Gerald McCoy has shot at Bucs history

TAMPA, Fla. – In a season that’s been otherwise forgettable, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has been a big bright spot for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

McCoy enters the final game of the season (Sunday at New Orleans) with nine sacks. He has a chance to join Warren Sapp (who had double-digit sacks three times) and Santana Dotson as the only defensive tackles in franchise history to record 10 sacks in a season.

“I think it’s quite an honor for an inside player to have 10 sacks,’’ coach Greg Schiano said. “That doesn’t happen a lot. Gerald’s that kind of player. God willing, he stays healthy, I expect that to be the yearly norm rather than an exception. That doesn’t happen a lot. That’s a special feat. We need him to do that for us to win this week.’’

McCoy made the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career last year, but I think this clearly has been a breakthrough season. McCoy often has been a dominant force in the middle.

‘I’ve seen improvement in every phase,’’ Schiano said. "His run defense, his pass defense, his understanding of the game. He’s improving as a football player, and that’s one of the neat things about Gerald. He’s such a gifted athlete, but he works so hard and has bought in so full into what we’re doing that he makes strides every day.’’

The Bucs generally rotate their defensive linemen to keep them fresh. But a conscious decision was made to keep McCoy on the field as much as possible.

“We challenged him,’’ Schiano said. “There’s a considerable drop off between you and your backup and that’s no slight on your backup. There’s a considerable drop off between him and most players in this league at his position, starter or backup. We said a 95 percent efficient Gerald is probably as good as a 100 percent fresh guy.’’