All you need to know about the performance of the Bucs defensive line in 2009 is this: Tampa Bay ranked dead last against the run, allowing 4.8 yards per carry and 158.2 per game. That kept opponents' chains moving and the ball out of the offense's hands.
The problem is most pronounced at tackle. Veteran Chris Hovan likely saw his last season as a starter as he isn't nearly the player he once was. Ryan Sims is probably best utilized as a rotation player rather than someone who plays the majority of the snaps. Look for Roy Miller to have an expanded role in his second season.
At end, Stylez White, left, is manning the right side for now with the left side up for grabs. Kyle Moore and Tim Crowder are likely to fight it out. The team's results in rushing passers were only a bit better than its performance against the run, with Tampa Bay tied for 26th with 28 sacks.
What they're looking for
The Bucs, having reverted to the Tampa 2 system late last season (with coach Raheem Morris' own twist), are looking for their tackles to play a one-gap style that allows them to attack a single gap rather than attempting to make reads then attack one of two assigned gaps.
That means rather than brute strength, it's possible they could place more emphasis on speed and quickness in the interior of the line. Under former coordinator Jim Bates' scheme, the thinking was the linemen would bulk up to play the two-gap style the Bucs abandoned.
On the edges, the Bucs are in sore need of a more consistent pass rush. Opposing quarterbacks had far too much time to find receivers and picked apart the secondary.
Fitting the bill
Considering the shift in scheme, Oklahoma tackle Gerald McCoy, left, could be seen as a better fit. He is the penetrating, disruptive force the Bucs seek, though that doesn't necessarily make him a better player than Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh, who played in a different scheme in college.
Top 10 prospects
|Player, vital STATS||Comment|
|DT Ndamukong Suh Nebraska, 6-4, 307||Lombardi Award winner|
|DT Gerald McCoy Oklahoma, 6-4, 295||Possesses great quickness|
|DE Derrick Morgan Georgia Tech, 6-3, 266||ACC defensive player of the year|
|DE Jason Pierre-Paul USF, 6-5, 270||Thin resume but great athleticism|
|DT Dan Williams Tennessee, 6-3, 327||Had 25 tackles for loss during career|
|DE Brandon Graham Michigan, 6-1, 268||Led NCAA with 26 tackles for loss last season|
|DE Carlos Dunlap Florida, 6-6, 277||Superb athlete with great speed|
|DE Everson Griffin USC, 6-4, 273||Intriguing prospect as 3-4 outside linebacker|
|DT Brian Price UCLA, 6-1, 303||Pac-10 defensive player of the year|
|DT Jared Odrick Penn State, 6-5, 304||First-team All-Big Ten with seven sacks in 2009|
Gerald McCoy, from all indications, will probably fall to the Bucs at No. 3. Beyond that, look for Tampa Bay to grab a defensive lineman somewhere in the second to fifth rounds.
Stephen F. Holder, Times staff writer