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Gerald McCoy is the de facto leader of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defensive line

BRADENTON — Gerald McCoy is built to rush. But on this day, he moved in slow motion, providing a frame-by-frame breakdown of his quarterback pressuring technique, complete with examples of proper foot placement, hip turn and rip move past a blocking dummy.

"It's five steps," McCoy told rookie defensive end Adrian Clayborn, the Bucs' first-round pick from Iowa. "Only five steps, that's what (Warren) Sapp taught me. I've seen it on film and when you do it right, you can count them."

At 23, having played 12 NFL games before landing on injured reserve with a torn left biceps, McCoy is the de facto leader of the Bucs defensive line. A first-round pick from Oklahoma a year ago, he did not record a sack until the ninth game of the season and finished with three.

The Bucs invested heavily again in their defensive front four in this year's draft, using their first two picks on Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers, a second-rounder from Clemson who led Division I-A in sacks last season.

McCoy invited Clayborn and several other pass rushers to work out with him in San Diego under trainer Joe Durkin. But this week, during the locked out Bucs' three-day minicamp at IMG Academies, McCoy attached himself like a barnacle to Clayborn, who blew off the rookie symposium to work out with veterans.

"Our biggest concern? Honestly, I'm concerned about us up front," McCoy said. "My coaches, my teammates, Free (Josh Freeman) called me and few other guys to say, 'Hey, make sure you get the defense out there.' And then (offensive lineman) Davin (Joseph) texted me and said, 'You need to get the d-line out there.'

"Apparently, these guys feel I'm the leader of the d-line room, so I take it upon myself that if the d-line is not running right, it's something I need to get together. If we can get going, if the d-line can get rolling like we're supposed to, it will change the whole team, not just the defense."

McCoy appeared to be on a roll when he was hurt in a game at Washington. His slow start can be traced to high expectations, a suspect supporting cast and an unwillingness by the coaching staff — at least at the start of the season — to keep McCoy at the undertackle position.

"They were moving me around," McCoy said. "My first snap as an NFL player against Cleveland, I didn't even play the three technique. I was an end. I was moving around at the beginning of the year. I asked coach (Raheem Morris) straight up, 'Please let me play one position so I can learn it.' I got it. He said, 'Look, I want you to get off the ball. Do what got you drafted.' I said, 'All right.' I started doing that, things started working. Then I took that tape and said let me take that tape and build off of that."

Sapp, the nine-time Pro Bowl player who is the gold standard at DT, spent a day with McCoy at One Buc Place emptying his bag of tricks. In the regular season, Sapp watched game tape of McCoy and called him to critique his performance.

The mentor-student relationship inspired McCoy to pass on the relatively few lessons learned as a rookie. That's why he reached out to Clayborn and others to join him in San Diego.

"I didn't get as much participation as I wanted. But I did get some guys to come out and we got some work in," McCoy said. "And one of the guys who did come out was Clayborn, so I got to spend some time with him and work with him individually. I had a whole week with him then and actually sat him down and talked to him about what he's thinking, how he plays … with me just being honest? I can't say that I had that last year."

Clayborn has been an eager student and combined with Bowers, who has been working on his own rehabbing after knee surgery, the Bucs hope they have a combination of defensive linemen that can grow together the way Sapp did with Simeon Rice, Anthony McFarland and others.

"We've mostly been just working on pass rush stuff, how to get to the quarterback quicker," Clayborn said. "They've shown me the stuff I need to work on from last year so I can have a step ahead. It's always good when you're around your teammates and you're learning their terminology and things like that. I've been working out all summer but it's always good to get with your teammates and learn the scheme."

McCoy had the benefit of an entire offseason, including team workouts and rookie and veteran minicamps. The work stoppage has affected every player, but none more so than rookies such as Clayborn and Bowers.

"I can't imagine coming in, putting on my pads and going against them," McCoy said. "The reason I came through camp and did so well in camp and in the preseason and stuff is because I had (practices), minicamps and all that and (that) got me adjusted to the speed in football gear."

McCoy's speed and quickness always has been his biggest strength and so he has dropped about 10 pounds to his optimum playing weight of 300. As for his new leadership role, he has embraced it with all the gusto of wrapping up a quarterback.

"They don't put you on the side of the stadium just because they wanted me to be the leader of the d-line," McCoy said. "I took it upon myself to learn as a rookie, because you have to serve before you can lead. I did my duties as a rookie, now it's my time to take over. That's what I'm supposed to do.

"I love to talk, I'm not a shy guy, so I don't mind being a leader. If I have to speak up and take over, I'm happy to do that because I love this sport, I love my team and I love winning."

Gerald McCoy is the de facto leader of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defensive line 07/05/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 5, 2011 9:00pm]
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