Time will tell if Adrian Clayborn was the right defensive end pick for Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Adrian Clayborn, going for a sack of Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien last season with Gabe Carimi on his back, is tough and relentless, Bucs general manager Mark Dominik says.

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Adrian Clayborn, going for a sack of Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien last season with Gabe Carimi on his back, is tough and relentless, Bucs general manager Mark Dominik says.

TAMPA

This time it will be different.

Won't it?

This time he will work out.

Won't he?

This time the Bucs have taken Adrian Clayborn, a tough kid with a tough background, a kid with a suspicious shoulder but a proven heart. This time they have found a defensive end who is hungry enough, driven enough, relentless enough to make the draft pick look good for years to come.

This time the new Buc will not bust.

Will he?

The Bucs, in their eternal search to draft a defensive end who can make quarterbacks nervous, took Clayborn in the first round Thursday. As always, they like their pick, enough that they looked past other options, such as Da'Quan Bowers and Cameron Jordan. As always, they seem certain of their choice.

This time the Bucs are confident their defensive end will deliver.

Goodness, do the Bucs need for Clayborn to be the answer to their eternal search for a bringer of heat. If Clayborn is the real deal, he gives the Bucs a young, talented defensive line, lining up alongside Gerald McCoy and Brian Price. If Clayborn is the real deal, the secondary just got better. If Clayborn is the real deal, he will help neutralize a division where the opposing quarterbacks are Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and now Cam Newton.

If he is not, the Bucs will gather back here in four years to chase another defensive end.

Did you hear the way general manager Mark Dominik described Clayborn? Just to pick out a few words, he used "toughness" and "motor" and "leader" and "havoc" and "attack" and "relentless."

Did you hear the way coach Raheem Morris described him? His Password clues were "Rambo" and "beast" and "Boydog."

At a time like this, it is recommended you attempt to dispel doubts by remembering how the Bucs have drafted and developed over the past two seasons. There is not a lot of tarnish there.

That said, every organization has missed on defensive linemen over the years None, however, have missed more than the Bucs. It's odd, because the distance between defensive end and the quarterback he is pursuing isn't that far, and the directions to him aren't that hard. Yet, the Bucs keep trying, and they keep whiffing.

Time after time the Bucs have tried, and time after time they have failed. They have drafted players who weren't strong enough (Gaines Adams) and players who weren't swift enough (Ron Holmes) and players who weren't athletic enough (Eric Curry) and players who weren't vicious enough (Regan Upshaw) and players who weren't polished enough (Booker Reese) and players who weren't driven enough (Keith McCants).

It has been a conga line of underachievement, one stiff after another taking turns doing very little. Left tackles in this league have bought yachts from the bonuses they achieved as they blocked Bucs defensive ends.

Yeah, yeah. The Bucs also drafted Lee Roy Selmon with their first pick (though they put him at defensive tackle for a year). Since then, however, the Bucs have picked an overall No. 4 (McCants), another overall No. 4 (Adams), a No. 6 (Curry), a No. 8 (Holmes), a No. 12 (Upshaw), and a No. 2 (37th) and a No. 1 (18th) for Reese.

And they missed on them all. Not one of them ever had a 10-sack season. Not one of them lasted longer than five years with the Bucs. Not one of them ever made a Pro Bowl.

Together, those players spent parts of 29 seasons on the Bucs. The return was 67.5 sacks.

Selmon by himself ended his career with 78.5.

For everyone who suggested the Bucs might end up with a cornerback or an offensive linemen Thursday night, it came back to this. On the Bucs, no position on the field had less production than defensive end last season. Stylez White, for instance, had only 41/2 sacks. And he led the team.

Clayborn should change all that. No, the Bucs say they aren't concerned about the Erb's Palsy in his right shoulder. No, they aren't concerned about the 31/2 sacks he had last year at Iowa. They expect Clayborn to be their right defensive end. In other words, they expected him to play the role of Simeon Rice while McCoy is trying to be Warren Sapp.

So why are we to believe that Clayborn will succeed where so many have failed?

For one thing, the Bucs talk first about Clayborn's motor, his relentlessness. By its nature, defensive end is a relentless position, where a player has to be strong enough to take on the opposing offensive tackle, sturdy enough to play against the run, strong enough to shed a blocker's hands and fast enough to chase down a quarterback. Average one sack a game — just one — and a player is a star. Play the run as well, and a player is a difference maker.

For the Bucs, the choice was always a pass-rusher. Given the 20th pick, the choice was always Clayborn,.

This time we'll see if they have picked the right guy.

Time will tell if Adrian Clayborn was the right defensive end pick for Tampa Bay Buccaneers 04/29/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 29, 2011 12:40am]

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