TAMPA, Fla. – He’s not the first guy you think of when you think about Tampa Bay’s defensive line. But defensive end Da’Quan Bowers might be the most optimistic member of the Buccaneers.
"If I had to use one word to describe our front four this year, it would be 'dominant,'" Bowers said. "I think we have a dominant defensive line. I think we've worked very hard to become one of the focal points of this team and be the leaders on this team. Everything starts up front. If they can’t push the D-line, they can’t gain yards, basically. We've taken pride in run stop as well as pass rush. Everybody wants to talk about pass rush, but we take just as much pride in stopping the run."
Whoa, dominant? Isn't that a little strong.
"Very strong," Bowers said. "I definitely think the rest of the guys and myself can live up to that. We've got great players. We've got a lot of great players. As a collective group, I think once everybody's talents come together, I think it's going to be very special for us this year."
The line could be special if Bowers plays up to the potential he showed in college. Coming out of Clemson in 2011, Bowers initially was talked about as the potential first overall pick in the draft. But questions about his knee dropped him to the second round, when the Buccaneers took a chance on him.
So far, all they've gotten is a situational player. But the Bucs made it clear this offseason that they expect more out of Bowers after letting last season's leading sacker, Michael Bennett, leave as a free agent.
Coach Greg Schiano has said he wants Bowers to be an every-down player. But at times this preseason Schiano has been critical of what he's seen out of Bowers.
"He's invested a lot in me," Bowers said. "He's believed in me. He's given me shots. I owe it to this organization to be that guy to play on any down and play anywhere and be dominant, not just play but be dominant, whether it's on first and second down, whether it's on third down, whether it's right, left or at nose guard. It doesn't matter. Whenever they call my duty it's my job to try to fulfill it the best that I can."
Bowers said he hasn't been hurt by Schiano's critiques.
"Me and Coach have had a lot of talks," Bowers said. "He's been leading me where I want to go. He talks about it all the time that the definition of a coach is to take someone from one place to where they want to be. He's very, very particular about me elevating my game and I appreciate him for that. I think he's done a good job with that over camp. It wasn't easy. It hasn't been easy. It's still not easy, but we've been working toward that goal. I definitely don’t think I've arrived. But I think with the help of coach Schiano and this staff that I can keep getting better and better."