REAR ENTRIES: Defensive Linemen You Should Know
August 30, 2011 at 11:11am by Scott • 3 Comments »
MICHAEL BENNETT: I’ve been pulling for Michael Bennett to get more playing time since last season, especially since Steve White was also advocating it (I rarely have an original idea of my own). So far this preseason, Bennett is showing why he’s deserving of it this offseason.
Since the day he stepped out on to the practice field at One Buccaneer Place and blew past right tackle Jeremy Trueblood to drop running back Earnest Graham for a loss in the backfield, Bennett has played like a man with his hair on fire. The Texas A&M product has been virtually unblockable in practice and in the preseason games where he has started at right end and recorded six tackles, two tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks and was involved in a safety in Kansas City.
Da’Quan Bowers jumped out of the blocks on fire this offseason and I was convinced he would start the season at left end. Hell, Bowers could have been a top ten pick if not for his knee. But Bennett took the Bucs’ drafting of Bowers as a challenge and now it looks like Bennett’s spot to lose.
“Yes it is,” Bennett said. “It is a challenge. Sometimes when you’re back against the wall that is when you play your best. It is a good thing. It is always good to have somebody behind you that you know and not so much as a battle thing because most defensive players is a collective group thing. That feels good that we have a group of guys that go in there and everybody is held to the same standard and that are the kind of standards that we have this year.”
If Bennett performs at this level all year long, he’s going to force the Bucs to make a tough decision next offseason when Bowers’s draft slot may force them to start him and cut Bennett loose. He’ll be a hot free agent if he lands on the market.
FRANK OKAM: Brian Price and Roy Miller, the two guys we thought would battle for starting nose tackle, have both been hurt this offseason, leaving Frank Okam to plug the hole. And what a plug he is.
“It all starts in the middle,” Okam said. “My job is to clog up the middle, help free up others and to make plays when they come at you. I’m not making excuses for my size. It is what I’ve been given and it is my skill set, and I am trying to take advantage of it.”
The Bucs’ roster has him listed at 350 pounds, but no one believe that anymore. Everyone is throwing 370 around as his real weight but who the hell knows. Either way, he’s bigger than anyone the Bucs have had for quite a while.
“Okam is a space-eater, a penetrator and a problem,” Raheem Morris said Monday afternoon.
I’ve been told my penetration is a problem sometimes. Sorry, ladies. Without my glasses I don’t have very good aim.
Morris thought he would try to get Okam to lose some weight, but he was moving around so well for such a big body that he decided against it. And Morris let slip that Okam has made the roster.
“He is unique. Roy [Miller] has played great for us and [Okam] will definitely go in there and play for us.”
Honestly, Okam has played so well at the nose that I don’t know that he hasn’t earned the starting job. I have yet to see evidence that Roy Miller is playing better than Okam.
GEORGE JOHNSON: Who is currently leading the NFL preseason in sacks? George Johnson, that’s who. He’s tied with a couple other guys around the league with three sacks.
With the Bucs typically keeping eight defensive linemen, but wanting to increase its pass rush in 2011, Johnson could solidify a roster spot and force Tampa Bay to keep nine defensive linemen with a strong showing in Washington on Thursday night. Because Morris plans on not playing his defensive starters in the game, Johnson figures to receive a lot of playing time in the second half of the team’s preseason finale and will have plenty of opportunity to state his case for being on the 53-man roster in Tampa Bay – or elsewhere.
Okay, so who would the eight other defensive linemen be? Gerald McCoy, Adrian Clayborn, Da’Quan Bowers, Roy Miller, Brian Price, Tim Crowder, Michael Bennett and Frank Okam, right? So if they’re going to keep nine, Johnson is battling with Kyle Moore for that spot. Keep an eye on both of those guys during the Washington game to see who plays for their job better.
And I’d like to congratulate George Johnson for having the most normal name in football.