Big hopes for Gerald McCoy -- again

TAMPA, Fla. -- It is the first day of August. If Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano still is talking about Gerald McCoy on the first day of January, or even February, then we’ll know that the defensive tackle finally has arrived.

It’s only natural to take every big projection for McCoy with some caution. After all, the guy has been expected to be a superstar since the moment the Bucs used the third overall draft pick on him in 2010. It’s just that the sum of what McCoy has done in his first two seasons comes nowhere close to the superstar level.

In 2010, he went through some of the usual rookie struggles and, just as he appeared to be catching on, his season ended with a biceps injury. McCoy also showed plenty of promise last preseason and got off to a solid start. But McCoy tore his biceps again and missed the final 10 games of last season.

Once again, McCoy is showing the skills that made him such a big-time prospect coming out of Oklahoma and that has caught the attention of his new coach.

“I think Gerald has really practiced well,’’ Schiano said. “I think he’s got elite get off. When I say that, I mean, I haven’t been around a lot of guys like that, maybe two or three. We just need to keep working and developing the technique things and I think he’d be further along had he not had the injuries both years. Repetitions are what let you get good at those techniques. [Defensive line] Coach [Randy] Melvin and [defensive front seven] coach Bryan Cox are working hard with him and I think he can be really a special player.’’

The Bucs really need McCoy to be a special player as they go through some transition on their defensive line. They need McCoy and second-year defensive end Adrian Clayborn to be the anchors as they find the other parts. Defensive tackle Brian Price, who was traded to Chicago last week, is gone and the Bucs are looking for Roy Miller or Gary Gibson to take over at nose tackle. Defensive end Da'Quan Bowers will be sidelined for at least half the season as he recovers from a torn Achilles tendon. The Bucs have Michael Bennett as their other first-team defensive end. Bennett, Miller and Gibson have a chance to be nice role players.

But if the Bucs really are going to have a good defensive line, they need McCoy and Clayborn to be special players. More importantly, they just need McCoy to be able to stay on the field.