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)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris sees a defensive line working to straighten itself out

When the Bucs took the field for Super Bowl XXXVII after the 2002 season, they lined up with a defensive front that would make even the stoutest offensive line sweat.

There was defensive tackle Warren Sapp, a player who redefined the position and one day will have a bust in Canton. To his right was defensive end Simeon Rice, who ranks third on the team's sack list with 691/2 and 13th in league history with 122. Former first-round pick Anthony McFarland was on injured reserve, but the Bucs had underrated defensive end Greg Spires, one of the nastiest and fiercest players you never want to meet.

In his own way, each added to the Buccaneers' legacy of dominant defensive linemen, a reputation that no longer seems applicable as opponents have managed to gash Tampa Bay in the running game and quarterbacks have had their way in the pocket.

Coach Raheem Morris was a low-level assistant on that team but remembers that 2002 unit well. He and his staff know such a cast takes time to develop and/or assemble. But with the Bucs' current group of defensive linemen, Morris is willing to wait because he thinks the end result might well be worth it.

No one associated with the Bucs is predicting today's young defensive linemen will ever reach the level of that championship-winning unit, but the cupboard is far from bare.

The additions of first-round pick Gerald McCoy and second-round pick Brian Price coupled with the return of second-year linemen Roy Miller and Kyle Moore have Morris excited about the future.

"You look at it and you have Roy, you have Kyle Moore, you have Brian Price and you have Gerald McCoy," Morris said. "I'm not saying those are the only guys who are going to play, but that's a nice core group of guys who can grow together."

With the Bucs reporting for training camp Friday, the hope is that these linemen are mature enough to push each other and shorten their learning curves at a position that requires patience. Morris said he saw evidence of that in Miller and Moore last season as rookies.

"Kyle Moore had some growth and development to do," Morris said. "His background and his serious demeanor coming from a winning program (USC), all those things kicked in, and you saw it at the end of last year and going into this offseason. Hopefully it keeps going on that upward (trend) for these guys because, you know as well as I know, not too many D-linemen come in this league and right off the bat become immediate contributors.

"But both of those guys can say they contributed last year."

Miller, in particular, was productive in 2009. He finished with 33 tackles and two sacks despite being a part-time defensive tackle. He and Price are expected to rotate opposite McCoy.

Morris believes the handful of veterans on the line will play an important role in helping this unit meet its once-lofty standards.

"You have Stylez White, you know what he can do," Morris said of a player who has compiled 19 combined sacks in the past three seasons. "He's a pass rusher who's going to give you everything he's got on third down and be somewhat of a pass-rush threat when you need him. You have Ryan Sims, who is going to give you some significant snaps and some run stopping.

"You have Dre Moore, who was kind of in that phase where he had to grow up. Now he's getting better. When I walk in (the practice facility) on July 13 and see Dre Moore in here on back-to-back days, on his own, running with Dakoda Watson, then that's a sign. I don't know what he's going to do in training camp, but just to see that is where you want to go as a program."

Perhaps it's a sign that this is a group of linemen who are taking their mission to heart. That's good, because anyone who has witnessed the nonexistent pass rush the past several seasons probably agrees it's time things change.

For that reason, Morris had better hope his hunch is right and this group gets it done — finally.

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at

Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris sees a defensive line working to straighten itself out 07/24/10 [Last modified: Saturday, July 24, 2010 7:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays late-night bullpen shuffle: Alvarado, Pruitt down; Kolarek up


    The Rays shuffled their bullpen again after Tuesday's game, sending down struggling LHP Jose Alvarado along with RHP Austin Pruitt to Triple-A Durham, and turning next to LHP Adam Kolarek, who will make his major-league debut at age 28,

  2. Rays journal: Alex Cobb brilliant, Alex Colome worrying in 10-inning victory (w/video)

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — RHP Alex Cobb couldn't have been much better for the Rays on Tuesday, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning while working eight solid. And Alex Colome couldn't have been much worse, blowing a two-run ninth-inning lead.

    Rays starter Alex Cobb carries a no-hitter into the seventh and pitches eight shutout innings in his best outing of the season.
  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Pirates game

    The Heater

    RHP Alex Cobb continues to look better and better, which could make the decision whether to trade him tougher. Cobb had a no-hitter through six and threw his biggest pitch with a 1-0 lead in the seventh, getting Josh Bell to roll into a double play.

  4. For good of the Rays, Tim Beckham should embrace move to second

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — The acquisition of slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria said a lot of things, most notably that the Rays are serious about making in-season moves to bolster their chances to make the playoffs, with a reliever, or two, next on the shopping list.

    PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 27:  Tim Beckham #1 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates with teammates after scoring during the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on June 27, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) 700011399
  5. Rays at Pirates, 7:05 p.m. Wednesday, Pittsburgh

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Pirates

    7:05, PNC Park, Pittsburgh

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

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Blake Snell #4 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)