While watching a Senior Bowl practice from an end zone seat at Ladd Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama a few years back, then Atlanta Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith was asked for his opinion of Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.
“In Atlanta we have a name for guys like Gerald McCoy,’’ Smith said. “We call them game wreckers.’’
It’s 2016 and Smith is thrilled that McCoy is still on the Buccaneers D-line.
And, when asked this week during an ESPN interview, which player he had to game plan around most, Falcons Quarterback Matt Ryan said the old game-wrecker himself, G-Mac.
“I think it starts up front,’’ Ryan said. “Every week you have to start from the front and work your way back and Gerald McCoy for me is one of the better defensive linemen in the league.
“He’s a guy that you’ve got to account for every snap to make sure our run plays, our pass protections are all set with him in mind. That’s where it starts for us.
“I also think they’ve got two outstanding linebackers. Alexander and Lavonte David are two guys that are underrated in my opinion. They’re both really athletic, they can run sideline to sideline really well and can make plays, so it’s a really good front seven.’’
Ryan should know. On the final 4th down in overtime at home last year, it was McCoy who blasted through, grabbed his legs and forced him to fling the ball harmlessly to the turf, as the Bucs stopped Atlanta and won 23-20 in modified sudden death.
Ryan’s take on McCoy is worth noting. There’s no question McCoy’s talent is taken for granted or underappreciated here in Tampa. That’s never been the case inside other NFL locker rooms.
Look, McCoy may not be the best defensive tackle in football anymore. Many, perhaps even McCoy, will argue that Aaron Donald has replaced him at the top of the list. No matter, he’s still a serious threat, especially, if single teamed.
And Sunday, he may just pick up being a “game-wrecker.”