Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Adrian Clayborn

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Since his arrival in Tampa Bay, we’ve heard coach Lovie Smith talk a lot about “Buc Ball". But what that meant exactly never was very clear.

On Saturday, we started to get a picture of what Smith’s been talking about. His defense produced three turnovers and a touchdown in a 27-14 preseason victory against the Buffalo Bills. The offense wasn’t spectacular but it was opportunistic.

Clinton McDonald
Bill Wippert/Associated PressClinton McDonald returned a fumble for a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills on Saturday.
“I talk about a full game," Smith said. “When I say full game I’m talking about offense, defense and special teams. We talk a lot about taking the ball away. We talk about scoring on defense. It’s not a good defensive game unless we’re able to do that. I thought the defense did a great job of setting the tempo on what type of day it will be.’’

Linebacker Lavonte David forced a first-quarter fumble that was recovered by Mason Foster. That set up a quick touchdown by the offense. In the second quarter, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald scored a touchdown after picking up a fumble that was caused by an Adrian Clayborn sack and a Michael Johnson strip.

Is that what Buc Ball is all about?

“Yeah, man," All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “The defense takes the ball away and puts it back in the offense’s hands and the offense puts it in the end zone. That’s kind of what we want to do. It felt good and we want to keep that going. It felt good to actually see it come alive today and now we have to take this into next week and into the regular season.’’

It had been difficult to see any signs of Smith’s philosophy in the first two preseason games, both losses. The Bucs produced only one turnover and the offense was largely ineffective.

But the offense showed some promise against the Bills. With some of the starters playing into the third quarter, the Bucs built a 24-0 lead before the backups let the Bills back in the game. Quarterback Josh McCown completed 13 of 16 passes for 112 yards with one touchdown and an interception. Doug Martin rushed 12 times for 38 yards, Vincent Jackson had five catches and rookie Mike Evans had three receptions, including one for a touchdown.

That’s a pretty good sample of what Tampa Bay’s offense is going to look like.

“I think we had 17 rushes in the first half," Smith said. “That’s what we want to do. To be a running football team you need to have attempts as much as anything."

We haven’t seen all of Buc Ball yet because the team likely is keeping tricks up its sleeve for the regular season. But what we saw Saturday was a rough outline of the type of product Smith wants to put on the field.

Observation Deck: Buccaneers

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith said earlier this week that he wanted to see more sacks and takeaways. Mission accomplished.

Tampa Bay’s first-team defense forced three turnovers in Saturday’s 27-14 victory against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Lavonte David forced a first-quarter fumble by C.J. Spiller that was recovered by Mason Foster. Tampa Bay’s offense punched the ball in for a quick touchdown. Tampa Bay’s offense was far from spectacular, but the defense more than made up for it.

The defense produced a touchdown of its own. As Adrian Clayborn sacked Buffalo quarterback EJ Manuel, Michael Johnson reached in and knocked the ball loose. Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald picked the ball up and ran it in for a touchdown with 8:21 left in the second quarter.

All of Buffalo’s points came in the second half after Tampa Bay’s starting defense had left the game. The Bucs held a 24-0 lead at halftime.

Some other observations:
  • Tampa Bay’s offense hadn’t been putting together long drives this preseason. That finally changed late in the second quarter. The Bucs had an 11-play drive that covered 82 yards and ended with a touchdown pass from Josh McCown to Mike Evans. That shows the Bucs can sustain a drive. But it’s important to remember that we’ve seen only a very small sampling of coordinator Jeff Tedford’s offense. The Bucs are saving most of that for the regular season.
  • I’ve got a feeling what we saw Saturday will be repeated a lot during the regular season. The Bucs played fantastic defense and were rather ordinary (but opportunistic) on offense. That’s not flashy, but that fits Smith’s philosophy perfectly.
  • Smith said he wanted to take an early look at recently acquired defensive end Larry English. He did, putting English into the game early. He responded with two sacks. The former first-round pick by San Diego still faces an uphill battle to make the team but might be gaining ground on Da'Quan Bowers, who missed the game with a groin injury.
  • Smith said he wanted to play his starters into the third quarter. He did play his starting offense into the second half, with one notable exception. Backup quarterback Mike Glennon replaced McCown to start the third quarter. That was a smart move. With the offensive line still a work in progress, there’s no sense in exposing McCown to possible injury before the regular season starts.
  • Linebacker Jonathan Casillas did not play for the Bucs. He was held out for a disciplinary reason, according to a team official. Danny Lansanah got the start in his place and played well. Lansanah has had a strong preseason and appears to have secured a roster spot.

