These are interesting times for the Buccaneers defensive leader of the last decade, Gerald McCoy. The former first-round pick and six time Pro Bowler is essentially in NFL “salary cap limbo” at the moment.
And he continues to post on social media with thoughts about his situation and future. The latest example was an Instagram post from McCoy on Wednesday afternoon metaphorically referring to battling through storms or hard times:
That’s McCoy walking in the rain to head into the Buccaneers facility.
So, is that just an inspirational message to those that follow him on social media and to those that have been covering and observing his career in Tampa Bay? Or is he giving insight into the professional situation that he’s in? We at F.F.I. think it’s more of the latter.
It’s a nine year career that has seen McCoy enjoy a lot of personal success in terms of his stats (54.5 sacks), but very little team success, as the Bucs have only had two winning seasons while he’s been battling in the trenches of their defense.
Specifically, the last two years overall were horrible for the Buccaneers defense under coordinator Mike Smith. The 2017 defense was the worst in the NFL in yards allowed and had the fewest sacks of any NFL team.
McCoy was virtually the lone bright spot with six of those, plus another 13 tackles for loss. Yet was surrounded by numerous other defensive lineman, who were never going to start and play significantly for another NFL team.
Fast forward to 2018 with a Buccaneers having traded for Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, signed free agents Vinny Curry and Beau Allen from the Philadelphia Eagles, and drafted Washington massive defensive tackle Vita Vea to bolster their line. The personnel upgrades were there.
Yet, again, Smith’s scheme was awful and the Buccaneers had the worst pass defense and scoring defense in the NFL at the point in which Smith was fired mid-season. McCoy’s numbers and impact we’re just “okay” in 2018 with again six sacks and six tackles for losses.
However, under the interim defensive coordinator, Mark Duffner, the defense overall improved slightly and the Bucs became more competitive. They ended up eventually winning a couple of games and giving some hope that they might get into the playoff chase in December. That’s something that McCoy and longtime Pro Bowl caliber linebacker teammate Lavonte David have never tasted with the Bucs.
Pierre-Paul finished with 12.5 sacks, the most for a Buccaneer since 2005. Vea blossomed over the last eight games of the year and appears to be a solid defensive tackle with great potential to grow.
Still, they faltered as a team and lost their remaining four games to finish 5 – 11 for the second straight year.
So now the question becomes, with Coach Dirk Koetter fired, but GM Jason Licht retained, and a new coaching staff led by Bruce Arians hired, is McCoy part of their plans?
He turns 31 next month, he is slated to make 13 million in salary for 2019, but that money is not guaranteed.
So, much like we wrote on Wednesday about Jaguars veteran Pro Bowl defensive lineman Calais Campbell, McCoy may be in line to renegotiate for lesser overall money. However, he would get some guarantee in the form of signing or reporting bonus for this year. In that case both sides would win.
There’s also been much speculation that new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who will be the six different defensive coordinator the Bucs have had since McCoy was drafted in 2010, runs a 3 – 4 scheme that may not suit McCoy.
McCoy definitely was tweeting about that possibility and whether he would embrace it, just last week:
A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you're in and take advantage of it.
— Gerald McCoy (@Geraldini93) January 17, 2019
If you thought the first tweet was not in reference to football, then there’s no ambiguity about a tweet the following day about playing in different schemes in the NFL:
4-3, 3-4, 5-2, Nose guard, 3-tech, DE, doesn’t matter. Either you can play football or you can’t. PERIOD!!
— Gerald McCoy (@Geraldini93) January 18, 2019
So now we wait to see what the Bucs will work to do.
One big factor in this is McCoy is tremendous in the Tampa Bay community and the owners of the team, the Glazers, have been fiercely loyal to long-time members on the playing field for them, recently. They allowed the likes of Ronde Barber, Derrick Brooks and Mike alstott to finish their careers, as Buccaneers working out contractual details with all of them.
There is another factor, as well: if the Bucs choose to get rid of McCoy, there are numerous teams including in their own division, the NFC South, there will be more than happy to plug him in.
And McCoy would likely be the best defensive lineman on a couple of those teams, too.
And you have to believe that the Glazers and Licht, are fully aware of that potentially disastrous scenario of McCoy burning them with future impact on another rival team, too.
So, now we wait on what, if anything, gets done about McCoy and his money and a possible restructured new deal that keeps him in Tampa Bay.
And, we also continue to pay attention to what the hulking defensive tackle has to say online, while we do so.
Bucs have no reason to doubt this Thomas Sunday
The Bucs prepare for the New Orleans Saints to come to town Sunday and they know that the top defensive priority will be trying to contain the league’s most productive receiver, Michael Thomas.
Thomas is currently leading every important reception and yardage category and is even on pace to break a couple of NFL records. And with Drew Brees back from his thumb injury, Todd Bowles’ Tampa Bay defense had better be up to the challenge.
