Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

New Buc Wilkerson fits right into defensive line

The Bucs were happy when Jimmy Wilkerson, sacking the Jaguars’ David Garrard, became available as a free agent.


The Bucs were happy when Jimmy Wilkerson, sacking the Jaguars’ David Garrard, became available as a free agent.

TAMPA — The Chiefs figured Jimmy Wilkerson was expendable given last season's top-flight combination of defensive ends — former first-round pick Tamba Hali and All-Pro Jared Allen.

That's when the Bucs helped themselves to free agent Wilkerson and the Chiefs soon realized their blunder.

"We knew he had a chance to be a very good end for us," Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said. "They had two really good ends in Kansas City. Of course, then they lost Jared Allen. I don't think at the time they thought they were going to lose him, so we snatched (Wilkerson) up and we got us a pretty good football player."

These days, the Bucs are starting to get an accurate read on how good a player they landed. Allen forced a trade to the Vikings in April after Wilkerson was already settling in with the Bucs.

And Wilkerson has looked particularly comfortable in his new digs, registering a pair of sacks, a fumble recovery and a pass defensed during parts of three preseason games.

But, really, the Bucs are still learning the full extent of his game.

Wilkerson is effortlessly showing he can play either defensive end or defensive tackle, but one constant is his ability to apply pressure from just about anywhere. It's looking like a prerequisite in these parts with Wilkerson, Kevin Carter and Greg White capable of playing inside or out.

"You don't see that everywhere, to have (multiple) guys on the team who can play inside and outside," Wilkerson said. "If (defensive tackles) Chris Hovan or Jovan Haye or Ryan Sims go down, then they know myself or Kevin Carter can step in and play (defensive tackle) and we can always play outside if needed, too."

Wilkerson wasn't the prize catch of the offseason, but he has opened eyes and is giving coaches something to ponder as they sort out the defensive line rotation.

"He's positioned himself good," coach Jon Gruden said. "He plays inside and out, he's rushing right and left end and over the guard. And on special teams, he's a guy who can play on the punt team. He's really done it all."

If Wilkerson continues his push and his role is expanded, he will steal someone else's snaps. That someone could be White, though Kiffin hesitates to go there just yet. If Marques Douglas makes the final roster he, too, might have to cede some playing time to Wilkerson.

"You don't ever have enough rushers in weather like this," Kiffin said. "As hot as it is, when you get to third down, believe me, we'll even take another good rusher. You have to keep those guys fresh, especially in the second half when it's real hot."

And when there are injuries, it's paramount to have a deep rotation. That's why Wilkerson's ability to play tackle during Haye's lengthy absence due to a groin injury has been critical. Kiffin pointed out that most players who switch between end and tackle typically play inside only in passing situations because they primarily are pass rushers. But, he said, Wilkerson can take the job to the next level.

"He can play (defensive tackle), if need be, on a run down, because he plays the run pretty good," Kiffin said of Wilkerson, who has sufficient bulk at 6 feet 2 and 290 pounds.

The 27-year-old Oklahoma University product looks like a good bet to make the Bucs' final roster, with the league mandating the team reach 53 players by Saturday afternoon. But Wilkerson wouldn't hear of it and quickly dismisses shoo-in status.

The efforts of other linemen continue to bring out the best in him. Likewise, it's clear his efforts certainly are putting pressure on others, too.

"You have to have competition to make your defensive line better," Wilkerson said. "If you don't have that, guys start thinking, 'I've got this job wrapped up.' Here, guys are competing and that's going to be really good for this defense."

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at

New Buc Wilkerson fits right into defensive line 08/26/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 2, 2008 6:44pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Blue Jays game

    The Heater

    C Wilson Ramos, coming off major right knee surgery, understandably often takes it easy running the bases, though it's not always a good look. But he hustled when he needed to Tuesday and got the Rays a run by beating out a two-out infield single.

  2. Rays are full of ideas they'd like to share when commissioner visits

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Commissioner Rob Manfred is coming to the Trop today. Hmm. Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg will be there to greet him. Hmmmm. And they have a scheduled joint media session. Hmmmmmmmmm.

    Commissioner Rob Manfred isn’t expected to say anything definitive about the Rays’ stadium situation when he visits the team today.
  3. Rays vs. Blue Jays, 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Blue Jays

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman laughs after Houston Astros' Carlos Beltran reached first on an infield single during the fifth inning of a baseball game Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
  4. For starters: Rays vs. Blue Jays: Looking to make it 2 in a row


    UPDATE, 5:52: Cash said the off-day should have done the Rays good after losing 12 of their last 16 games and 20 of their last 30, with just one day off in that stretch:

    Chris Archer will be on the mound for the Rays.
  5. Commissioner Manfred to visit Trop Wednesday for Rays-Blue Jays


    Commissioner Rob Manfred is slated to be at the Trop on Wednesday.

    Commissioner Rob Manfred is slated to be at the Trop on Wednesday.