W2W4: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2) and the Buffalo Bills (1-2) play a preseason game Saturday afternoon at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Three things to watch:

1. This will be the game that will determine if the Bucs are content with the guards on their roster or if they get desperate and move someone in from the outside. Oniel Cousins and Patrick Omameh played adequately as the starters last week. The Bucs are hoping for another solid performance from that duo against the Bills. If that doesn’t happen, the Bucs really don’t have any other attractive internal options and they might have to look to make a trade or claim someone off the waiver wire.

2. The Bucs unveiled a no-huddle offense last week and the first-team offense produced a quick touchdown off a turnover. But the starting offense has yet to put together a lengthy scoring drive. With the starters expected to play into the third quarter, it’s time for the offense to show it can put together a long drive.

3. The pass rush hasn’t done a lot in the preseason. The Bucs have produced only two sacks so far. That’s not the kind of production that’s expected from the pass rush in a Lovie Smith defense. Gerald McCoy has been sensational in the middle of the defensive line, but Adrian Clayborn and Michael Johnson have been quiet on the outside. It’s time for them to make an impact.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Da'Quan Bowers is a realist.

A day after coach Lovie Smith implied that Bowers' roster spot could be in danger because of missed practice time due to a groin injury, Bowers said he knows what is at stake.

"Everybody’s on the bubble," Bowers said. "There are a select few guys here that have got their spots. The rest of us are competing for jobs. Nobody’s set in stone, definitely not me. I just take that into consideration each and every day."

Bowers said he understood Smith’s comments and is doing everything possible to get back on the field as quickly as possible.

"You can’t prevent injury," Bowers said. "It happens. Like coach said, any time you can’t perform on the practice field it gives someone else another opportunity. When you do get on the practice field, you’ve got to make your reps count and I think I did a pretty decent job of that this camp with the reps I’ve gotten in the game and in practice. Like coach said, the only way to perform and compete is to be on the field."

The reality is the Bucs are set with Michael Johnson and Adrian Clayborn as their starters. They also are high on backups Steven Means and William Gholston, and newcomer Larry English has made a good impression. Before the injury, Bowers had been getting some work as a defensive tackle.

Bowers' best hope of making the roster is to make a good impression at defensive tackle and convince the Bucs he can swing between the two positions.

W2W4: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

August, 16, 2014
Aug 16
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1) host the Miami Dolphins (0-1) on Saturday night at Raymond James Stadium.

Three things to watch:

The revolving guards. The Bucs still don't know who their starting guards will be. Time is running short to select the starters and allow them to build some chemistry with the rest of the line. Oniel Cousins, Patrick Omameh, Kadeem Edwards, Jace Daniels and Jamon Meredith each have had some work with the first team and no one has stood out in a good way. That needs to change or else the Bucs might get desperate and make a trade.

Josh McCown. The veteran quarterback didn't have a good outing in the preseason opener against Jacksonville. But most of that can be blamed on the offensive line woes. Still, McCown needs a better performance for this offense to build some confidence as it heads for the regular season.

The pass rush. The key to a Lovie Smith defense is the pass rush. There were some signs against Jacksonville that this can be a good pass rush with Michael Johnson and Adrian Clayborn on the outside and Gerald McCoy and Clinton McDonald on the inside.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Adrian Clayborn was a first-round pick in 2011. But the defensive end’s production hasn’t lived up to his draft status.

