The departure of Michael Bennett to Seattle as a free agent has led to a lot of talk this offseason about the need for defensive ends Da’Quan Bowers and Adrian Clayborn to step up and provide pass rush for the Buccaneers next season.
Both players come with question marks. Clayborn is coming off a torn ACL, but is reportedly doing well in rehab and is expected to be ready to go for training camp. Bowers, meanwhile, has started just six games in his first two seasons and has to prove that he’s up to the task of a starting job.
“He has not played any consistent amount,” coach Greg Schiano said, via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. “So if he wants to become anything more than just a situational pass rusher, he’s got to grind through it. He’s got to go through the pain of being an every-down player.”
It could be spun that way, but it doesn’t seem like Schiano’s talking about playing through injuries. Bowers’ ability to play while hurting has been a question for him since he came out of Clemson with a knee problem. Bowers played all 16 games as a rookie, though, and played 10 games last season after tearing his Achilles working out in May. Every player needs to deal with aches and pains, but last year’s experience is a good sign when it comes to Bowers’ willingness to do it.
Whether he can hold up while fighting through blockers at the point of attack to thwart opposing running games is a much bigger unknown and it will be something to watch when the Bucs start facing opposing teams in the preseason.