Third-and-longs set up Bucs' barrage of eight sacks vs. Browns
The Bucs defense broke out with eight sacks in Friday night's win against the Browns, the most for the team in any preseason game in at least 16 years, and a defense that consistently set up third-and-long situations got five of their sacks in those situations.
"It's guys rushing as a unit, playing together, feeding off each other," said defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who split a sack with end Robert Ayers. "When you rush as a unit, not as individuals, that type of stuff can happen."
On a night in which the Bucs offense never faced a third down needing more than 9 yards, the Bucs defense set up third-and-long, where pass-rushers can fly at the passer with little worry for stopping a run play. Five of the sacks came on third-and-10 or longer -- third and 10, 11, 15, 21 and 10 -- with a sub package that can slide outside pass rushers like Ayers inside and utilize smaller, quicker edge rushers like Jacquies Smith (two sacks), Howard Jones (one) and rookie Noah Spence (one).
"It's a good dress rehearsal. Pass rush and coverage were working great together tonight, obviously," said Smith, who drew a holding penalty on his first sack. "That led to the success we were having. The third preseason game, you kind of want to get ready and started for the season."
Had this been a regular-season game, the Bucs' eight sacks would have been the third-most in any game in the franchise's 40-year history. The line did this with starting defensive tackle Clinton McDonald held out as an injury precaution, stepping up as a group.
"I feel like we're working better as a unit, progressing through the preseason," said end Will Gholston, who also had a sack. "We want to carry it into the season. There were lots that we do need to correct, some stuff that we could have had out there that we didn't get, but I feel collectively, as a group, we're all rushing well together, rushing the best we've been rushing so far."
Gholston said having two joint practices with the Browns helped the Bucs' defensive line -- instead of relying on watching video and trying to scout opposing linemen that way, they had two days to learn as much in head-to-head competition, something that clearly helped the Bucs more than the Browns.
"It's easier to scout the guy you're going up against," Gholston said. "You find out his tendencies, what he likes to do, his stance and all that."