There are several reasons for that. After a rookie season in which he showed promise with 7.5 sacks, Clayborn missed all but three games with an injury in 2012. He returned last year but was unspectacular with 5.5 sacks. But the injury wasn’t the only thing holding Clayborn back.

I blame the coaching the last two seasons. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano used lots of stunts and rarely let his players rush straight ahead. I think that’s going to change with new coach Lovie Smith, who has followed Clayborn’s career since college at the University of Iowa.

“I liked his motor," Smith said. “He made good plays at Iowa inside and outside. You get to know him and he’s a tough football player that plays hard and can rush inside and outside. That’s a good start right there. We feel like, in our system, defensive ends get a chance to rush the passer. We’re not a team that’s going to slant our line every play where true pass rushers don’t get a chance to show they can beat the guy across from them one-on-one, and hopefully Adrian can do that."

The Bucs have put Clayborn in a "prove it" situation. They declined to pick up his contract option for 2015, making this a contract year. But Smith makes it sound like Clayborn is ready for a breakout season.

“You see the way the guy works out there," Smith said. “He’s a guy that’s putting himself in position to play well. I asked him to drop weight and lose some body fat. Everything we’ve asked Adrian to do, he’s done. He’s been a model guy doing it. I’m anxious to see how he plays. I’ve looked at him from afar for a lot of years. Once you get up close with him, you like what you see. He’s an outside rusher and he needs to be able to rush the passer from the outside when he gets in one-on-one situations, and we think he can."

Buccaneers Camp Report: Day 9

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4
TAMPA, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp:
  • The Bucs continue to experiment with their defensive linemen. They've been giving defensive end Adrian Clayborn some work at defensive tackle. “He's been taking reps all throughout,'' coach Lovie Smith said. “We want to see what players can do. Sometimes a defensive end is a lot quicker and you can get him inside and get a lot of plays when they get against some of the bigger, slower interior lineman. We're a new staff and we want to give guys a chance to show what they can do at as many positions as possible.''
  • The Buccaneers worked on something they didn't have a chance to do much of last season Monday night. They worked on having a lead late in the game. The offense worked on running out the clock. At the same time, the defense worked on trying to get the ball back.
  • Linebacker Brandon Magee drew the wrath of wide Vincent Jackson. Magee hit running back Mike James after he was clearly out of bounds. Jackson, a captain last year, got in Magee's face and gave him an earful.
  • With Verner and Jenkins out, Danny Gorrer has been getting a lot of first-team work at cornerback. Gorrer also is a candidate for the nickelback job.
  • The play of the day was a pass that Josh McCown drilled to Vincent Jackson in traffic.
  • The Bucs waived wide receiver David Gettis with an injury settlement and signed former University of South Florida safety Mark Joyce.
  • The Bucs are scheduled to practice at 4:30 p.m. ET Tuesday.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Buccaneers announced Sunday afternoon that defensive end Ronald Talley has been activated from the non-football-injury list.

Talley had been out since the start of training camp. With the late start, he faces an uphill battle to make a team that has Michael Johnson, Adrian Clayborn, Da’Quan Bowers, Steven Means and William Gholston at defensive end.

Also, the Sunday practice that was scheduled for 4:30 p.m. ET is currently delayed, as there is lightning in the area. The team will wait for the weather to clear. No estimated practice time has been given.
As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers get ready to start training camp Friday, let’s take a position-by-position look at the team. Let’s start with the defensive line.

There have been some major changes here and those changes should lead to improvement. Defensive end Michael Johnson and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald were brought in to help upgrade a pass rush that wasn't very good last season.

All-Pro Gerald McCoy returns at the defensive tackle spot, and he and McDonald should give the Bucs a strong interior pass rush. Adrian Clayborn seems to be the leading candidate to start opposite Johnson. Clayborn, a former first-round pick, has failed to play up to his potential so far in his pro career. And he enters a contract season, too.

