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Bucs try yet again for double-digit sacker

Simeon Rice, left, sacks the Bills’ J.P. Losman as Anthony McFarland closes in at Raymond James Stadium.
Simeon Rice, left, sacks the Bills’ J.P. Losman as Anthony McFarland closes in at Raymond James Stadium.
Published Aug. 5, 2015


This is ridiculous. This is embarrassing. This is so deflating, the NFL should hire an investigator.

Tell me, when was the last time a Bucs player had at least 10 sacks in a single season?

"It was Simeon Rice in 2005, right?" said defensive end George Johnson. "That's crazy."

There are certain things you should be able to count on in life. Starbucks should never run out of coffee beans. And the franchise that brought you Lee Roy Selmon, Warren Sapp, Rice and the Tampa 2 defense should not go nine seasons without one player hitting double-digits in sacks.

"I haven't thought a lot about it, and that's totally unacceptable," coach Lovie Smith said.

Put it this way: 75 different NFL players have had 10-sack seasons since the last time the Bucs had one. In fact, 38 guys have done it more than once. DeMarcus Ware has done it eight times, Jared Allen seven.

Rice, now 41, has been retired from pro football for seven years. In his 12-year career, he averaged 10.16 sacks.

"We talk about getting pressure with our four-man rush," Smith said. "Part of that normally says one of our outside guys has to have 10-plus sacks. I mean, that's the standard for an outside pass rusher — 10 plus sacks."

But the last time it was done by a Bucs player, Lance Armstrong was winning his seventh Tour de France. He and Tiger Woods still had not been caught with a bad lie.

Two years ago, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy came oh-so-close but finished with 91/2 sacks. "Can they count the one I had in the Pro Bowl," he once asked playfully.

McCoy, the No. 3 overall pick in 2010, is one of 15 defensive linemen the Bucs have drafted since '05. That sad sack-less list includes first-rounders such as Adrian Clayborn and the late Gaines Adams. Adding to the problem is the Bucs have selected only one defensive player —linebacker Kwon Alexander — in the past two drafts.

Aside from McCoy, nobody has really sniffed double digits. Michael Bennett, an undrafted free agent, had nine sacks in 2012 before he was allowed to leave via free agency for Seattle to clear a starting spot for defensive end Da'Quan Bowers.

The Bucs had high hopes for Bowers, who led the nation as a junior at Clemson with 151/2 sacks. The Bucs drafted him in the second round in 2011, but he has been a disappointment. In four seasons, Bowers has seven sacks. He was re-signed to play defensive tackle two weeks ago.

McCoy is the Bucs' best hope to break the streak. But given his dominance inside, a defensive end should trip into 10 sacks every year.

That's where guys like Johnson, Jacquies Smith and T.J. Fatinikun come in. Johnson, who entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie from Rutgers, was cut three times by the Bucs. After stints with the Rams and Lions, the Bucs obtained Johnson from the Lions in April. After racking up six sacks in Detroit last season, he's expected to start for the Bucs at left defensive end.

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"Every player coming in isn't a high pick that you expect him to become a really good defensive end in the league right away," Lovie Smith said. "I'd say most of them come about it the other way where you don't know a lot about them, you put them out there and you see that they kind of take off."

The Bucs claimed Jacquies Smith off waivers from Buffalo before Week 1 last season. But once he got the scheme down, Smith started eight games and was second to McCoy with 61/2 sacks. He is expected to start at right defensive end.

"This year, they're expecting big things from me and I expect big things from myself," Jacquies Smith said.

This time a year ago, Fatinikun was a security guard at Westgate Lakes Resort and Spa near Orlando. Jon Robinson, the Bucs director of player personnel, was reviewing some Arena Football League tape and saw Fatinikun's four sacks and three forced fumbles with the Predators, signing him to the practice squad. He was activated for the final 10 games.

Fatinikun's family came to the United States from Nigeria when he was 9. "We literally had nothing," he said. "I've seen my dad work through the day and all night, knowing he was working to make our lives better. He told me to keep moving forward no matter what."

Could this be the year? Or is the Bucs pass rush headed for a decade of decay?

"As we become a better defense that will change," Lovie Smith said. "We've got some guys capable of doing that."


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