It’s safe to say that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have severely underachieved after making great progress in 2012. Instead of thinking playoffs, the Bucs are now in position to pick in the top 5 of this year’s NFL Draft.
Injuries have played a key part in this regression, as Tampa has had double-digit players hit the injured reserve this year. However, there are players who have been healthy, but simply have not lived up to expectations. A lot of the team’s units, like the offensive line, fit the bill. So do individual players such as Leonard Johnson, who has consistently been burned in coverage this year. However, the player who sticks out the most to me is Da’Quan Bowers, the third-year player from Clemson.
I will be the first to say that I supported the pick of Bowers in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Had it not been for a knee injury, he would have been a guaranteed top-10 pick. Instead, he fell to Tampa Bay all the way in the second round. That is what I would have called an excellent value pick. Give him a year or so to rest up and develop, then see what he can do.
Unfortunately, he has not been able to do much this year, starting in just two games and recording six tackles and only half a sack. Keep in mind he has played in 11 games, so it’s not like he’s been prevented of opportunities to make an impact and earn the starting defensive end job. His opportunity actually started at the beginning of the offseason, where he was basically given the job after Tampa allowed Michael Bennett to walk in free agency. Bennett, who was one of the most underrated defensive ends last year, excelled at both the run and the pass. The Bucs believed in Bowers so much that they let Bennett sign with the Seattle Seahawks. So far, Bowers has practically nothing to show for it. He has been badly outplayed by Daniel Te’o-nesheim and William Gholston, who were thought to be nothing more than role players.
Bowers needs to step it up, and avoid the label of “Draft Bust.” But most importantly, he needs to prove to the organization that they were correct to believe in him.
And he needs to do it quickly, because time is running out.