Michael Bennett is close to joining a very exclusive club in Buccaneers franchise history. Currently, that club has just seven members: Lee Roy Selmon, Broderick Thomas, Santana Dotson, Chidi Ahanotu, Warren Sapp, Marcus Jones and Simeon Rice.
Those are the only Buccaneers who have ever racked up at least 10 sacks in a single season. With three games to go, Bennett has nine. He needs just one more to be the first Buc to crack double digits in that category since Simeon Rice had 14.0 in 2005, the last of Rice’s five straight years over 10.
The fourth-year defensive end, who originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2009 and is only this year become a full-time starter, has admitted that a 10-sack season is among his goals. Whether or not he gets one more sack to get there, he has had a marvelous season in 2012. In addition to his QB sacks, Bennett has been a force for the league’s top-ranked run defense; by some measures, he has been the best run-stopping left end in the league.
Last Sunday’s game against Philadelphia may be an indication that he is going to finish the season strong, too. Bennett had four sacks in the first month of the season, but he and the entire Buccaneers’ front line went into a bit of a lull in midseason after the season-ending injury to 2011 sack leader Adrian Clayborn in Week Four. Against the Eagles, however, Bennett racked up two sacks, four tackles for loss and four quarterback pressures.
According to the stat-crunchers at Pro Football Focus, in fact, Bennett was the top-performing 4-3 defensive end in the entire NFL in Week 14. PFF credits Bennett with a whopping 10 “quarterback disruptions” and puts him in the same company, at least last week, as the Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul. (PFF puts two Buc defenders on its Team of Week 14, also suggesting rookie LB Lavonte David had his best game of the season.)
Gerald McCoy also had two sacks from the under tackle position against Philly, and Clayborn’s replacement, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim recorded his third QB takedown of the year. With Clayborn returning and Bennett potentially coming off the Bucs’ first 10-sack season in seven years, the Bucs’ pass rush looks like it will be in good shape in 2013.