Photos from the Bucs' training camp practice at One Buccaneer Place.
Tony McDaniel has a pretty straightforward explanation of why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who seem deeper at defensive tackle than virtually any spot on their recently-released depth chart, would want to sign him. McDaniel happens to be a defensive tackle by trade, and until very recently he was plying that trade for a team with two straight Super Bowl appearances.
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So why was it the Buccaneers who jumped on McDaniel after the Seattle Seahawks released him in an apparent cap-saving move? Remember, the Buccaneers already have Gerald McCoy, Clinton McDonald, Henry Melton and Akeem Spence at defensive tackle, not to mention some added depth provided by the likes of William Gholston and Da'Quan Bowers? McDaniel thinks it's so his new team can do a lot more of what his previous team has been doing in recent years.
"I think to win ballgames it starts up front, a nice, aggressive defensive line," said the newest member of that line. "The defensive line is already pretty solid here and I think I bring some more toughness. I think with having me here we'll win a lot more ballgames."
That's the top-level concern for the Buccaneers, of course, but it's not that hard to see how the addition of McDaniel specifically improves the team's defense, which in turn improves its chances of winning on any given Sunday. As massively talented as McCoy and his fellow Buc DTs are, McDaniel is a somewhat different commodity. He doesn't have huge sack numbers – 10.5 sacks in 111 career games, including two over the past two years combined – but there's a reason he started almost every game in Seattle the last two years. McDaniel is massive and strong and his presence will help all of the defenders around him.
With his strength and his long arms, McDaniel could also help the Bucs from a number of spots on the line, perhaps even on the edges on running downs.
"I'm about 6-7, 315 right now, so it's kind of my job to eat up blockers and set up my linebackers to run around and make plays," he said. "I consider myself as a hybrid. I think I can play some end, play three-technique and I can play some nose. I can do it all."
Head Coach Lovie Smith agrees and will deploy McDaniel wherever he can help the most, and in whatever combinations the team can concoct out of all their talented DTs. He particularly likes the way a 6-7 player in the middle of the line could mess up sight lines for opposing quarterbacks.
"[He's a] big body, 315-pound guy that can clog up the middle a little bit," said Smith. "Most of the nose guards we've played haven't had that type of height. That's a big wall in front of the quarterback. But he's not just a nose tackle; we think he can give us some reps at the three-technique also. He's played in the league a long time for a reason. He's a good football player we've added to our football team."
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McDaniel spoke to McDonald, his former teammate in Seattle, before signing with the Buccaneers, and McDonald warned him about the heat he was going to experience in Tampa. McDonald may or may not have told him about Gerald McCoy's capabilities, but McDaniel already had a good grasp on that topic.
Pairing a huge man who can occupy blockers with a blur who can take advantage of one-on-one pass rush opportunities could prove quite fruitful for the Buccaneers.
"Since [McCoy] came in the league I've watched him often because I play some three-technique as well," said McDaniel. "I appreciate what he does at D-tackle and I'm excited about being on a team with one of the best D-linemen in the NFL."
If McDaniel thinks his presence can help the Buccaneers win more games, he only has one regret: That none of those wins can come against the Seahawks, at least in the regular season. A couple weeks ago, he thought he was going to be helping Seattle try to make it to a third straight Super Bowl.
"Yeah, I'm a little shocked," said McDaniel. But things happen like that; they said they didn't have any cap space and they've got to move on. You always have an edge when a team releases you. I just wish we played them so I could really show them."