Fennelly: Bucs' Bowers needs to rush into limelight
We've lost a legend. David “Deacon” Jones, Hall of Famer, pass-rush royalty, the fiercest of the Los Angeles Rams' “Fearsome Foursome,” has passed. In lieu of donations, slap an offensive lineman upside the head or tackle the nearest quarterback.
Bucs defensive end Da'Quan Bowers has seen NFL Films footage — the fury, the Deacon dominance.
“You have to know your history,” Bowers said. “I never had an opportunity to meet him. It would have been an honor. He's the reason we do what we do. Here's a guy who invented the sack. What more can you say about that? At the time he invented the (term) 'sack,' he had like 160. That says enough by itself. He's a legend, truly a legend.”
While you run and get a cop … Officer, officer, come quick, there's a man mentioning Deacon Jones and Da'Quan Bowers in the same sentence … it should be noted that the Bucs aren't looking for a legend. They simply want Bowers to do what he does, or once did in college. They're looking for a person or persons to get to the quarterback — or the almighty Revis trade is a joke.
After two NFL seasons, having battled injuries and ineffectiveness, with only 4.5 sacks to show for it, Bowers, a second-round pick in 2011, is on the clock. Will he step up? That's Da'Question.
Darrelle Revis and safety Dashon Goldson are out to perform reverse osmosis, jump start a pass rush from the back, breathe life into a corpse that had just 27 sacks in 2012, which negated the stellar run defense (why run if you can throw at will?) to make for the second-worst pass defense in NFL history.
On paper, I can't say this impending Bucs D line won't be worse, what with the departures of top sacker Michael Bennett and Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy's inside sidekick Roy Miller.
Yes, there's the return of Adrian Clayborn, the team's leading sacker as a rookie in 2011 before missing most of 2012. But no one knows if Bowers will deliver. The Bucs are gambling, putting a lot of stock on their drafting Bowers. Bucs coach Greg Schiano is clear: He thinks Bowers has the ability for double digits in sacks.
“I'm looking to be dominant,” Bowers said. “I take the responsibility for that. Anything less than double-digit sacks is a failure for the season. … I think the way Coach Schiano has the scheme set up, and my capabilities, and having Gerald draw all the attention, it could be a whole lot easier to get double-digits sacks. You just have to work as a unit and not have individual rush planes, just work as a combined unit.”
Schiano said, “What we need to do is, Da'Quan, he hasn't played any consistent amount. So if he wants to be more than just a situational pass rusher, he's got to grind through it, he's got to go through the pain of being an every-down player. … I think this training camp will be critical for him, to establish what he's going to be for us. Is he going to be an every-down player? I'm sure banking on it. But you've got to do it. The plan is there, but he's got to go out and do it.”
Bowers accepts that. He's on an accountability kick. He handled himself well after the New York airport checked-bag fiasco. Plea entered, fine paid, apparently lesson learned. Shampoo: yes. Gun: no.
“I admitted the mistake I made,” Bowers said. “I wanted to hurry up and get that spotlight off the team. I was worried about being a distraction. I always put the team before myself. Having that type of publicity is not good.”
There will be a different kind of spotlight this season.
More than 50 years ago, when David D. Jones reached Los Angeles, he found 38 other David Joneses in the city's telephone book, so he decided to invent a nickname. It stuck. Deacon's mission statement is part of football history.
“I tried to tear their damn heads off,” he'd say.
The Bucs aren't looking for someone to get to the Hall of Fame — to some quarterbacks would be enough.
Da'Quan Bowers, you're up. Make noise, if not history.