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Gholston Continues to Gain Ground

Posted Dec 18, 2013

Wednesday Notes: Rookie DE William Gholston is seeing a rapid uptick in his playing time during the second half of the season, and his production is increasing just as steadily...And other notes



STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rookie DE William Gholston has been one of the Bucs' more productive defenders in recent weeks
  • S Mark Barron (hamstring) was among the Buccaneers who were limited at practice on Wednesday
  • Seeking a surge on offense, Tampa Bay will first have to slow down Rams DE Robert Quinn
William Gholston's rookie season in the NFL took a while to pick up steam.  A fourth-round draft pick out of Michigan State by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Gholston made the active roster but was inactive for three of his team's first five games.  He saw limited action against New England in Week Three but did not play the following week versus Arizona despite being among the active 46.  A month and a half into his professional career, Gholston had a grand total of one assisted tackle.

It could have been demoralizing; instead, it was motivating.

"I didn't really know what to expect coming in as a rookie, especially as a junior," said Gholston, who skipped his final season at MSU to jump to the NFL.  "It was difficult to handle, but it fired me up to get better actually. It made me really upset that I had to stand there and watch.  I had a conversation with myself – what am I not doing and what can I do better – and the coaches helped me out, told me what I'm not doing, what I can do better, what I need to improve on.  And I've just been trying to chip away every day."

In reality, Gholston's early trajectory wasn't at all surprising to the Buccaneers' coaches, nor in any way disappointing.  All along, they intended to give the young defender as much as they felt he could handle as quickly as possible without overwhelming him.  They fully expected him to gradually become a more significant part of the defensive line rotation, and in fact, that is exactly what has happened.  Gholston's playing time has been increasing so rapidly in recent weeks that he is now on the field about as much as the team's starter at left end, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim. Best of all, he's producing during that added playing time, making it likely his share will continue to increase.

“Number one, he’s immensely gifted, right?" said Head Coach Greg Schiano of his newest contributor on defense.  "He’s big, he’s fast, he’s long, he’s strong – all the things you want out of a defensive end. [He] came out early, so he’s a little young, right? His best days are clearly ahead of him and what we’ve tried to do is forced feed him without suffocating him, if that makes sense. We’ve given him, what we feel, was as much as he could handle early on and maybe even a little more than he could. Towards the beginning, middle of the season, we probably gave him a little more but Will has really come on and now you can see the light  going on in different parts of his game."

Over the last three games, Gholston has recorded 15 tackles, two tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, two quarterback hits and three passes defensed.  That's actually the best production in that span – statistically at least – of all the Bucs' defensive ends, including starter Te'o-Nesheim and Adrian Clayborn.  Gholston has great size (6-6, 281) for the position and is fast and athletic; now that the mental side of the game is slowing down for him, as it inevitably does for NFL newcomers, that potential is being unlocked.

-- DE W. Gholston has seen increased playing time in recent weeks
"[It's a matter of] taking in knowledge and absorbing knowledge and having to apply it as fast as you do out there," he said.  "It is a faster pace, so adjustments and reads are real fast.  Once you get that down, then everything else, your physical attributes, catch up."

Now that he's moved past the frustration of the first month of the season, Gholston can look back on it as a very valuable learning experience.  At different times he has been asked to play on the scout-team defense and the regular defense at practice, and when the two sides split up to do separate work, he even sometimes gets the vantage point of mimicking the opposing offense and seeing how his fellow ends respond.

"At first it was a little bit difficult, but with all the practice, all the reps, being on the scout team and being on our defense, and doing some offensive scout team, it gives you a chance to really take it from another perspective," he said.  "Seeing it from three different phases helps you out because there are a lot of things you have to read.  There are a lot of things you have to do in one play.  But as time progresses you learn to absorb it and process.  Now it's clicking for me."

* S Mark Barron finished Sunday's game against San Francisco with a mild hamstring injury, which meant he was added to the list of players who have recently been getting extra rest on Wednesday when the next week of practice begins.

That list continues to include wide receiver Vincent Jackson (hamstring) and guard Davin Joseph (knee), a pair of 30-year-old veterans who have been managing minor ailments for much of the second half of the season.  The extra rest each week has helped both players suit up for all 14 games and even play some of their best football down the stretch.  Barron is only in his second season, but he was kept to a limited amount of work on Wednesday with the goal of getting him ready for the next game day, as well.

LB Lavonte David, who missed a handful of snaps in Sunday's game against San Francisco, is also working through a mild hamstring strain but he was full-go to start the week on Wednesday.  The full injury reports for both teams are below:

Buccaneers:

Player

Injury

Practice Status

DE Da'Quan Bowers

Knee

Limited Participation

S Mark Barron

Hamstring

Limited Participation

LB Lavonte David

Hamstring

Full Participation

WR Vincent Jackson

Hamstring

Limited Participation

G Davin Joseph

Knee

Limited Participation

G Carl Nicks

Foot

Did Not Participate

DT Akeem Spence

Wrist

Full Participation


Rams:

Player

Injury

Practice Status

WR Tavon Austin

Ankle

Did Not Participate

RB Daryl Richardson

Thigh

Did Not Participate


* Through the first 10 games of the 2013 season, Tampa Bay's offensive line did not allow its quarterbacks to be sacked more than three times in any given outing.  Over the last four, however, QB Mike Glennon has been dropped 14 times, including four last weekend against San Francisco and a season-high five in Carolina in Week 13.

Now, as the Buccaneers look for a way to break out of their recent offensive slump and finish the season strong, they have to face the leading sack artist in the NFL, St. Louis' Robert Quinn, on Quinn's own turf.  Not only does Quinn have 15.0 sacks on the season – second in the entire NFL to Robert Mathis' 16.5 in Indianapolis – but he has also forced seven fumbles.  Glennon referred to those numbers as "alarming" on Wednesday.

“We have to, as an offensive game plan, take account for him because he’s such a good player," said the rookie passer.  "Just from a game plan standpoint we’ll have to account for him and then me just knowing to squeeze the ball in a little tighter and step up in the pocket or whatever it may be. I also have great confidence in our offensive line that they’re going to do a great job against both of those ends.”

Playing right end, Quinn will be the primary responsibility of left tackle Donald Penn, who just a few days ago had to deal with the sack-happy Aldon Smith.  On Wednesday, Penn pointed the finger at himself, saying he wasn't happy with the way he performed against the 49ers and is determined to finish the season with two stronger performances.  He'll have one of his toughest tests of the year in which to prove himself on Sunday in St. Louis.

“I think he’s becoming a much smarter player," said Penn of the Rams' third-year pass-rusher.  "Last year, I think he was just going in and playing. This year, you can tell, I think he’s putting in some film work, a lot of film work, and studying the guys he’s going against and using what they do wrong to his advantage. He’s playing consistently. He’s playing great football. He’s really playing his butt off this year.”

Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan confirmed that the Buccaneers will pay special attention to accounting for Quinn when they set up the game plan this week.

“That’s my job and so we have to find a way," said Sullivan.  "There are very specific things and it’s probably not unlike what a lot of teams will try to do, we just have to put our wrinkle on it and how we have things set up schematically.  From a protection standpoint there are plays that you don’t want to call if he’s on the field. There are plays that you are going to make sure that you have set to him. There are runs that you are going to want to do to go ahead and try to wear him down. But he’s a phenomenal talent, a great player."

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