Tampa Bay’s fourth-ranked run defense will be pitted against the NFL’s leading rusher this Sunday when Jamaal Charles and the Chiefs come to town. No single Buccaneer will be responsible for slowing Charles down, but DT Gerald McCoy has been as effective as any Tampa Bay defender so far this season and will surely lead the charge. Of course, this isn’t the first time that McCoy has been charged with the task of stopping Jamaal Charles.
McCoy and Charles were high-profile Big 12 foes for two seasons during their college days, with Charles’ final two years at Texas coinciding with the middle of McCoy’s four seasons at Oklahoma. Each player enjoyed one win in the Red River Rivalry, and now both have gone on to very promising NFL careers.
“This ain’t my first go-around playing this guy,” said McCoy. “I played him for two years at OU. He’s dynamic. He’s always been good, always been an animal. When he gets in space, he’s got some juice to him. But we have to do what we do, and we’ve got to be on it.”
Charles exploded for nearly 1,500 yards in 2010, his third season, but missed almost all of 2011 with a torn ACL. He has quickly re-established himself as an NFL star in 2012, rushing for 551 yards through the Chiefs’ first five games.
McCoy is just now in his third NFL season and it may be as revelatory as Charles’ was. He missed three games at the end of his rookie season and 10 more last year due to separate arm injuries, which meant the flashes of brilliance he showed in 2010 and 2011 had yet to blossom into stardom. Through four games this season, however, he has three sacks plus another five tackles for loss and leads all NFC down linemen in stops made behind the line of scrimmage.
Head Coach Greg Schiano, who took over the Bucs’ helm in January and inherited McCoy as one of his cornerstone players, has not been shy about predicting big things for his big interior lineman. The opening month of the season were no real surprise to him, but Schiano thinks McCoy has just scratched the surface so far.
“I think Gerald has had a good first quarter to the season,” said the coach. “I think what he’s done has whet his own appetite and ours for what can be in the future here. He continues to get better. Today I thought he took a step. He did a couple of things that I challenged him on and I think he got better. The thing that’s nice about Gerald is he has the ability to be a superstar in this league yet he takes coaching very well and wants to get better. That’s a good combination to have.”
During training camp, McCoy lauded the work that Schiano’s coaching staff was doing with the team in terms of tackling technique, saying he was learning some things he hadn’t been taught before. That caused some over-the-top extrapolation in the media regarding the quality of his previous coaching, which was not his intention. What it also did was underscore Schiano’s point, that McCoy is hungry for any coaching and information that will make him a better player.
Schiano knows that McCoy has the raw talent to thrive under proper instruction.
“I just think his get-off is elite,” said Schiano. “When you have such quick twitch and can get off, you get into a guy and that’s how the havoc starts. When you move him inside, stunt in, stunt out, go straight, now the offensive lineman has to kind of sit there for a second. He just can’t fire out and hit him. That’s very helpful for Gerald; I think that puts him in an advantageous position.”