TAMPA — The Bucs have spent much of the past several seasons looking for some consistency in their pass rush.
Just because Bucs defenders found their way to the quarterback five times in Saturday's 17-13 preseason win over the Dolphins, that doesn't mean the days of defensive dominance are back.
But it's certainly a step toward the ultimate goal.
"Being aggressive up front, that's just been the history of the Tampa Bay defense for years and years," defensive tackle Frank Okam said. "We're just trying to bring that back."
The five sacks and six total quarterback hits were a good start. What's better is that much of the quarterback heat came from the primary members of the defensive line rotation.
On the Dolphins' first play from scrimmage, quarterback Chad Henne was sacked by defensive end Michael Bennett. Bennett also barreled through a gap and dropped running back Reggie Bush for a loss of 3 yards. Bennett later left after taking a shot to the head that made him wobbly, but he said afterward he would be okay.
Ends Da'Quan Bowers, Tim Crowder and George Johnson, and linebacker Dekoda Watson also had one sack apiece.
Watson's sack was particularly notable. In the so-called "Redskin" package, in which the second-year linebacker lines up as an edge rusher, Watson raced in to take down Henne and jar the ball loose. Bush recovered and was dropped for no gain.
"For myself, it's just confidence," Watson said of his recent improvement. "The more I've been working with (defensive line) coach Keith (Millard) the better I've gotten. … It's about the season. This preseason stuff doesn't even matter. Got to keep getting better."
What Watson and every other edge rusher said is that the pass rush is vastly improved because of the play of the interior linemen also is improved. The sacks often are a direct result.
Roy Miller remained sidelined with a knee injury, and Brian Price played a bit in his first preseason action. So, the defensive tackle play figures to get even better.
Okam dropped Bush for a loss with a violent hit. And he took on double teams.
"Everyone who gets one on ones, we challenge ourselves to never lose," Bowers said. "Every time we get one, we have to win. We don't get many, so we have to win."