Rookie RB Doug Martin is the Bucs’ breakout star in 2012 and fourth-year QB Josh Freeman is currently putting up the best numbers of his career. WR Vincent Jackson is flexing his big-play muscle and looks like the free agency move of the year. According to the number crunchers at Pro Football Focus, however, there are also a couple Tampa Bay defenders who are performing among the league best at their positions.
We call your attention to two articles produced by PFF, one on their own web site that gives voters a “Cheat Sheet” to help with their Pro Bowl balloting, and one in the Insider section on ESPN.com that lists the 10 most underrated players in the league right now (you will need an Insider subscription to access that link).
There are four Buccaneers on the Pro Bowl Cheat Sheet produced by Pro Football Focus contributor Khaled Elsayed. Two Bucs on the offensive side of the ball are little surprise – Martin joins Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch as the NFC running back choices and Jackson is one of the four selected receivers along with Roddy White, Brandon Marshall and Percy Harvin.
The other two noted Buccaneers are on the other side of the ball: young upstart Gerald McCoy as one of the three defensive tackles and the ageless Ronde Barber as one of the two safeties.
Elsayed identifies McCoy as the highest-rated defensive tackle in the conference…but more on him later. As for Barber, PFF thinks he has breathed new life into his career with his move to safety. For the folks at Pro Football Focus, Barber, who only converted to the position this year after 15 seasons at cornerback, is one of the NFC’s top two safeties along with Chicago’s Major Wright.
PFF goes deeper into McCoy’s 2012 impact in their piece for ESPN.com on the league’s most underrated performers, as written by site founder Neil Hornsby. Hornsby calls for McCoy to receive the sort of praise that has been directed at the Lions’ Ndamukong Suh (Suh and McCoy went #2 and #3 overall in the 2010 draft) and contends that McCoy has been superior both against the run as a pass-rusher.