As with his 2010 rookie campaign, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy will end the 2011 season on injured reserve after sustaining a torn biceps.
McCoy hurt his right arm in the first quarter of the Buccaneers' 27-16 loss in the Superdome, and reports surfaced on Sunday evening that his season might be in jeopardy. Head Coach Raheem Morris officially confirmed that information at his day-after-game press conference on Monday afternoon, indicating that the second-year lineman will miss the final eight games of the season. Last year, the same injury to his left arm ended McCoy's season five games early.
Morris said he is not concerned that the two similar injuries indicate any long-term issues for McCoy's career.
"That's football," said Morris. "Matt Stafford missed two seasons for the Detroit Lions and he's probably playing his best football right now. He's got to come back, he's got to rehab, he's got to get his mind right and come back ready to play, and be ready to play a 16-game season."
McCoy had just returned from a two-game absence due to an ankle sprain to play against the Saints. Prior to that injury, sustained in San Francisco in Week Five, he had been one of the team's top defensive performers in the first month of the season. The former Oklahoma star had led the team with 13 quarterback pressures through the first four games and had helped Tampa Bay get off to a 3-1 start.
"You're talking about a top-three pick, you're talking about a guy that gets off the ball and causes disruption," said Morris. "He was playing pretty well for us. He's caused a lot of [havoc]. He's done a great job for us versus the run, he's done a great job with his explosion and get-off.
Unfortunately, McCoy got little opportunity to build on those statistics. He finished his second NFL campaign with 13 tackles, four tackles for loss, one sack and those 13 pressures.
McCoy was the third overall pick in the 2010 draft. Tampa Bay used four first or second-round picks on defensive linemen in the last two drafts, obviously trying to reconstruct the defense from the front line out. The Bucs still expect that to be a team strength over the second half of the 2011 season, but there is no doubt that losing McCoy is a significant blow.
"You lose the get-off, the explosiveness," said Morris. "He makes game plans change. Yesterday they did a nice job of chipping our ends and taking those guys out of the game – they've been playing well – and we didn't have the same inside push that we normally get with a guy like Gerald, or even [Brian] Price or Roy Miller when they've been in there. You could see the difference in our play up front when he was out of the game, how it affects our get-off and some of the things we're able to do there."
McCoy suffered his injury while trying to tackle a running back after getting instant penetration into the backfield.
"It was an opportunity – he got off the ball and he had a chance to make a play on the back," explained Morris. "He kind of reached out rather than putting his face in there. You've got to move into the ball and sky your eyes and hit on contact. He reached at the guy. It's a common mistake, you come off the block and reach for the guy."
The Buccaneers began the season with an effective four-man rotation at defensive tackle, with starters McCoy and Brian Price backed up by Roy Miller and Frank Okam. Okam missed the Saints game due to a calf injury suffered in practice last week and his availability for next weekend's game against the Houston Texans is not yet known. With McCoy and Okam sidelined in New Orleans, the Bucs pressed young defensive ends Da'Quan Bowers and George Johnson into service at defensive tackle on occasion.
Morris said that Johnson and Michael Bennett are his two best options to move from end to tackle in pass-rushing situations, while Bowers can help more on first and second down. The team is also likely to try to add depth at the position in the coming days, according to Morris.