The Buccaneers are counting on Da’Quan Bowers to fill an important spot in the lineup this year.
But first he has to dig himself out of a hole he spent part of the offseason digging for himself.
Bowers is trying to bounce back from a number of issues, both injuries and a gun charge, which even though dismissed, embarrassed him. Now, he’s trying to finally make good on the potential he showed in college, after registering just 4.5 sacks in his first two seasons.
“When I came out of college I wasn’t ready,” Bowers said, via Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune. “I was coming off an injury and I wasn’t ready to fulfill the duty of being a starting defensive end at this level. But it wasn’t just the injuries. It was my play. I haven’t been the dominant player that I can be.
“And I’ve worked hard at it, but I’m still trying to be an elite player in this league and so I still have to dig myself out this ditch that I dug myself into. That’s what this offseason is for, and I’m very confident I can do it.”
Bowers talked about eating right and staying in shape and the usual offseason patter, but he also knows there’s a much greater burden on him this year.
When the Bucs let Michael Bennett walk in free agency, it put pressure on him and Adrian Clayborn (their first two picks in the 2011 Draft) to create some degree of pass rush.
But Bowers has dealt with knee and Achilles injuries, and Clayborn’s coming off a knee problem of his own.
Bowers’ February arrest for carrying a gun into LaGuardia Airport was another distraction, even though he told authorities it was there and wasn’t prosecuted for the charge.
“Right decision [to alert authorities] or not, it was a mistake, and there is no right way to make a mistake,” Bowers said. “That’s not the type of person I am. And I appreciate [general manager] Mark [Dominik] and the Glazer family [that owns the Bucs] and coach [Greg] Schiano for supporting me through all that.”
In many regards, they have no choice, as Bowers represents their best chance to fill the production Bennett took with him to Seattle.