The only time Adrian Clayborn operates at half-speed is when he's searching for the right words to say.
The first-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is soft spoken during interviews, reluctant to give himself too much credit for a solid performance through his first seven NFL games.
The rookie defensive end out of Iowa prefers to let others speak for him, and it doesn't take much coaxing.
"Adrian Clayborn has changed our entire defensive line with how he rushes, the pressure he puts on quarterbacks and his constant effort,'' said defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay's first-round choice in the 2010 draft. "It doesn't matter how many times he gets hit hard, he's still going to attack you all game.''
Clayborn, who leads the Bucs with three sacks and 14 quarterback pressures, has fulfilled Tampa Bay's hopes for a physical presence off the right edge.
"He's doing a great job and getting better every week,'' Bucs first-year defensive line coach Keith Millard said. "Clayborn works hard in practice, he's focused and he's doing a lot better job against the run now. He's improved night and day in that area to become a well-rounded end in this league.''
On Sunday, Clayborn will line up against Saints left tackle Jermon Bushrod at the Superdome, determined to shut down the run game before taking aim at Drew Brees, who leads all quarterbacks in pass attempts, completions and yards.
Clayborn prides himself on a relentless style that has quickly made him a favorite among teammates and a player that has caught the attention of opponents.
"He's physical, he's got a variety of pass rush moves and he loves playing,'' New Orleans coach Sean Payton said. "The one thing I would say about Adrian Clayborn is he's 100 mph for every play – and that is a fantastic trait for any player.''
The Bucs failed to sack Brees in 45 pass attempts during their 26-20 victory three weeks ago in Tampa, but a consistent rush contributed to three interceptions.
According to Millard, Clayborn was in position to drop Brees at least two times. Clayborn can't wait for Sunday's rematch, with first place in the NFC South on the line.
"I've never played against the same team twice in a season,'' said Clayborn. "We had good pressure against Brees, but we didn't get any sacks and we've got to get there. I know I can do more. I'm doing all right, but I'm not where I need to be to help out the team completely. I'll get there. This season's going well for me, but I set high expectations for myself.''
McCoy, expected to return Sunday after missing two games with an ankle injury, is eager to rejoin his dynamic partner on the right side.
"Clayborn has picked things up so fast,'' McCoy said, shaking his head at his teammate's skills as a quick learner. "He wants to be great and I think he's playing as well as any rookie in this league.''
Clayborn has learned some new pass rush moves from Millard, whose 18 sacks for the Vikings in 1989 still stands as an NFL single-season record for defensive tackles.
In turn, Clayborn has energized Millard.
"Great attitude, great work ethic … awesome,'' Millard said of his prized rookie. "We've got another big challenge this week and I wasn't satisfied at all with the first game against New Orleans. Clayborn had Brees twice in his arms and he got away.
"Like we say in our room, pressure is pressure and sacks are sacks. We've got to get Brees on the ground. We can do better and we will do better. I've got a lot of confidence in our young group and working with Adrian Clayborn has been a lot of fun.''
For opposing coaches game-planning against the Tampa Bay defense, "fun'' is not a word that springs to mind when describing Clayborn's impact.
"Clayborn plays with great energy and great effort,'' Payton said. "To see him do that as a rookie certainly has given Tampa a shot in the arm in their pass rush. He's just a very good football player.''