The PFF 101, No. 4: Gerald McCoy
If there’s a player that timed a great season badly it’s Gerald McCoy. With J.J. Watt and Robert Quinn both re-writing expectations at their positions, Gerald McCoy dominated as a 4-3 defensive tackle in a way we have rarely seen and it almost passed without notice. Such was the shadow cast by the other two.
In fact the Bucs 2013 season had three stud defenders, one at each level of the defense, but the supporting cast around each was so poor that it still couldn’t stop them from ranking in the middle of the pack in most defensive categories.
Gerald McCoy was a wrecking ball as the Bucs’ three-technique, causing no end of disruption inside as he penetrated the offensive line to generate pressure more than any other player at his position. The 80 total pressures that McCoy notched were eight better than the next best DT (Ndamukong Suh) and his Pass Rushing Productivity score was, again, some way clear of Suh, who was still a distance clear of the chasing pack.
What makes McCoy’s performance so impressive is that he was doing it with virtually no help from anyone else on the Buccaneers’ front. Really, it’s tough to overstate how much McCoy was on his own there. He ended the season with a +57.3 grade overall, but was the only Tampa Bay defensive lineman to earn a positive grade for the season. The rest combined for a -84.7 grade! Despite the total dearth of threats outside of McCoy, teams were still unable to prevent him from causing problems inside and if anything he got stronger as the season went on, collecting a sack in his last four consecutive games.
McCoy finally got healthy for a full season and showed why many people thought he was the best defensive tackle available in his draft class and not Ndamukong Suh.
Best Game: Week 14 vs. Buffalo (+9.5)
The Bills’ offensive line was much maligned in some corners but actually played pretty well last season, especially when it came to pass protection. We charged two Bills quarterbacks with more sacks than any of their linemen in 2013 and as a unit they actually had the fifth-best Pass Blocking Efficiency figure, allowing only 148 total pressures, again good for fifth in the league.
Despite those numbers the Bills allowed McCoy to tear through them to the tune of one sack, two knockdowns and four hurries. He also batted down a pass at the line and all five tackles he made on the day were defensive stops. This was McCoy at his most destructive, wreaking havoc behind the line of scrimmage, despite the rest of the Bucs’ defensive line combining for just 11 total pressures between seven players.
Take this play as an example. He powers through the B-gap despite traffic to his outside, causing a rushed throw from the quarterback that ultimately fell incomplete. This is a great example of the positive effect a strong pass-rush can have even if the play doesn’t result in a sack for the rusher.
Key Stat: His 80 total pressures was bettered by just four other players; three edge rushers and Watt.
Gerald McCoy has become the prototypical 3-technique or under tackle in a 4-3. He is the pass-rushing player on the interior of a four-man line and the player usually tasked with beating a guard one-on-one and disrupting plays in the backfield. McCoy has become as good as anybody at shooting gaps and playing on the opposing side of the line of scrimmage. The level of pressure he has been able to generate playing on the inside, despite little help around him, is remarkable.
In any other year McCoy would likely be the Defensive Player of the Year, but in 2013 he couldn’t even be the first runner up in that category at PFF. Despite being overshadowed by the years Watt and Quinn had, McCoy should not go without notice and he is well worth his place at No. 4 on the PFF Top 101.
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