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How do the Tampa Bay Buccaneers intend to replace traded defensive tackle Brian Price?

TAMPA — Weeks from now, when the Bucs line up and begin playing games that count, it won't matter why the team traded embattled defensive tackle Brian Price.

What will be important, now that Price went to the Bears for a seventh-round pick Thursday, is how the Bucs plan to account for the loss of a player who started 14 games in 2011.

Currently, there's no answer. But the process of identifying and evaluating options is well under way.

"I think we have plenty of talent," tackle Gary Gibson, signed from the Rams in May, said Friday. "In these next 45 days or so before the (season opener), we have to grow together and become a solid unit.

"And we have more than enough talent to do that."

That task of rebuilding the interior defensive line began in earnest Friday, when the Bucs took the field for the first time since reporting for training camp.

But really, the Bucs have been scrutinizing the position for quite some time, knowing Price's future was uncertain.

Which brings us to Gibson.

While the Bucs made headlines in the offseason for signing free agents Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks, Gibson could become an important pickup in his own way. Along with veteran Roy Miller, Gibson has a chance to take on the role of run-stopping nose tackle formerly occupied by Price.

"I'm hoping I get a bunch of snaps," Gibson said. "I'm ready to do some work with this team. I feel great.

"In the last couple of years, I've really fallen into a role of a guy who plays on first and second down. If I can get to the quarterback in that time, I'm going to do it. But as a defensive tackle … stopping the run is a priority. If you don't stop the run, you ain't doing much else."

With oft-injured Gerald McCoy, the third overall pick in 2010, still being counted on as the penetrating tackle, it's up to the nose tackle to take on double-teams and plug holes in the middle of the field.

Gibson (6 feet 3, 312 pounds) and Miller (6-2, 310) are best suited for that role. Miller hasn't shined much lately, but the 2009 third-round pick can be an asset, coach Greg Schiano said, because of how the Bucs intend to use him.

"He's a very powerful guy and, I think, if put in the right position, he can use that power to his advantage," Schiano said. "There's a lot of things that he can do for us in our scheme that will make him effective."

Another option is Amobi Okoye, the 10th overall pick by the Texans in 2007 who also signed as a free agent. Okoye, who played for the Bears in 2011, would at first glance seem one of the candidates to replace Price. But at 292 pounds, the Bucs believe he lacks the bulk to consistently handle double-teams as a nose tackle on first and second downs.

But Okoye likely will have an important role, particularly as a pass-rushing tackle, perhaps paired with McCoy on third downs. Getting to the quarterback is something he prides himself in.

"I'll play any (position) that allows me to sack the quarterback," Okoye said.

In addition, there is Wallace Gilberry, a former Chiefs defensive end signed in June who is showing versatility, including the ability to play tackle.

Given the lack of great depth and roster limits, the Bucs are stressing flexibility with their defensive line.

"Amobi's more natural (lining up outside the shoulder of a guard). But I think guys can play other things," Schiano said. "Gilberry's playing all over the place as well. That's part of what we're trying to get to in training camp — who fits best."

Price, it appears, did not fit. Now those who do need to prove themselves.

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at sholder@tampabay.com. Follow him on Twitter at @HolderStephen.

How do the Tampa Bay Buccaneers intend to replace traded defensive tackle Brian Price? 07/27/12 [Last modified: Friday, July 27, 2012 9:40pm]
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