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2011 Season in Review: Defensive End

What happened in 2011

With next to no proven talent at defensive end on the roster at the start of 2011, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers knew they had to quickly rebuild the position. And they did so rapidly and with reasonable success. By selecting Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers with their first two draft picks they added a lot of talent to a major position of need. What helped the Bucs get a fairly consistent performance out of their defensive ends was the emergence of Michael Bennett, who had an outstanding year, especially as a run-stopper.

In addition, the Bucs focused on improving the defensive line through coaching. Despite a shortened offseason, they brought in two defensive line coaches: pass-rush specialist Keith Millard and run defense specialist Grady Stretz.

Despite that, the defensive ends didn't blow away anyone in 2011. Adrian Clayborn had a good season for a rookie, spending a lot of time on the field, but his 7.5-sack total isn't going to break any records. Da'Quan Bowers flashed talent at times, but was extremely inconsistent, especially in run defense. Bennett was the most consistent player of the bunch, but he struggled through numerous injuries.

Behind those three (relative) stars, the Bucs had a number of other players perform. Tim Crowder was a solid but unspectacular backup, and the most experienced defensive end on the roster, although he finished the season with an injury. George Johnson led the team in sacks during the preseason and flashed some pass-rushing skill during the regular season, but ended the season on IR. The Bucs also added Daniel Te'o-Nesheim and Nick Reed as late-season stopgaps.

Overall, the defensive ends may have constituted the best unit on a very poor 2011 Tampa Bay Buccaneers team.

2012 Outlook

With a full offseason of work and seasoning the defensive ends could significantly improve in 2012, although the move to a new coaching staff could hurt them as well. The team's three key players at defensive end are all young and still developing, and it's always tough to project how players will do in their sophomore year. Still, the future at defensive end looks bright. Adrian Clayborn showed some good pass-rushing skills and fairly consistent play, while Da'Quan Bowers dazzled with his athletic ability while disappearing at other times.

The one player the Bucs must re-sign is Michael Bennett. The defensive end had a strong 2011 season, and deserves a new contract. More importantly, he would give the Bucs three quality options and depth at defensive end - something they lack at most other positions. With Tim Crowder and George Johnson as possible backups behind those three players, the Bucs have the players they need already in place.

2012 Options

Surprisingly, the Bucs don't really need to add any depth or quality to this group of players, assuming they re-sign Michael Bennett. While the team could always opt for using a late-round selection on a promising defensive end or possible special teams demon, there's no need to do so and it seems unlikely the Bucs go out of their way to add players to a position of no need.