Da'Quan Bowers ready to step up?

At this time a year ago, Da’Quan Bowers was being discussed as a possibility to become the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft.

It didn’t work out that way as concerns about a knee injury prompted Bowers to fall all the way to the second round when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took a shot on him. While fellow rookie defensive end Adrian Clayborn became an immediate starter, we’ve heard very little out of Bowers.

With starting defensive end Michael Bennett dealing with a groin injury, it sounds like the Bucs will give Bowers more playing time. That process gradually started a few weeks ago, when a Tampa Bay official told me the team planned to start getting Bowers more involved and you slowly could see signs of that.

But Bowers should get even more opportunities now, and the Clemson product said he’s ready. The slow start was by design. The Bucs wanted to give Bowers plenty of time to get his knee healthy and to learn the system.

"They told me it would be a slow process, basically that it would be slow enough to hack me off. And that's exactly what it did," Bowers said. "I wasn't getting a lot of reps and I was frustrated, but a few weeks ago they told me it's time to step it up."

Clayborn was viewed as an all-around defensive end, who can play the run and the pass, and he hasn’t disappointed. But Bowers, who led the nation with 15.5 sacks in his final college season, always has been viewed as having more upside as a pass rusher.

The Bucs haven’t been getting a lot of pressure on quarterbacks. But maybe Bowers can change that.