Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has a message for all those who don’t consider him a Pro Bowl player.
“I’m not a Pro Bowler — not anymore,’’ McCoy said Tuesday, the second day of Tampa Bay’s offseason program. “That was last year. I haven’t done anything this year. Right now, I’m just a guy. That’s my motivation.’’
McCoy has good reason to be motivated. Though his peers voted him onto the NFC’s Pro Bowl roster last season after he recorded 30 tackles, including five sacks, he was part of one of the most enigmatic defenses in NFL history.
The Bucs ranked first in the 32-team league against the run in 2012, but last against the pass, thanks largely to a pass rush that tied for 30th overall with 27 sacks.
“You can’t be first here and last there,’’ McCoy said. “That just doesn’t mix. So, we definitely have to improve. But we need to focus on being a better defense overall, not on just one area.’’
The focus right now, McCoy said, is on rebuilding a brotherhood within a group that lost two of its better and most popular players when left end Michael Bennett and tackle Roy Miller departed during free agency.
The Bucs plan to replace those two starters with third-year pro Da’Quan Bowers at left end and free-agent acquisition Derek Landri at nose tackle. McCoy is excited about the changes and disagrees with anyone who thinks the Bucs are counting on unproven players such as Bowers, Landri and third-year right end Adrian Clayborn to lead their defense.
“People always like to say that nobody’s proven anything,’’ McCoy said. “We’re really not worried about them proving anything, because we know what they can do, and when those guys get going it’s hard to stop them.’’
The only thing that stopped Bowers and Clayborn last year were injuries. Bowers missed the first six games with a torn Achilles tendon, and Clayborn missed the last 10 with a knee injury.
Both can be dynamic when healthy, McCoy said.
“Clayborn, when he was healthy, he was as green as it got, but he still had 71/2 sacks as a rookie,’’ McCoy said. “There have been guys with better numbers, but for a rookie season for a guy that’s just green, that’s great.
“And Bowers came back in mid-season (last year) and had (three) sacks and actually had two taken away from him. So, he could have had (five sacks) from midseason on. So, yeah, I’m excited about them.’’
McCoy is just as excited about the prospects for the Bucs in general. After going 7-9 last season and losing six games by fewer than seven points each, he believes the Bucs are capable of making the jump to prominence this year.
“I don’t think we’re far off,’’ McCoy said. “It’s a game of inches, but those little things can be the difference between making the playoffs or not. It can be between making the Super Bowl or not.
“But we’re making sure right now that those little things are getting smaller and smaller and smaller until they’re just not there anymore, and then we are what we want to be, which is in New Jersey (for the 2014 Super Bowl).’’