One of the NFL's most ardent proponents of the Tampa 2 defense suggests any team playing the scheme made famous by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be foolish to pass up the top two defensive tackles in the April draft.
Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith praised Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy of Oklahoma as difference makers, particularly for clubs like Chicago and Tampa Bay that utilize similar defensive principles.
"I think in general, inside pass rushers are the closest guy to the quarterback and a dominant player right there, especially for our defense, it makes our defense tick,'' Smith said at the annual NFL combine in Indianapolis. "It's the reason why we paid our defensive tackle (Tommie Harris) more money than we have any other player on our team.''
The Buccaneers own the No. 3 overall pick and most talent evaluators have Suh and McCoy ranked as the top two prospects on the board. Both appear well-suited to excel in a four-man front at the next level, with Suh relying more on strength and McCoy considered the more polished pass rusher.
The Rams, sitting at No. 1, desperately need a franchise quarterback to build around and there is growing speculation St. Louis will bypass both McCoy and Suh to select Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, who must prove he has overcome shoulder injuries that wrecked his 2009 season.
Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo was asked whether teams at the top of the draft are generally reluctant to shell out big money for a defensive tackle.
"I don't think you can look at it that way,'' he said. "I mean, you take the pick that's best for the football team, and the support of the ownership takes care of that (rookie contract).''
With Harris slowed by injuries, the Bears have struggled in recent years. When Harris is at the top of his game, Smith has seen the former Oklahoma standout make everyone around him better.
"It's very important to have a disruptive guy there that can create havoc,'' Smith said, "a guy that will make teams double-team him. From what I am told and what I have seen, the top two players in the draft have that kind of ability.''
The Bucs have lacked that type of defensive tackle since Warren Sapp departed to Oakland as a free agent six years ago. Tampa Bay's rush defense was abysmal in 2009 and there was little push up the middle to collapse the pocket.