Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Depleted Dolphins open opportunity for Bucs' pressure

TAMPA — The opportunity, like so many elusive quarterbacks this season, is there, right in front of the Bucs defensive line.

Miami comes to town Monday having allowed a league-high 35 sacks, on pace to obliterate the franchise's 44-year-old mark of 53. And all of those came before the team lost starting left guard Richie Incognito, suspended for his alleged actions against also-departed left tackle Jonathan Martin, who started the first seven games.

"I don't care if it's the best offensive lineman of all time. My goal and my job is to get there," Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said.

The Bucs have 17 sacks — only five teams have fewer — and that comes after 12 over the first three games. Since then, Tampa Bay has five in five games, including none in Sunday's loss to Seattle.

Some of that comes from facing mobile quarterbacks in Carolina's Cam Newton and Seattle's Russell Wilson. Miami's Ryan Tannehill can extend plays, having spent 21/2 seasons at Texas A&M as a receiver before becoming the starting quarterback.

If there's a focus on the Bucs defensive line, it's not sacks, but improving the run defense, knowing setting up third and long is a recipe for sacks.

"We have to stop the run. That's something we haven't done in the last two weeks," end Adrian Clayborn said of a defense that allowed 198 yards to Seattle and 129 to Carolina. "That's why we've been in third and 2, third and 3.

"Once we do that, we can get after the quarterback and attack his offensive linemen."

The Bucs will put Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp in their Ring of Honor on Monday night. McCoy said he wants to have the same effect, disrupting so much from the interior that he creates sacks for other defenders.

"Collectively, we have to make sure we get (the quarterback) on the ground," McCoy said. "A lot of guys made a lot of names around here off (No.) 99 (Sapp). It's a fact. I'm just trying to help my teammates do the same. It's not about me. I want to help my teammates.

"I tell 54 (linebacker Lavonte David) all the time, 'I'm going to make you right. I'm going to go. I'll mess something up, and you run free and make the play.' That's what I'm here for, to help my teammates."

The Bucs haven't had a player reach double digits in sacks since Simeon Rice in 2005, and only one other team, Arizona, has gone longer. The Bucs' best pressure has come on frequent blitzing this season, and David, as a 4-3 linebacker, has a team-best five to put him on pace for that elusive 10.

"I think the D-line has been doing a great job. They just have to get there," David said of the traditional pass rush. "Whenever the blitz is called, it's a job you have to do. And fortunately, I've been able to do my job and get the sacks."

The defensive line has only seven of the 17 sacks. Clayborn has three, McCoy two and tackle Akeem Spence one. The ends haven't produced consistently. The other starter, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, has seven tackles and one sack. Da'Quan Bowers and rookies William Gholston and Steven Means have combined for 12 tackles, none for a loss.

Said Te'o-Nesheim: "We just need to get to the quarterback."

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