The Tampa Bay Buccaneers haven’t been especially lucky with their defensive line production this season. In fact, their 14 sacks are the second-lowest among all NFL teams, and they’ve been hit by some key injuries: Noah Spence is out for the season, while William Gholston is dealing with a neck injury of indeterminate seriousness. The lone bright spot has been Gerald McCoy, who’s been dominant as usual.
One other player’s had a pretty good year, and we rarely talk about him: Clinton McDonald. Despite playing just 44% of the team’s snaps, he’s racked up three sacks and is a consistently disruptive presence in the middle. He has the athleticism to play all over the line, and he’s both a good run-stopper and a quality pass-rusher.
In fact, McDonald’s been that guy for years, even when he was with the Seattle Seahawks. He is, probably, the most underrated player on the Bucs’ defensive line. In part because, for some reason, he rarely plays more than half the snaps on the defensive line. I don’t know why, but the Bucs don’t trust him with the kind of workload they hand to Gerald McCoy, or the defensive ends.
That’s still a little baffling. On film and in the stats, McDonald should be playing much more often, and should have a higher profile than he really has. It may have something do with his repeated injuries—McDonald has never played a full season—but on tape, there’s no reason to believe he couldn’t play significantly more snaps in any game.
Whatever the reason for his limited playing time, though, McDonald is the most underrated defensive lineman on the team. Not the best—that’s Gerald McCoy—but the guy who can make plays and disrupt offensive gameplans, even though no one’s talking about him.