If I had to pick a Tampa Bay player that’s in for a breakout season, I’d go with defensive end Adrian Clayborn.
The guy was a first-round talent coming out of college in 2011. He showed some promise as a rookie, but his past two seasons have been interrupted by injuries. With a new coaching staff that’s not going to run nearly as many stunts as a year ago, Clayborn might be able to thrive.
The Bucs brought in Michael Johnson to play right defensive end, but defensive line coach Joe Cullen said Clayborn will get to rush the passer from both sides and he has high expectations for the fourth-year player.
“When I look back at Adrian, I look back at his rookie year when he had his hand in the dirt all the time, just going vertical, getting off the ball, being disruptive, 7 1/2 sacks from the right side,’’ Cullen said. “Then he had the injury and then you look at last year, he had 19 1/2 tackles for loss, 5 1/2 sacks and three of them were on the left side. And it was a little bit different scheme but still he’s rushing from that side, so he’s going to play both sides. Michael’s going to rush from both sides.’’
Johnson got big money in free agency and the Bucs are counting on him to be their top pass-rusher. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Clayborn ends up playing a big role.