Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
TAMPA, Fla. -- Listen to Gaines Adams and Todd Wash talk a bit. You'll hear some refreshing honesty and maybe get some legitimate hope that Adams finally is ready to justify his lofty draft status.
It would be easy for Adams, a third-year defensive end with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Wash, his position coach, to fall back on the old line about how "sacks don't tell the whole story." Give them both credit for giving the hard -- and honest -- answer.
When it comes to a defensive end, who was drafted fourth overall in 2007, it's all about sacks. When you walk out of Clemson tied with Michael Dean Perry for the school record with 28 sacks and have a set of skills similar to Jevon Kearse or Jason Taylor, you're supposed to step right into the NFL and produce double-digit sacks every season.
When you run the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds at your pre-draft workout and sign a six-year contract worth $46 million, it's supposed to be easy.
Fact is, it hasn't been and Adams and Wash freely admit that and tell you how they're trying to fix it.
"We're hoping his numbers come up from the past years," Wash said. "He's had good pressure on quarterbacks, but he just hasn't had the numbers that we were anticipating out of him."
You can point to someone like Atlanta's Jamaal Anderson, who was a top-10 pick in the same draft, and make a case that Adams hasn't been a total bust in his first two seasons. He had six sacks as a rookie and 6.5 last year while making 38 tackles each season. But those numbers, Adams and Wash say, aren't good enough -- and they're right.
"A lot of people want the stats right away," Adams said. "As a football player, I wanted the same and I expected the same. But now I realize there are a lot of things you have to do to make those stats happen and I wasn't doing all of those things. Now I am and I hope that will make a difference."
There are a lot of things different for Adams and the Buccaneers. Start with the coaching change. Jon Gruden is out and Raheem Morris is in. More importantly, Jim Bates is the defensive coordinator and Monte Kiffin and the legendary Tampa 2 scheme are gone.
"We've changed some approach angles from the Tampa 2 and Coach Kiff," Wash said. "What we do now is really defensive-end friendly. I think it's going to allow Gaines, and all our ends, to rush the passer more and be more effective. He's not going to be hunkered down on any big defensive tackles in the tight five. He's playing real wide and he's always going to be playing pass first, which is obviously Gaines' strength."
But there's more to it than simply turning Adams loose as a pure speed rusher. That's basically what the Bucs tried to do in his first two seasons and it brought the knock from fans that Adams had no pass-rush moves.
Adams and Wash don't dispute that one bit.
"He's been kind of a one-move guy; just a spin off his speed," Wash said. "But now we're trying to develop a little bit more and get a little more usage of his hands."
That should be music to Bucs fans everywhere, who repeatedly have watched Adams get handled by some mediocre tackles. Adding some moves sounds good in theory, but Wash and Adams have spent the past several months working hard to make it a reality.
Start with the weight room. Everyone knew Adams had to get stronger and, by all accounts, he has.
"When he came in, he simply did not have the strength to go in there against some of the big tackles," Wash said. "Now, he can man up against these guys. He can play the run and that's also going to help within his pass rush.
"Everybody in the league knows he's a speed guy off the edge. We've got to develop some power moves. With the added strength, it's given him a lot of confidence to try to develop some of those power moves that we've been trying to get him to have in the last two years."
Adams is even more blunt in his assessment of his first two seasons.
"I didn't have the strength to rush with anything more than my speed," Adams said.
Wash and Adams have been working on power moves on the practice field, but there and the weight room aren't the only places they've spent the offseason. People around One Buccaneer Place will first make it a point to say Adams has never been considered a slacker, before adding he's been spending a lot more time at the facility this offseason and seems much more serious about the game.
He's been a regular in the film room and he's doing something he's never done before. In past years, Adams would wait until the week of a game to watch film of the opposing offensive tackle. This spring, he's spent countless hours watching film of every tackle he's supposed to match up against this season.
He's also spent time watching a lot of film of Jason Taylor, who Bates had great success with in Miami, as well as Lawrence Taylor and Kearse. Adams has tried to borrow a bit from each of those great pass-rushers.
But, perhaps more than anything else, he's taken a lesson from himself.
"I came into this league thinking I could just go out and dominate with my speed because that's what I did in college," Adams said. "But it doesn't work that way. You've got to put in a lot of time and effort to really set yourself apart."
Adams is trying to set himself apart. He's gotten physically stronger, become more of a student of the game and grown as a person. It's involved some serious looks in the mirror, but maybe when the season comes, we'll all see the reflection of a strong, smart and productive pass-rusher.