Adams, White Have Friendly Rivalry
By Roy Cummings | Tribune StaffTAMPA - A rivalry is brewing inside the Bucs' locker room. In particular, it's brewing inside the Bucs' defensive meeting room. Don't worry, it's not that kind of rivalry.
Published: September 28, 2008
Published: September 28, 2008
It's more of a friendly competition, but already it has spilled beyond the walls of One Buc Place.
Tuesday, on the players' day off, Gaines Adams took Kong, his 42-pound brown boxer, to Greg White's house just to prove his dog is bigger than White's, a 42-pound white boxer named Blitz.
"We were really just clowning around,'' Adams said. "But my dog is bigger. It's a boy. His is a girl.''
It's like that on the field, too, the two defensive ends constantly nudging and elbowing one another in an attempt to get out front as the Bucs' most noted pass rusher.
"I want to be the sack leader, and he would like to be the sack leader, too,'' White said with a smile. "Right now, I'm ahead.''
It's a slim lead. White has 3.5 sacks; Adams, two. But Adams has an interception return for a touchdown. Don't think he hasn't let White know it.
"They do ride each other a little bit about who's getting more sacks and who's getting more pressures,'' Bucs defensive line coach Todd Wash said. "They definitely are competing against each other, but that only makes us better.''
In one respect, it's made the Bucs better than most every team in the league. Only Green Bay, which Tampa Bay plays today at Raymond James Stadium, has had two ends produce more sacks than the combined 5.5 by Adams and White in the first three weeks of the season. The Packers' Aaron Kampman has four and Cullen Jenkins two.
The Bucs duo also has combined for four tackles for losses, including three by White, and 11 quarterback hits, with six by Adams. So, this clearly is a duo for which opponents suddenly have to game plan.
"Definitely,'' Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "We have to be aware of those guys and be solid in our communication and protect the quarterback.''
The Packers have done a pretty good job of that so far this year. They've allowed opposing pass rushers to get to Rodgers just six times, which ranks 11th in the league. But Adams and White present a unique challenge.
When they're in the game together, which is usually on passing downs, Adams moves from his usual spot on the right end to left end and White takes over as the pass rusher on the right side, the blindside for right-handed quarterbacks.
That set doesn't necessarily confuse opposing tackles, but it presents a difficult adjustment because Adams and White have different skill sets.
Adams is still primarily a speed rusher, though his technique and fundamentals have improved markedly since he came into the league as the Bucs' first-round draft pick last year. White, meanwhile, is a power rusher.
"They really complement each other with their different styles," Wash said. "And by flipping them, the tackles never really know what they're getting.''
Wash has seen marked improvement in both second-year players.
"Gaines is starting to understand what we call the approach to the pass rush," Wash said. "Last year he was just using his speed and running around people, not understanding angles and set points. But now he's really starting to study offensive tackles more.
"Last year he was just using his athletic ability. This year he's become more of a student of the game.''
Bucs left end Kevin Carter and nose tackle Chris Hovan are among his teachers. Adams says those two have done a lot to aid him in a development he didn't realize he needed until he got here.
"I knew it would be an adjustment coming to the NFL, but I didn't realize how big of an adjustment,'' Adams said. "It didn't take me long to figure out that the things that worked for me in college weren't going to work here.''
What worked for Adams in college was athleticism. He didn't need a lot of swim moves or counter punches to get to the quarterback at Clemson, but he needs them here. Thanks to Carter, Hovan and teammate Jovan Haye, he has them now.
"They taught me so many little things,'' Adams said. "Things like turning your hips and dropping your shoulder, things that have allowed me to feel a whole lot more comfortable out there.''
White's studies have focused on the art of the counter move. An Arena League star who finally stuck with an NFL team after six years of trying, he had a pretty good one when he joined the Bucs last year.
It was so good, he led the Bucs with eight sacks. He realized, though, that he needed more moves to truly excel and has developed some, according to Wash.
"I'd like to think I have a lot of moves, but really, whatever works, I'm happy with,'' White said. "As long as I can beat 'em around the corner and get to the quarterback, that's what I want.''
What the Bucs want from Adams and White this year are 20 sacks, minimum. And while they really don't care how they come by that number, the ideal is for each to get at least 10.
Expectations like that, of course, only help to fuel their little rivalry, which quickly gained a new battleground after Adams laid claim to a slight victory in the size comparison between Kong and Blitz.
"Yeah, his dog is a little bigger,'' White said. "But mine is better looking.''
Reporter Roy Cummings can be reached at (813) 259-7979 or at firstname.lastname@example.org