Insider: Bowers’ Injury Another Blow to Defensive Line

For a team that was already riddled with questions on the defensive side of the ball, it didn’t need another one.  The Bucs announced yesterday that DE Da’Quan Bowers would undergo surgery today to repair a torn Achilles tendon he suffered during offseason activities. 

It’s another hit to a young defensive line that must be punch drunk from taking hits by now. 

Gerald McCoy will be starting his third NFL season this year, that prodigal third year that pundits talk about as being a year where a player can be fully evaluated.  Yet, he hasn’t made it to Thanksgiving on the active roster in two seasons, suffering a torn biceps tendon in his left arm in 2010 and in his right one in 2011.  Brian Price has labored through a painful pelvic injury that has hampered his availability and arguably his effectiveness in two seasons.  Michael Bennett fought through a lingering groin injury for much of 2011. 

Heck, depth along the line got to be such a concern that Mark Dominik even reached out to that Albert Haynesworth guy (the guy who said he didn’t come to Tampa Bay in 2009 because of concerns over distractions with boating)…who started the first week on the job.  

Now, it’s razor thin at the left defensive end position, and we are in the month of May.  Bennett told me towards the end of the 2010 season that he prefers to play left defensive end, and his play on the field in 2011 confirmed that comfort level.  However, Bowers came on strong in 2011 and pushed Bennett for the starting position.  Now, the Bucs will likely have to find someone on the free agent market to create some competition for Bennett in camp.

Bowers tweeted last night that he expects to be back in 2012.  Although the Bucs did not disclose the severity of the tear, an Achilles injury is one that can require a world of time to recover from and rehab.  Yeah, that “year” word.

For Bowers, it is a true shame.  He had put questions about the durability of his knee from the draft behind him and worked his way into a rotation with Bennett, with whom a terrific camp battle was expected.  Now, he will have to do what several young Buccaneers have done the past few years – heal and wait. 

And now the questions will continue to circle Dominik.  Four total draft picks spent on defensive lineman in the first two rounds the past two years, three of whom now have shown significant injury concerns.  It might not be fair, but productivity on the field is the ultimate litmus test in the NFL.

And the Bucs will have to do what they have done so many times before during that time – find the next guy up.