TAMPA — Dre Moore could try to avoid the inevitable, but why bother?
Because here's the deal: When you play defensive tackle for the Buccaneers, you are judged against just one man.
"Warren Sapp is a beast. He's one of the best to ever play the position," said Moore, the team's fourth-round pick from Maryland. "No one will tell you that they're comparing you to him. But you know in the back of your mind that when you get tired and wear down, you have to keep pushing because that's who you're being compared to."
And so for the umpteenth time since Sapp's departure after the 2003 season, we must ask: Who will replace No. 99?
The likely answer is, simply, no one. But that doesn't mean the Bucs will end their seemingly perpetual quest for a three-technique defensive tackle who can be the sort of disruptive force the Tampa 2 defense relies on so heavily.
"The three-technique is the whole deal," said assistant head coach Larry Coyer, last year's defensive line coach. "Eventually, you're going to find a guy with those traits you need. They'll never be Sapp. But you can at least find a guy who is similar. (Jovan) Haye did a great job last year, but the competition has to step up.
"Sapp was a big, powerful man. That's what (Moore) is."
But that alone isn't enough, even though Moore had an impressive showing during the three-day rookie minicamp that ended Sunday.
He is getting an earful from Coyer and coach Jon Gruden about the need to be in better condition. At 6 feet 4, 305 pounds, it takes a lot to keep Moore's motor running.
"He's an explosive big man," Gruden said. "But I think he'll be the first to tell you his stamina is going to be an issue. He's got to get conditioned. That's why we have that big factory over there, that weight room. We'll get him in there."
That should help Moore build on what is already an impressive body of work. Playing various positions, he led the Terrapins with six sacks and added 63 tackles in 2007 despite handling some tasks that are not asked of linemen in Tampa Bay.
"I think here it's a lot simpler," he said of the Bucs defense. "You just line up and go. At Maryland, we kind of had different responsibilities — spying running backs, dropping into coverage and things like that. Here, it's just line up, read your keys and make a play."
Sapp was the best at that, but Moore possesses some of the same qualities that made Sapp a freak: intimidating size, brute strength, deceptive speed and quickness (he ran a remarkable 4.82 seconds for 40 yards at his pro day).
"He really flashed some things out here that are uncommon for a big man," Coyer said. "He's very quick. He really has a chance, and he has the skills."
Moore will be thrown into what coaches hope is a heated competition at under tackle with last season's starter, Haye, Greg Peterson and perhaps new acquisition Marques Douglas, who also plays end and spent the past seven seasons with the Ravens and 49ers.
Moore hopes to distinguish himself with his repertoire.
"I think I'm definitely a power guy," he said. "Bull rushing is definitely one of my better moves. That's the trick I have up my sleeve when things aren't going well. The bull rush sets up other things like speed rushes. … I think a lot of bigger guys get stuck just going forward. But I got lucky. I got a little rhythm when I was born, so I can do some things laterally."
As for playing the same position as Sapp in the city where he rose to fame, well, Moore likens it to playing shooting guard in Michael Jordan's old stomping grounds.
"They're always going to remember (No.) 23," he said.
Will anyone remember Moore? Maybe, though probably never as much as everyone remembers Sapp.
Stephen F. Holder can be reached at [email protected]