But Clayborn isn’t guaranteed a starting job. William Gholston showed lots of promise last season and should at least earn rotational playing time. Steven Means also has some upside. Akeem Spence started last year as a rookie, but he’s likely to be the top backup to McDonald this year.
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NFL Nation's Pat Yasinskas examines the three biggest issues facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers heading into training camp.

Josh McCown needs to play like he did last season: McCown’s been a backup most of his career. But he played the best football of his life last season for Chicago after starter Jay Cutler went down with an injury. That was enough to convince the Bucs that McCown can be a productive starter. McCown has history with Lovie Smith, and he already has established himself as one of Tampa Bay’s leaders. The Bucs have made it clear that they view Mike Glennon as their quarterback of the future. But the best-case scenario is that Glennon never even gets on the field this season. If he doesn’t, that means McCown is playing well. At 35, McCown has a chance to firmly establish himself as a starter for the first time in his career. His chances of succeeding are good because he's surrounded by good skill-position players such as Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans.

Carl Nicks’ health is a key: The left guard played only two games last season while dealing with a toe injury and a MRSA infection. Nicks repeatedly has said he expects to be ready for training camp. But, as of the team’s June minicamp, Nicks hadn’t even started running or cutting. He’s admitted that there is permanent damage to his foot and said he’ll have to play through pain the rest of his career. It all sounds shaky, and you have to wonder if Nicks really can make it back and if he’ll be the same player. The Bucs need Nicks to be what he was earlier in his career. When he’s healthy, Nicks is one of the best guards in the league. He could be the anchor of what has the potential to be a very good offensive line. If Nicks isn’t fully recovered, there’s a sharp drop-off to rookie Kadeem Edwards and veterans Jamon Meredith and Oniel Cousins.

The pass rush needs to flourish: Smith prides himself on having teams that play strong defense. The Bucs seem to have some talent on defense. But to hit their full potential, they need the pass rush to be strong. The pass rush was a weakness last season, and that’s why the Bucs signed free agents Michael Johnson and Clinton McDonald. The Bucs believe Johnson and Adrian Clayborn can bring a strong pass rush from the outside, and McDonald and Gerald McCoy can do the same from the inside. One of the requirements for the Tampa 2 defense is for there to be a strong pass rush from the front four. If the Bucs get that, they’ll be in good shape defensively. The Bucs are in good shape at linebacker and in the secondary. If the pass rush shows up, this defense has a chance to be special.

Buccaneers who need big camps

July, 14, 2014
Jul 14
With the start of training camp only a little more than a week away, let’s take a look at three Buccaneers who need to have big camps to make sure they’re in the starting lineup on opening day.

Defensive end Adrian Clayborn: He will be one of the most closely watched players in camp. Clayborn’s a former first-round pick and still has upside. But his first three seasons have been nothing special. Maybe a new coaching staff can get more out of him. But Clayborn’s draft status means nothing to the current regime. The Bucs also will be looking at the likes of William Gholston, Da’Quan Bowers and Steven Means opposite free-agent pickup Charles Johnson. If one of them steps up, the starting job might not belong to Clayborn.

Middle linebacker Mason Foster: He’s the odds-on favorite to keep the starting job and call the defensive signals. But Foster first must show he can handle increased duties as a pass defender. Very quietly the team signed Dane Fletcher, who can play the middle. If Foster stumbles, Fletcher could end up starting.

Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins: Unlike Clayborn and Foster, Seferian-Jenkins is wed to the current regime. He was a second-round draft pick and that alone should make him a strong candidate to be a starter on opening day. But Seferian-Jenkins had a unique offseason, and that’s why he needs a big training camp. Thanks to NCAA and NFL rules, Seferian-Jenkins wasn’t allowed to take part in the offseason program because of a rule that keeps players from taking part until their college's semester is over. The University of Washington, where Seferian-Jenkins played, is on a quarters system, and that got in the way. Seferian-Jenkins missed out on some valuable practice time and that could put him behind Brandon Myers, Luke Stocker and Tim Wright.
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.
Our pre-draft position-by-position look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers continues with the defensive linemen.

