Looking at the Bucs' Pro Bowl possibilities — they have some, even at 4-10, even at what in the world happened here? — you find a defensive tackle (Gerald McCoy), linebacker (Lavonte David) and cornerback (Darrelle Revis).
McCoy and David should be locks. The defense has made many strides since a horrific 2013 season, though it goes with the disintegration on the other side of the ball, the NFL's worst offense.
What's missing, like always, is someone to strike fear into hearts in the pass rush.
The Bucs need someone on the outside to complement McCoy.
What they need is a menacing figure, like the one they face this Sunday: St. Louis Rams defensive end/force of nature Robert Quinn, the NFC sack leader.
“Well, he's got 15 sacks and seven forced fumbles,” Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. “So that tells you something. He's as good at tomahawk chopping the backside of the quarterback — you haven't seen a guy do it with that effectiveness since (Lawrence Taylor). L.T. used to whap and knock that ball out with a vicious tomahawk chop, and (Quinn) is bringing it that way.”
I want one.
The Bucs haven't had one at end since Simeon Rice. The Bucs have been searching for a consistent pass rush for years, been trying to build a pass rush to hunt down or at least hurry Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton.
The 33 sacks this season are an improvement, but it's still about trying to build a consistent rush, and that goes for all five years under GM Mark Dominik, which tells you something about his watch, nearly as much as a 28-50 record. OK, maybe not as much.
Quinn was a Rams first-round pick in 2011. The other St. Louis starting defensive end, Chris Long, was a first-rounder in 2008. Defensive tackle Michael Brockers was a first-round pick in 2012. It has worked out in St. Louis, especially on that rug — Quinn has to be the fastest sacker in the league when he turns the corner on the carpet.
The Bucs hit on McCoy. And, to a lesser degree, on defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who has five sacks this season. He seems more like a good complement to another end if the other end is a terror. Da'Quan Bowers has been a disaster. Fourth-round pick William Gholston has two sacks, and promise, but is that enough?
It looks like the Greg Schiano Forget 0-8 Job Saving Tour has added up to enough wins to presumably keep the Bucs from drafting Jadeveon Clowney, who is busy preparing to knock someone's helmet off in another Florida bowl game.
Maybe Minnesota sacker Jared Allen is out there in free agency, a pretty penny, or maybe someone like him. This is where paying your quarterback nothing pays off in the short term.
The Bucs, as always, need another defensive end. Yes, they need another receiver, by the looks of this season, or better yet, a game-changing tight end. They need competition at quarterback for Mike Glennon, at the very least. They might need help on the offensive line if Carl Nicks doesn't make it back to what he was. Yes, this team has needs; 4-10 always has needs.
But this defense has real pieces, working pieces, potential.
Then again, didn't the Bucs offense have that after last season?
Wasn't it going to be scary good?
Now it's just scary.
And wasn't the defensive line supposed to be solved years ago?