The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have some big decisions this off-season. The biggest decision on the table is whether or not to keep Gerald McCoy. McCoy has been the best player on the defense for the better part of the past ten seasons. In 2018 however, his play may have declined slightly and now his $13 million dollar price tag is becoming an issue. With talk of a new scheme coming to town should the Bucs seriously consider moving on from the perennial Pro Bowler?
Does He Fit The Teams Plans?
New Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles is in town and with him comes an aggressive scheme. It looks to be drastically different than the one that McCoy has been playing under since being drafted in 2010. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have run a 4-3 Tampa 2/Cover 2 scheme since the beginning of time. That defense usually calls for the pressure to be provided by the front four. McCoy has been one of the best at bringing pressure from the defensive tackle position since coming into the NFL.
Todd Bowles has ran a 3-4 scheme in New York and Arizona that calls for the pressure to come from the second, and sometimes, third levels. He has experience running multiple packages including a 4-3 but he is mostly know for having three down lineman. McCoy could play from a defensive end spot in an odd front, but is much too small for the nose tackle position in the middle. Gerald is at his best when bringing pressure from the B gaps as a three technique. The big issue? That has always been with three other lineman around him. In an odd front the defensive lines job is to control the line of scrimmage and to help prevent the offensive lineman from getting to the linebackers. That also helps the linebackers get the sacks and make big plays.
That just doesn’t fit what McCoy does at this level. If that’s what the defensive staff asks of him that will be a costly way of wasting his talent.
Big Money for a “Declining” player
Gerald McCoy has always been one of the best 3-techniques at getting to the quarterback averaging 6.8 sacks a season. This past campaign he ended with six sacks. He also had 21 QB hits which is tied for second most in his career. His play has never been as exciting as Warren Sapp, but he has always been a force in the middle. He has been looked at as the silver lining in all the terrible defenses he has been in and this past season was more of the same.
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The only true critique I have always had about McCoy is the lack of forced fumbles he creates. In his eight season as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer he has forced just six fumbles. That is an incredibly low and somewhat shocking number. He has been great at creating pressure and getting to the mark but he hasn’t created the plays that kill drives. Aaron Donald is a freak of nature but this past season alone he forced four fumbles.
Tampa Bay doesn’t have the talent to consistently stop offenses without forcing turnovers. Their best players have to be playmakers on the defensive side and getting the ball out has to become way more important.
2019 or Bust
This coming season should be Gerald McCoys last as a Buccaneer. He will finally have a Head Coach in Bruce Arians that will demand greatness from his star players. He will also expect the team to make the postseason. In his eight years in the league, McCoy has been to the playoffs zero times. It would be great for him to finally get over the hump with the team that drafted him 3rd overall.
This team doesn’t have the players to truly transition to a 3-4 this year, barring a huge turnover of talent. In my honest opinion the team can’t afford to get rid of one of their best and most talented players. They can easily run an aggressive form of the 4-3 defense and keep him in Tampa. It makes the most sense if they also plan on keeping defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and his $14.5 million price tag. Neither player truly fits a 3-4 scheme and would be pretty poor team building to keep just one of the two, as they compliment each other.
The decision to keep McCoy is big and somewhat monumental. He has been a true professional in his time here and a great leader on and off the field. He is expensive but his talent is still as good as before, maybe a hair slower but faster than 75% of the league. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers should look to either restructure his contract or just pay him his base rate for the next season, and run it back again in a more aggressive scheme.