General manager Mark Dominik has absolutely nailed some rookie acquisitions over the last couple seasons. Mike Williams in the fourth round has already paid for itself; ditto Preston Parker. Undrafted running back LeGarrette Blount is on his way to being one of the greatest Buccaneer runners ever, and Cody Grimm is proving to be the team’s best run-stopper.
But Adrian Clayborn has a chance to outshine them all. The 20th pick in the 2011 draft has come just as advertised: he’s relentless, angry, motivated, and unshakeable. He leads the team with 7.5 sacks (the most of any Buccaneer since 2007), and is 2.5 quarterback takedowns away from tying the franchise’s rookie record.
He beat the snot out of Dallas left tackle Doug Free on Saturday night, bull rushing the big blocker into the backfield whilst playing the run and the pass. Clayborn’s upper body strength — an alleged weakness prior to the draft — has been his best weapon so far in his young career, and his outright tenacity has already made him Tampa’s best defensive lineman. If Da’Quan Bowers can focus the potential he flashed earlier this season, then, in a few seasons, the Buccaneers might have a defensive line to rival the Spires/Sapp/McFarland/Rice quartet that helped win a Super Bowl.
Did anyone — besides NFL Network analyst Marshall Faulk — expect a Buccaneer victory?
Yeah, me neither. Initially, I took some solace in the team’s weak comeback attempt, and I found myself oddly comforted by the fact that the Buccaneers lost by only 16 points. “It sure beats losing by three scores to bad teams,” I thought, and the more I considered the game, the more depressed I became. Losing by 16 points is never a good thing. Right?
Well, Raheem Morris found reason for optimism. “Fortunately, for us, the team didn’t die on us like last week,” he told The Tampa Tribune after the game. “They fought back, they came back in the second half, they didn’t surrender…”
How nice. The bright side to losing by two scores at home.
Earlier in the week, Kellen Winslow told the media that the Buccaneers would play the Cowboys tough, in defense of their head coach. Several players agreed, and after a 31-15 beatdown, one thing seems clear: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hate their head coach. The team laid down for the third straight week, led in their apathy by right tackle Jeremy Trueblood. He was abused all night by Cowboy pass rushers, and on a key third-and-short early in the game, he completely whiffed on the defensive lineman eight inches in front of him. I’m not even sure he got a hand on him.
Trueblood was one of several Buccaneers who left their effort in the locker room, but his mistakes were magnified; Josh Freeman spent most of the night running for his life, and LeGarrette Blount averaged a paltry 2.3 yards per carry behind his overmatched offensive line.
Tampa Bay wanted to show the country how much they cared for their coach.