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Bucs' lack of a pass rush a concern this preseason

TAMPA, Fla. -- When Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter was asked Saturday night about his team's pass rush against the Cleveland Browns, he responded, "It was non-existent."

They were without five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and strongside defensive end William Gholston.

The result? Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer had a clean pocket to work with, and at times, was dealing.

The Bucs still had plenty of capable players in there -- Robert Ayers, Noah Spence, Ryan Russell, DaVonte Lambert, George Johnson, Clinton McDonald, Chris Baker, Channing Ward and Sealver Siliga.

To be fair, they kept things pretty vanilla up front, utilizing mostly straight rushes. You didn't see much in the way of twists and stunts. They didn't show some of the new wrinkles they've been working on, and Koetter alluded to that.

"[We're] definitely not doing everything scheme-wise that we have in," Koetter said. "But just straight up rush, it just wasn’t there."

In the third quarter, Spence did get a sack for a loss of 11 yards on third down thanks to a nickel blitz from Robert McClain that steered quarterback Cody Kessler right into his arms. Johnson brought Kessler down for a 7-yard loss in the fourth quarter, with Johnson getting a clear, unabated path to the quarterback.

The Bucs have registered six sacks this preseason, 19th in the league. Half of those sacks have come on blitzes from linebackers. Last year they had eight sacks in a single preseason game against the Browns.

"Any team that can get pressure with a four-man rush is ahead of the game," Koetter said. "I wouldn't say that we've wowed anybody in that area in preseason. Some of that is timing -- just like the offensive lineman working side-by-side in our games -- the guys they work with."

"We haven't been where we probably would like to be, but we did a good job in Jacksonville last week of getting pressure -- not necessarily getting home. But, [Saturday] was not as good."

The Bucs were hoping to get Jacquies Smith back by Week 1, but he's still on the active/physically unable to perform list recovering from a torn ACL. He suffered a setback in his rehab several weeks ago, but has started to run. If he can return to health, he could significantly bolster their pass rush, as Spence is the Bucs' only true speed rusher right now. Last preseason, Smith recorded four sacks, the most by a Bucs player since at least 2000.

They will also have to account for the loss of Lambert, who suffered a dislocated wrist Saturday night, and will be out long-term, but possibly not the entire season.

The Bucs did look to get some outside help, putting in a waiver claim for former second-round draft pick Kony Ealy, who was waived by the New England Patriots on Saturday. They were trumped by the New York Jets, however, who had a higher spot in priority.