A lot has gone wrong for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season, but games like the team’s 27-6 blowout win over the Buffalo Bills remind us all of the bright spots. Yes, not everything was good as Mike Glennon was terrible and the Bills did whatever they could to give this game on a platter to the Buccaneers, but we once again got to see three elite defensive players on the Buccaneers play at an elite level. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, linebacker Lavonte David, and cornerback Darrelle Revis play for a 4-9 team with big issues at DE and CB depth, but those three have really helped carry this team forward and are among the best defensive players in the league.
Don’t believe me? Sunday’s game was a showcase for the skills of all three of these players, and they delivered by teeing off of Bills rookie QB E.J. Manuel, holding the opposition to just one converted third down on 11 attempts, and also by totally dominating talented RB duo Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.
Gerald McCoy? He was one of the best defensive players this week with three hits on the quarterback, five solo tackles that highlighted a great game as a run defender, a sack, and the Pro Football Focus also credited him with five hurries. Those pass rushing statistics would be very impressive for a defensive end, but they are downright nasty for a 4-3 DT. And honestly, that’s just how you can describe McCoy‘s play this season- downright nasty. I’ll always remember the beating he put on Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons a few weeks ago, and even this big game against Buffalo couldn’t top that performance against their NFC South rivals.
It’s fair to wonder where McCoy’s place among the best 4-3 DTs is, and it’s definitely fair to say that he’s a better player than Ndamukong Suh, who was a highly touted DT prospect in the same draft class. The Suh vs. McCoy debate is too complicated for a few sentences in one posts (it needs a few paragraphs at the very least to be properly addressed), but McCoy has been so dominant as a pass rusher that it’s fair to wonder if he is indeed the better player. The man simply dominates at the point of attack, and he’s a more consistent player than Suh. Plus, he’s quietly stout against the run, and he’s a sure-fire All-Pro player. Seriously, anyone leaving him off of their All-Pro list is either snubbing him, or I’m not rating Jason Hatcher (or someone else) high enough.
Darrelle Revis and Lavonte David are also All-Pro players, and the David pick in last year’s draft encapsulates just how good Mark Dominik’s 2012 draft class was. Mark Barron is decent, Doug Martin had a big rookie year (we can’t rate this year’s performance), but David has been the star of the bunch despite being selected after Martin and Barron.
What really impresses me about David is the fact that he is such a great all-around linebacker, and it’s not often that a player becomes this good at every facet of the game in just his second year. The Nebraska product also has all the makings of being a team leader on defense, which is also of high value at LB. He’s athletic enough to cover players and does a nice job of defending and intercepting passes, and his ability to blitz as a 4-3, WILL can’t be underrated either. David’s run defense stands out the most to people- and rightfully so- but his coverage has really come on strong this season, and that’s what separates him from a lot of other players.
David has been racking up big numbers all season long (sacks, interceptions, tackles…you name it), and he added to his total by recorded nine tackles, a sack, a QB hit, a tackle for loss, and two picks. Those two interceptions went for 57 yards in total, and David now has five interceptions on the season. He is simply making plays all over the field, and his 17 tackles for loss this year lead all linebackers. This is a guy who has to be accounted for every week, and he is another sure-fire All-Pro player and should already be regarded as a true star on defense in this league.
Although Darrelle Revis has always been held in high regard and is firmly entrenched as a superstar, it’s still always a joy to watch him play out there. The Buccaneers were criticized earlier this year for not playing Revis in man coverage, and some criticized Revis for not covering well in zone. But I think people were looking at the No. 1 receivers’ overall stats against the Bucs instead of looking at what Revis was doing in zone coverage independent of what was around him, and this led to Revis receiving undeserved criticism. In fact, he was dominant in zone, but him being in zone coverage brought Dashon Goldson‘s and Barron’s flaws in coverage to the forefront. Those two form a solid tandem at safety, but I’ve always been of the mindset that they are playmaking safeties and clearly not coverage safeties.
But when Revis was shifted back to man coverage, he definitely didn’t miss a beat and was predictably even better. The Bucs pass defense fell into a place a little bit more, and it’s been great watching Revis shut down No. 1 WRs. He’s still the best pure cover corner in the NFL, and he can shut down just about anyone due to his elite physical tools and elite mental tools. Revis has the total package, and the package the Buccaneers sent to the New York Jets in the offseason was well-worth it.
Revis shut down old foe Stevie Johnson yesterday and even added a sack in the process, and it’s clear that he hasn’t suffered any sort of decline due to last year’s ACL tear. He’s still elite, and the Buccaneers have a building block in the secondary to build around. McCoy, David, and Revis give the Bucs three excellent pieces on defense to build around, and they conveniently play at different levels of the defense and don’t seem to be slowing down at any point. Just like we saw on Sunday, these three players can take over a game at any given moment, and they also consistently find ways to impact the game even when they aren’t directly involved in the play.