Bucs DE Da'Quan Bowers may lose every-down role

Al Messerschmidt

The Buccaneers want to rely on Da'Quan Bowers this season, but the defensive end hasn't stepped up his conditioning nor his play during practice and preseason.

Da'Quan Bowers has not impressed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coaching staff in training camp, and the defensive end may spend more time on the bench as a result, according to the Tampa Tribune. The Bucs planned to use Bowers as an every-down player this season, but conditioning issues and poor performances in practice and preseason has head coach Greg Schiano rethinking Bowers' role.

The Bucs were hoping that Bowers, now in his third year in the NFL, would take a leap forward this offseason in place of the departed Michael Bennett. Since being selected in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, he has been relatively quiet, with 38 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 26 game appearances. Achilles and knee injuries haven't helped, nor has irregular playing time. That said, Bowers struggled to stand out when given an entire half against the Baltimore Ravens last week, recording just two tackles.

Bowers admitted to the Tampa Bay Times last week that he is "still not in the best shape." Bowers needs to prove he can handle playing 60 minutes, much less play effectively, before coaches rely on him. Should he spend more time on the bench, the likes of Daniel Te'o-Nesheim and Aaron Morgan could see increased playing time.

The Buccaneers play the New England Patriots on Friday night, giving Bowers a golden opportunity to prove himself. Sander Philipse of Bucs Nation named Bowers as one of the game's top players to watch, and gave the defensive end some support:

Some of that criticism was a little unfair, though. Bowers didn't look bad at defensive end in the first preseason game, but they kept using him as a three-technique tackle. And yes, he got stonewalled repeatedly at that position -- but that isn't exactly his natural position, so who can blame him?

Of course, it's not just disruption that we want to see. Schiano has specifically criticized Bowers' effort -- so look for Bowers' effort level as well as his quality of play. If you can discern effort level on tape (I'm not sure anyone can).

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