Bucs have high hopes for Adrian Clayborn

TAMPA, Fla. -- Adrian Clayborn was a first-round pick in 2011. But the defensive end’s production hasn’t lived up to his draft status.

There are several reasons for that. After a rookie season in which he showed promise with 7.5 sacks, Clayborn missed all but three games with an injury in 2012. He returned last year but was unspectacular with 5.5 sacks. But the injury wasn’t the only thing holding Clayborn back.

I blame the coaching the last two seasons. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano used lots of stunts and rarely let his players rush straight ahead. I think that’s going to change with new coach Lovie Smith, who has followed Clayborn’s career since college at the University of Iowa.

“I liked his motor," Smith said. “He made good plays at Iowa inside and outside. You get to know him and he’s a tough football player that plays hard and can rush inside and outside. That’s a good start right there. We feel like, in our system, defensive ends get a chance to rush the passer. We’re not a team that’s going to slant our line every play where true pass rushers don’t get a chance to show they can beat the guy across from them one-on-one, and hopefully Adrian can do that."

The Bucs have put Clayborn in a "prove it" situation. They declined to pick up his contract option for 2015, making this a contract year. But Smith makes it sound like Clayborn is ready for a breakout season.

“You see the way the guy works out there," Smith said. “He’s a guy that’s putting himself in position to play well. I asked him to drop weight and lose some body fat. Everything we’ve asked Adrian to do, he’s done. He’s been a model guy doing it. I’m anxious to see how he plays. I’ve looked at him from afar for a lot of years. Once you get up close with him, you like what you see. He’s an outside rusher and he needs to be able to rush the passer from the outside when he gets in one-on-one situations, and we think he can."