LEADER OF THE PACK: DT Gerald McCoy
No debate here. McCoy is the bonafide leader of the front four and the defense in general. The pro bowler has become one if not the most complete and dominant defensive tackles in the NFL. And his personality brings a swagger that makes him a fun teammate to play alongside. He has gained the individual adulation, but nothing will fuel McCoy more now than taking his team to the postseason, and competing for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
ALL EYES ON: DE Michael Johnson
Johnson was the anchor of the Bengals defensive line for years, and could be the same coming off the edge. His athleticism rushing the quarterback combined with his 6’7″ frame could cause nightmare scenarios for left tackles and opposing quarterbacks. He also can be used as a decoy dropping back in to coverage and knock down passes. Tampa has invested a lot in Johnson, with the expectations of resembling Simeon Rice like numbers.
X-FACTOR: DT Clinton McDonald
Many might point to Michael Johnson here, but McDonald is the only defensive player on the Bucs roster that has been to the Super Bowl and won it. That knowledge of knowing the lengths you must go to win it all is highly valuable for a franchise in need of a winning mentality. McDonald stepped up last season with 5.5 sacks in Seattle, and should complement Gerald McCoy nicely.
NEEDS TO STEP UP: DE Da’Quan Bowers
Bowers is a mystery. Once projected as a first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Clemson standout now might be in jeopardy of getting cut by the end of training camp. Whether it’s been injuries or not being in shape, Bowers simply has not been reliable. He must put in the work this camp and prove once and for all that he belongs in the NFL.
CAMP OBJECTIVE: Get in the Backfield
If Tampa Bay wants to return to the dominant defense it once was, getting constant pressure in the backfield will aide tremendously. The defensive line has shown flashes of brilliance in recent years with Gerald McCoy in the middle, but inconsistency off the edge has kept the Bucs down. An area that DE Adrian Clayborn must provide opposite Michael Johnson. With the right tutelage, this group could have quality depth in young guns William Gholston and Steven Means. It all comes down to disruption. The more this unit can cause, the more chances at creating turnovers head coach Lovie Smith covets so much.