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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Down on Gerald McCoy? Bet you miss him now



If you're among those who have been consistently caught up in first-round pick Gerald McCoy's rather average statistics, well then the past two Bucs games should leave you feeling a little bit silly.


For anyone who watched the Bucs get gashed over and over by the Redskins and Lions -- McCoy was lost for the season on the first series against Washington -- the answer should be obvious. McCoy was having a very significant impact at defensive tackle, his meager three sacks notwithstanding.

Start with the fact that he played the overwhelming majority of the defensive snaps, and at a high level. Now that he's out for the season with a torn biceps, replacing him has become a group effort. That alone should tell you something about McCoy's value in the Bucs defense. The kid was the No. 3 overall pick for a reason, you know.

His value against the run has been clear. It is no coincidence the Bucs have been trampled by oppenents' running games in the past two weeks after showing measurable progress in stopping the run in previous games. They never were anywhere near the league's best run defense, but consider the results in the past two weeks, against two sub-.500 teams no less.

The Redskins and Lions combined for 369 rushing yards and, worse, 6.6 yards per carry. In the NFL, those numbers are simply unacceptable. Roy Miller and Frank Okam, with Al Woods chipping in at nose tackle, didn't come close to replacing McCoy at under tackle.

And the Bucs have missed McCoy sorely against the pass, too. Yes, he had just three sacks. But the primary standard for measuring a defensive tackle's impact on the passing game is not sacks, but disruption. Using that barometer, McCoy had a successful season, particularly in the second half of 2010. He collapsed pockets and made quarterbacks sidestep him with regularity, even if he didn't always cap the play with a sack.

If the defensive-line breakdowns of the past two weeks are mostly a result of McCoy's absence, you could make a pretty compelling argument that his loss is as great as Aqib Talib's. A player's value to the team should probably be judged by the dropoff without him. In this case, the drop has been downright steep.

And here's something to ponder for the future. If second-round pick Brian Price can return to full strength after a pretty serious pelvic injury -- how does one fracture a pelvis, anyway? -- the Bucs have a potentially formidable pair of interior defensive linemen that will have to be reckoned with for years to come. Most of you got mere glimpses of Price in the preseason, but trust me: Before his injury really took hold of him, he was having a fabulous training camp, showing the potential to be dominant.

But back to this season. The Bucs will have to finish 2010 without McCoy, and that means the defense won't be the same.

Don't agree? Just watch the past two games and the evidence is there for all to see.

[Last modified: Tuesday, December 21, 2010 6:31pm]


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