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Bucs eye pass defense help at combine

INDIANAPOLIS — The Bucs have to stop the air raid, the steady bombardment of deep balls that left them with the worst pass defense in the NFL last season and among the weakest in league history.

There are two ways coach Greg Schiano can attempt to fix this during April's draft: cornerbacks who can cover or linemen who make cornerbacks' job easier by pressuring the quarterback.

The Bucs have not had more than 27 sacks in any of the past three seasons despite using first- and second-round picks on tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price in 2010 and ends Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers in 2011.

As Schiano, general manager Mark Dominik and personnel director Dennis Hickey spend the upcoming days at the scouting combine, there are some players they will keep a closer eye on in case they are available with the 13th pick.

Cornerbacks

Dee Milliner, Alabama

Height/weight: 6-1; 197

Outlook: Milliner is a projected top-10 pick and could go among the top five if he runs a 4.4-second or better 40-yard dash. As a junior in 2012, he had 54 tackles, four tackles-for-loss, 1½ sacks and two interceptions. The first-team All-SEC pick might not be great in press coverage to start his career, but he should develop into a special player.

Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State

Height/weight: 6-1; 185

Outlook: As a senior, Banks won the Jim Thorpe Award (nation's top defensive back) for his four interceptions and 59 tackles. He's good in run support but needs work on coverage skills. He can make an immediate impact as a punt returner and reminds many of Cardinals corner Patrick Peterson when he left LSU in 2011.

Xavier Rhodes, Florida State

Height/weight: 6-2; 217

Outlook: The Bucs have their eyes on Rhodes, who has the size of a safety and reminds many of Seahawks star cornerback Richard Sherman with his physicality. He would thrive in a press scheme that Tampa Bay seems so fond of under coach Greg Schiano.

Desmond Trufant, Washington

Height/weight: 5-11; 190

Outlook: Trufant shined during Senior Bowl workouts. He's not the biggest but has proved to be a big hitter. His two older brothers play in the NFL — the Seahawks' Marcus and the Jets' Isaiah — so it's no surprise he is a very instinctive player. He's targeted for the bottom of the first round depending on his 40-yard dash time.

Defensive linemen

Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M

Height/weight: 6-4; 250

Outlook: Moore left after a junior season in which he led A&M in tackles (80), sacks (12½) and tackles-for-losses (20). He was first-team All-SEC and a finalist for the Ted Hendricks Award (nation's top defensive end). He has a big motor and is a natural pass rusher.

Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida

Height/weight: 6-3; 303

Outlook: Floyd played tackle and end. As a junior last season, the All-SEC first-teamer had 6½ sacks and 13 tackles-for-loss. He has natural strength and quickness but tends to stand up too quickly. The Bucs are linked to him in several mock drafts.

Linebacker

Manti Te'o, Notre Dame

Height/weight: 6-2; 255

Outlook: Oprah won't be the only one to have interviewed Te'o, he of the fake girlfriend. He's better in coverage than Mason Foster, the Bucs' current starter in the middle, or could replace Quincy Black on the strongside. He had seven interceptions last season.

Workouts: Saturday — Tight ends, offensive linemen, special teams; Sunday — Quarterbacks, running backs, receivers; Monday — Defensive linemen, linebackers; Tuesday — Defensive backs

Interviews and physicals: Three days preceding workouts. TV: Workouts air on the NFL Network starting at 9 a.m.

Bucs eye pass defense help at combine 02/20/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 11:00pm]
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