Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Pre-Draft Position Analysis: Defensive Ends

As we continue our position-by-position look at the Bucs' roster prior to this month's NFL Draft, we look next at the defensive ends, where the team currently has short numbers but big expectations for 2009

adams04_16_09_1.jpg

DE Gaines Adams has 12.5 sacks through his first two seasons

As in previous years, Buccaneers.com will use the weeks leading up to the NFL draft to take stock of each position on the team. We will look at the team's draft history at that position, recent additions, current depth and potential starters and what players might be available to the Buccaneers through free agency and the draft. As usual, this analysis is not intended to reflect the intentions or strategies of the team's personnel decision-makers. Today we focus on the defensive end position, a spot from which the team is determined to get more production in 2009.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' team sack totals for the last four seasons, starting with 2005: 36, 25, 33, 29.

In the eight seasons that preceded 2005, the Buccaneers' defense racked up an average of just over 43 sacks a year. No matter what the other numbers say – Tampa Bay still finished first in the NFL in overall defense in 2005 and second in 2007 – that elevated sack total is something the team has sorely missed.

That's one reason the team brought in Jim Bates to serve as defensive coordinator after the departure of the now-legendary Monte Kiffin. In his five seasons as the defensive coordinator (and for a part of the fifth season, head coach) in Miami (2000-04), Bates led a defense that averaged over 42 sacks per year.

Obviously, the personnel in Miami (read: Jason Taylor) had a lot to do with the Dolphins' pass-rushing success. The thought, however, is that Bates' aggressive scheme, with the cornerbacks contesting receiver routes more directly, will take away options for the quarterback, forcing him to hold the ball a split-second longer. That, in turn, will unlock the deep potential of such pass-rushers as Gaines Adams, Stylez G. White and Jimmy Wilkerson.

Adams, in fact, has been compared to Taylor, in terms of both the type of player and the situation he finds himself in. Taylor averaged 5.5 sacks over his first three seasons, then exploded for 14.5 in his first year under Bates. Adams has averaged 6.3 sacks over his first two NFL campaigns.

Adams would appear to be the key to the Bucs' efforts to get pressure off the edge in 2009. Heading into this year's draft, the team has just four ends under contract: Adams, Stylez G. White, Jimmy Wilkerson and Louis Holmes. However, there is promise in the rest of the group, too.

White had an out-of-nowhere eight-sack season in 2007 after coming over from the Arena League, then followed with five more last year. Wilkerson had only one sack in five years in Kansas City but got a much larger share of playing time in his first year with the Buccaneers and contributed five sacks of his own. Holmes is an unproven commodity after signing as an undrafted free agent with San Francisco last May.

Still, given the sheer numbers at the position, it would seem likely that the Buccaneers would add several more defensive ends before training camp, whether through the draft, the post-draft signing period or the remaining weeks of free agency. Whether or not the position is a target early in this month's draft, it is always on the team's radar screen. It's hard to pass up an opportunity to make your pass rush better.

But before we take a look at what's still available in free agency or what might be added via draft, here is a list of the players currently under contract at the position:

**Defensive Ends Currently Under Contract**
**Player****Exp.****2008 Tackles-Sacks)****Career (Tackles-Sacks)**
Gaines Adams355-6.5110-12.5
Louis Holmes*1N/AN/A
Stylez G. White340-5.090-13.0
Jimmy Wilkerson728-5.0137-6.0

* - Spent parts of 2008 rookie season on San Francisco's practice squad

Like much of the team, the Buccaneers' defensive line appeared to struggle at the end of the season. During a fine five-game stretch from Weeks 8-13 (including a bye week), the Bucs racked up 14 sacks and allowed 101 rushing yards per game…and, not coincidentally, won four of those games. Then, in the season's final four weeks, the Bucs collected just four sacks and allowed 189 rushing yards per game.

Obviously, the D-Line doesn't shoulder all the blame for that rough finish. Still, Adams and crew would like to take their early-season success (they also had 11 sacks in the first four games) and sustain it over a full 16-game season.

Here's a more in-depth look at some relevant numbers to the defensive end position:

Defensive End Position Numbers:

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