Thomas currently sits atop NFL receivers in receptions (86), yards with 1,027 and yards-per-game 114.1. He also leads with 52 receptions for first downs and has been targeted 10 or more times in seven of New Orleans’ nine games. That also leads the league.
Needless to say, the Saints will try to establish him at Raymond James Stadium early and Brees will look to go to him ,especially on third down and in the Red Zone, often.
As for the Buccaneers secondary, they’ve already had a shake up earlier this week by releasing former #1 pick Vernon Hargreaves. It should be pointed out that Hargreaves was the guy that was primarily trying to cover Thomas, unsuccessfully, in the first matchup in New Orleans last month.
Thomas had 11 catches (photo above) for a season-high 182 yards and season-high 16.5 average per catch with two scores all mostly against Hargreaves in New Orleans 31 – 24 victory. Plus, it should be pointed out that those throws were also from backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who finished with four touchdowns on the day in the divisional win.
Now, because of Hargreaves’ release, it looks as though the Buccaneers may be putting one of their two rookie defensive backs, Jamel Dean or Sean Murphy-Bunting on Thomas for at least some of this game.
Dean was exposed in the lost to Seattle, where Russell Wilson and the Seahawks pass attack picked on him for big play after big play in Seattle’s 40 – 34 overtime win. However, the rookie out of Auburn redeemed himself last week with a couple of pass breakups and a crucial fourth-quarter interception of Kyler Murray in the Bucs 30 – 27 come-from-behind win over the Cardinals.
Back to the Saints. They are smarting off of a 26 – 9 loss to Atlanta, where they were kept out of the end zone by the Falcons defensive scheme. Part of their success was with six sacks of Drew Brees and mixing up their coverage of Thomas and the rest of the receivers. Now, Thomas still got 13 catches for 152 yards, but New Orleans could not figure out Atlanta, especially after getting into plus territory.
You would have to think that Sean Payton and Drew Brees have studied what the Falcons did and are ready for whatever the Bucs may be trying to throw at the Saints.
Critically, the pass rush and harassing of Brees is something to Tampa Bay will look to utilize with the likes of Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul getting after him. Pierre-Paul did not play in the first matchup, while still recovering from a fractured neck. But, he has already been a force in his first three games back this season.
Barrett leads the NFL currently with the 11.5 sacks through 9 games.
Back to the Pro Bowler Thomas. The Buccaneers may choose to try to double-team him with some safety help to neutralize his downfield effectiveness.
Still, it may be the best strategy to let Thomas get an occasional catch or two, but try to contain the other receivers and harass Breezy enough, just like the Falcons did last Sunday in the Superdome, to get yourself a victory.
Bucs DT Vita Vea got props from NFL Network Wednesday
The Buccaneers got a much-needed win on Sunday over the Arizona Cardinals and Wednesday, the NFL Network wanted to specifically point out the play of defensive tackle Vita Vea.
On the very popular “Good Morning Football” show, co-host Peter Schrager, devoted an entire two minute segments to Vea’s athletic exploits:
Oh, and stay for the Vea high school running back highlights. pic.twitter.com/HqcQdj8spj
— GMFB (@gmfb) November 13, 2019
The massive defensive tackle definitely showcased his offensive athleticism, as a blocker on that key goaline situation, where the Bucs eventually got the game-winning touchdown from running back Peyton Barber.
As Schrager showed, Vea actually got not just one, but three Cardinals blocked or slowed up, to help Barber get around the left end for the clinching score. Schrager also made reference to and had highlight clips of Vea’s Northern California High School exploits, as a 255-pound running back before heading to the University of Washington.
Vea’s athleticism to compliment his size is a big reason why Bucs GM Jason Licht went ahead and drafted him with the 12th overall pick in the 2018 draft.
And while the defensive tackle doesn’t have massive stats this season, he and his linemates or a huge reason why the Buccaneers have been near the top of the NFL in yards allowed rushing this season. This would include holding Cardinals Pro bowl-caliber running back David Johnson to just 2 yards on five carries Sunday.
Vea only officially registered two tackles in the Cardinal game, but that stopped a streak where he had made at least three stops in the previous four games. He has primarily been a compliment next to Pro Bowl veteran Ndamukong Suh and helping jam the middle of the line of scrimmage week in and week out.
As for Vea on offense, coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Jameis Winston both made mention to the media off of Sunday’s game, that Vea is not only a capable blocker, but could also be handed the ball or potentially, even be thrown the ball if needed, in that goal line package that they displayed for the first time on Sunday.
One thing is for sure, starting with this week and the Saints, he now has to be accounted for, if and when, he’s in on offense.
New Orleans’ bigger concern is trying to get Alvin Kamara back going against the tough Bucs run D, which will be led by Vea and his fellow linemen.
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