Bucs Position Analysis: Defensive Line

Lee MatthewsCorrespondent IMay 14, 2009

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 02:  Gaines Adams #90 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks on against the Kansas City Chiefs during their NFL game on November 2, 2008 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  The Buccaneers won 30 to 27 in overtime. (Photo by: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

New coordinator. Different scheme. Possibly five new starters, plus one playing a different position. Yes, changes have come to the vaunted Tampa-Two. 

Gone: Monte Kiffin,the Bucs' defensive coordinator since arriving with Tony Dungy in 1996. His undersized defensive tackles are being phased out by larger run stoppers. The Bucs will also be less reliant on the Tampa-2, and play more man in the secondary.

Joe Barry returns as linebackers coach after running the Lions' defense the past two seasons. End Kevin Carter, tackle Jovan Haye linebackers Derrick Brooks and Cato June and cornerback Phillip Buchanon were not resigned.

In: Jim Bates. Kiffin's successor is implementing his changes, but he was unable to cover for a lack of talent in his last two NFL stops as coordinator in Denver and Green Bay. Can he cover up the Bucs' defensive flaws as well as Kiffin?

Little was added in free agency (linebacker Angelo Crowell), but rookies Roy Miller and Kyle Moore will step into roles.

Positional Outlook
Defensive line
Once an area of tremendous strength, the defensive line is undergoing a transition under new coordinator Jim Bates.

Bates prefers large tackles who can hold up centers and guards versus the run, as opposed to the undersized, single-gap tackles preferred by longtime coordinator Monte Kiffin.

Steady veteran Chris Hovan (6-2, 295) is not an ideal fit for the scheme, but holds his ground at nose guard. The run defense suffered substantially down the stretch of 2008 while Hovan was played banged up and missed time. But its just who lines up next to him is the largest question.

Fourth-round pick Roy Miller has the size (6-1, 310) the Bucs want, and fits the teams youth movement under coach Raheem Morris.The Bucs would love Miller to win the job in camp, but until then the job falls to underachieving Ryan Sims.

Sims was the Bucs' third tackle in '08, and has a track record of struggling as a starter, going back to his days as a No. 1 pick of the Chiefs. Sims also has the size (6-4, 315), but his stamina and ability are best suited as a reserve.

The situation is similar at end, where the Bucs hope third-round pick Kyle Moore can beat out another former Chief, Jimmy Wilkerson, at left end.

Wilkerson has a career year last season with five sacks, but his versatility to play end and tackle in passing situation make him and ideal fit as a fifth lineman to spell starters along the line.

Right end Gaines Adams faces a make-or-break season. After being chosen with the fourth pick of the '07 draft, Adams teased the Bucs with 5.5 sacks as a rookie--but looked much improved over the second half of the season.

But after posting just 6.5 sacks in '08 and being nearly invisible at times, the Bucs need Adams to step up. Adams has yet to develop a pass-rush move outside of the speed rush, and sometimes still struggles with play recognition, and his slight build.

End Stylez G. White has 13 sacks the last two seasons and will continue work as a third-down pass rusher and spell both ends, but other depth is non-existent. Former fourth-pick Dre Moore and Greg Peterson will compete for addition jobs inside.

Probable Depth chart
DE   Wilkerson      Moore
DT   Hovan          Peterson        Moore
DT   Sims            Miller             Bradwell
DE   Adams          White


Player Outlook
Gaines Adams
Former No. 1 pick being counted on to be Bucs' primary source of pass rush. Needs to show up big in 2009.
Jimmy Wilkerson
Versatile veteran helps the Bucs at end, tackle, special teams. May begin season as starter at left end.
Kyle Moore
Bucs would love for the rookie to be starting at left end--the sooner the better.
Stylez G. White
Has proven uncapable of being a stater, but a reliable third-down rusher. Needs to rekindle pass rush numbers of 2007 (eight sacks).

Chris Hovan

Getting long in the tooth, but Bucs run defense suffered when his injuries mounted in 2008.
Ryan Sims
Resigned in the offseason. Best suited to be a third tackle, but will start until Roy Miller is ready. An enigma who plays well in spurts.
Roy Miller
Third-round pick should be starting soon if his skills translate to the NFL level.
Greg Peterson
Showed ability early in his rookie season of 2007, but invisible and inactive since then.
Dre Moore
Last year's fourth round pick was a disappointment, showing up to camp out of shape. But the door is open for him to contribute.
Chris Bradwell
Bucs thought enough of him from last season's camp to bring him to camp for a second look.