without him, most of the defense collapsed as it lacked a stout presence inside, or any kind of pass-rushing threat at defensive tackle.

2010 second-round pick Brian Price was able to play for most of the season, but he was barely effective as he was still recovering from extensive surgery to his pelvis and hamstrings. Behind Price, the Bucs had a collection of ineffective defensive tackles, and they brought in Albert Haynesworth midseason to help kickstart the defensive line. To virtually no one's surprise, Haynesworth proved largely ineffective and was a liability against the run, and the Bucs' problems at defensive tackle continued throughout the season.

2012 Outlook

Gerald McCoy and Brian Price should both be healthy and ready to go by the start of the season, and that should immediately significantly boost the quality of play at the position. Unfortunately the Buccaneers lack depth behind those two players, and if one of them suffers an injury (which seems likely) the problems of old could easily resurface. Frank Okam and Roy Miller are both inconsistent and lack the ability to impact the game as a pass rusher. Meanwhile talented malcontent Albert Haynesworth is scheduled to earn $7.2 million this season, and there's no way the Bucs pay that kind of money for his quality of play. Look for him to be released.

The Bucs need to add depth at defensive tackle, however, as they can't afford to let one injury derail an entire defense again. Playing defensive ends at defensive tackle positions has worked to a limited extent for the Bucs, but don't expect that to be the foundation of the team.

2012 Options

While this isn't a great year to find great defensive tackles in the draft, there's a lot of depth at the position and the Bucs could easily grab a defensive tackle fairly late to serve as a backup. That can't be said for free agency, however, where the pickings for a defensive tackle who would fit the Bucs' one-gap 4-3 defense are extremely slim. When Amobi Okoye is potentially the best 4-3 defensive tackle on the market, you know there aren't a lot of options at the position.

Projected 2012 depth chart

Gerald McCoy, Brian Price, Roy Miller, E.J. Wilson.