Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, now in his third NFL season, is leaving no doubt as to why he was the third overall pick in the NFL Draft in 2010.
The Bucs’ 2012 defense hasn’t been perfect through one month of play – the team is right in the middle of the NFL rankings for points allowed – but it has been wildly more successful than a year ago at making plays behind the opponents’ line of scrimmage. The pressure that McCoy has supplied in the middle of the defensive front – an elusive trait on any defense that the Bucs have been searching for since the days of Warren Sapp – has led the charge.
McCoy, in fact, has been the best defensive linemen in the NFC in producing plays behind the line of scrimmage through four games.
Overall, the former Oklahoma star has 11 tackles, five tackles for loss, three sacks, six quarterback hits, one pass defensed and one forced fumble. His sacks plus his three “stuffs” – tackles made for loss on running plays – puts him among the league leaders in combined plays made on the opponent’s side of the line of scrimmage. He is one of only eight defenders in the NFL with at least a half-dozen such plays, and the only defensive linemen in the Bucs’ conference on that list. Houston’s J.J. Watt tops that list with 12, with Denver linebacker Von Miller and Dallas linebacker DeMarcus Ware next at seven.
Head Coach Greg Schiano was convinced early this offseason that he had a pillar for his defense on hand in McCoy, who had missed all but six games the previous season due to injury. Schiano has been impressed not only by how hard McCoy worked to return from that injury but also how hard he plays the game on a weekly basis.
“Some guys play really hard, they just are not that talented, and at the end of the game they don’t have much to show for it other than a lot of great effort,” said Schiano. “Gerald is both. He has talent plus he plays really hard, and he has a lot of pride both personally and defensively and that is what makes him the competitive player that he is.”