Bucs load up on defense in NFL draft
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tampa Bay's determination to restore a once fearsome pass rush didn't stop with the selection of Gerald McCoy.
A day after taking the former Oklahoma star with the third overall pick in the NFL draft, the Buccaneers surprisingly added another defensive tackle — UCLA's Brian Price — early in the second round.
It didn't matter that McCoy and Price played the same position in college, or that a year ago the club used a third-round pick on Roy Miller, another a young tackle coach Raheem Morris feels has a chance to develop into an outstanding pro.
"It starts up front around here. It's always started up front. That's never been truer," said Morris, who also serves as his own defensive coordinator.
"Get those guys up front humming and it makes your linebackers better, your secondary better, the guy calling the plays better, everybody better."
One of the keys to the Tampa 2 defensive scheme that was the backbone of the Buccaneers for more than a decade is having disruptive tackles who cause pass protection problems and can get opposing quarterbacks on the ground.
Morris thinks he has three of them now, giving the Bucs the depth necessary to stay fresh and apply constant pressure in the intense Florida heat.
"We were very creative last year with some of our tackles and some of our schemes," the second-year coach said. "With (McCoy and Price) coming in, all kind of thoughts go around in your head, especially as a defensive coordinator."
In addition to bolstering a defense that ranked last in the NFL against the run and tied for 26th in sacks a year ago, the Bucs entered the draft needing to add some offensive playmakers around young quarterback Josh Freeman.
It seemed logical they might go for a receiver with the first two second-round picks. Instead, they went for Price at No. 35 overall before finally turning their attention to offense with the selection of Illinois receiver Arrelious Benn four spots later.
To get Benn, who led Illinois in receiving each of the past three seasons, general manager Mark Dominik traded up three spots in the draft order.
In addition to receiving the second of Tampa Bay's two second-round picks — No. 42 overall — the Oakland Raiders also got a fifth-round pick from the Bucs.
Receiver became a high priority after Antonio Bryant was not re-signed after last season's 3-13 finish.
Benn had 38 receptions for 490 yards and two touchdowns at Illinois last season. He was a 1,000-yard receiver in 2008, but his statistics lagged a year ago after the Illini changed offensive coordinators and quarterbacks.
"When you turn on the tape, you see a guy who catches the football and then after he catches the football, he's tough to get on the ground," said Morris, who has known Benn since the Bucs coach was an assistant at Kansas State and tried to recruit the receiver to sign with the Wildcats.
K-State's quarterback at the time was Freeman, Tampa Bay's first-round pick a year ago.
"Maybe it was meant to be," Benn said of being united with Morris and Freeman, who was 3-6 as a starter as a rookie.
Price was the Pac 10 defensive player of year at UCLA last season, when he made 23 1-2 tackles for loss and had seven sacks.
The Bucs were impressed with the 6-foot-1, 303-pound Price during the prospect's predraft visit to Tampa, and Morris noted that a team that practices every day and plays half its game in Florida's extreme heat can never have too much depth, especially on the defensive line.
"We do live in Tampa," the coach said. "It's hot, and we're talking about bigger men."
The Bucs continued loading up on defensive help, selecting Vanderbilt cornerback Myron Lewis with the third pick of the third round.
The 67th pick overall had 10 career interceptions in college, four as a senior. At 203 pounds, he's a big cornerback who'll be expected to compete for playing time behind veteran Ronde Barber.
The Bucs have seven picks on Saturday, the final day of the draft. Five of them are in the seventh round.