Schiano: McCoy can be dominant

When he came to Tampa Bay in 2010 as the third overall pick in the draft, Gerald McCoy was supposed to be an instant star.

It hasn’t quite worked out that way. In two seasons, the defensive tackle has four sacks and has appeared in just 19 games.

But it sure sounds like new Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano views McCoy as one of his core players.

“He plays defensive tackle the way I like,’’ Schiano said at the NFL owners meetings last week. “He’s a penetrating guy who can change direction. We’ve got to keep him healthy because I think he can be a dominant force in this league.’’

I think Schiano’s right. I’m not sure McCoy will become Ndamukong Suh, an All-Pro who was taken No. 2 by Detroit in that same draft. But I think McCoy can be a force. There have been brief flashes that indicate he can make good things happen in the middle of the defensive line, but there just haven’t been a lot of those flashes.

McCoy got off to a slow start as a rookie and, just when it looked like he was starting to catch on, he suffered an injury that shut him down for the final three games of the 2010 season. Last season, McCoy appeared in only six games before he was placed on the injured-reserve list.

Think about that for a second. The Bucs were 4-2 after six games. They never won another game after McCoy went down. I’m not saying McCoy’s injury was the sole reason for Tampa Bay’s collapse, but there’s no doubt it was a factor.

This is a big year for McCoy. He’s starting to get hit with the dreaded “injury-prone’’ label. But McCoy is a talent. If he can stay healthy, that would help the Bucs tremendously. Same for fellow defensive tackle Brian Price, who came in the same draft class as McCoy and has dealt with injuries of his own. Tampa Bay has invested a lot in its defensive line in recent drafts and we’re waiting to see the return on those investments.

If McCoy and Price stay healthy, they can form a nice interior rotation with Roy Miller. Defensive end Adrian Clayborn was one of the few bright spots last season. He could be even better in his second season and the same goes for Da’Quan Bowers, a second-round pick last year. The Bucs also like defensive end Michael Bennett.

The ingredients are there for Tampa Bay to put together a very nice defensive line. The Bucs just need to keep McCoy and their other young defensive linemen healthy and on the field.