Where things stand: Gerald McCoy has established himself as one of the best defensive tackles in the league and that’s a good start for any defensive line. The rest of the line is loaded with potential, but it’s largely unproven. Defensive ends Michael Johnson and Adrian Clayborn have shown flashes of brilliance, but haven’t been consistent. The Bucs are hoping newcomer Clinton McDonald can become a force in the middle. The change in coaching staffs also could represent a fresh start for defensive end Da’Quan Bowers. His first three seasons have been disappointing, but maybe the new staff can get something out of him.

What to watch for: If everything clicks this could be an excellent defensive line and the foundation for a very good defense The Bucs need Johnson, Clayborn and McDonald to play up to their potential. The core of the defensive line is in place and it’s doubtful the Bucs will use any early draft picks on this unit. But the Bucs could use a later pick or two to add to their rotation on the defensive line.
TAMPA, Fla. -- With the clock ticking, Tampa Bay defensive end Adrian Clayborn doesn’t know if the Buccaneers will pick up his fifth-year option.

"You guys know anything?" Clayborn said when asked by the media if he’d heard anything about his future.

The Bucs have been silent on Clayborn's situation so far, but the deadline to exercise the option is coming in early May. Clayborn remains under contract for 2014, but the Bucs have to decide if they want to pick up the option for 2015.

"They’ll tell me when it’s time," Clayborn said. "Either way, it works out for itself. I still have to have a good year."

That’s a healthy attitude for Clayborn to take. With a strong season, Clayborn can write his own ticket as a free agent if the Bucs don’t pick up the option.

A first-round pick in 2011, Clayborn has had an up and down three seasons. He started off well, recording 7.5 sacks as a rookie. But he suffered a knee injury early in his second season. Clayborn returned last season, but didn’t have the impact he would have liked.

With a new coaching staff, Clayborn is confident he can put his career back on an upward swing.

"It’s been a rough two years for me with me being hurt and then last year not playing the way I wanted to," Clayborn said. "I feel like, with this system, it’s really prime for me to have a good year. It’s up to me to make it happen."
TAMPA, Fla. -- From a media standpoint, it's been a shame that Da'Quan Bowers hasn't done more on the field.

The guy is one of the best quotes in the Tampa Bay locker room. But, through the first three years of his NFL career, the defensive end hasn't been productive -- or relevant. But, as the Buccaneers began a three-day minicamp Tuesday, Bowers was brimming with confidence as he spoke to the media.

"Every year is a crucial year," Bowers said. "But this is a turning point in my career. I expect a lot of good things and I don't think this coaching change could have come at a better time for me."

A turning point in his career? The Bucs would love to see that happen from a guy that once was talked about as the possible first overall pick in the 2011 draft. But there's not a big track record to indicate Bowers can be a special player. He has produced 5.5 sacks over three seasons.

But, like the rest of his teammates, Bowers is getting a fresh start with coach Lovie Smith. It didn't take much reading between the lines to figure out that Bowers wasn't a big fan of former coach Greg Schiano and his defensive scheme.

"I'm not going to go into it," Bowers said. "Just say that we're ready to rush the passer with no restrictions this year. I'm not going to get into last year, but it's a better position for the whole defensive line."

The Bucs signed defensive end Michael Johnson as a free agent and he and Adrian Clayborn are the likely starters. That means Bowers might be playing for a backup role and maybe even a roster spot as he enters the final year of his contract.

Bowers said he takes responsibility for what's happened so far in his career. He currently weighs 280 pounds and wants to get down to 270 by training camp.

It all sounds good. But is it realistic to expect Bowers to suddenly become a star? Maybe so. But it's April, so there's still room for hope.

"It's a fresh start for everybody, myself included," Bowers said. "Last year was a tough year, not only for myself, but for this football team. Everybody's excited to have a fresh start. I'm looking forward to great things."