Tampa Bay’s Gerald McCoy has spent his first two NFL seasons hearing about who he isn’t.
McCoy, though, now seems primed to show what he can be.
One game doesn’t elevate McCoy to the level of the defensive tackles to whom he is directly compared — Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh and Buccaneers legend Warren Sapp. But if his performance in last Sunday’s 16-10 victory over Carolina is an indication of what’s to come, it won’t be long before McCoy starts building a name of his own.
McCoy was the key to Tampa Bay’s dominant defensive effort. McCoy had two tackles and one sack, but was far more disruptive than what the stat line indicates. The Bucs tied a franchise record by allowing just 10 rushing yards on 13 attempts. That was especially impressive considering the quality of Carolina’s backfield with running backs DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert as well as run/pass threat Cam Newton at quarterback.
McCoy’s play caught the attention of New York Giants right guard Chris Snee, who is expected to square off against the left defensive tackle in Sunday’s game at MetLife Stadium (1 p.m. ET, FOX).
"He had a hell of a game," Snee told FOXSports.com after Thursday’s practice at team headquarters. "He’s a young guy who’s quick off the ball. In the way their defense plays, he’s freed up. He’s the guy in one-on-ones because he’s a very talented rusher."
Injuries during his first two NFL seasons prevented McCoy from showcasing the skills that made him the No. 3 overall pick in the 2010 draft immediately following Detroit’s selection of Suh. McCoy ended both of the past two years on injured reserve with torn triceps in each arm while Suh emerged as an interior force for the Lions.
McCoy said an off-season medical diagnosis indicated that tightness in his back muscles was causing stress on his triceps. With a change in training to address the problems, McCoy is optimistic that the triceps problem is in the past.
McCoy said his devout religious faith carried him through the tough times and all the outside negativity surrounding his NFL career.
"The Bible says that if you hold God’s hand that you will stumble but never fall," McCoy told FOXSports.com in a telephone interview. "That’s what I’ve always done."
McCoy also sought advice this off-season from Sapp, who forged a Pro Football Hall of Fame-caliber career playing in Tampa Bay’s renowned cover-two system as an under tackle.
"He taught me things about timing with my hands, angle of attack and different things," McCoy said. "I’ve also taken what my new d-line coach (Randy Melvin) has taught me. I’m taking a different piece from everybody, including the trainer, to help me in the long run."
Snee was impressed with how disciplined Tampa Bay’s overall defense played against Carolina, especially considering that this was the team’s first game under new coordinator and former Giants assistant Bill Sheridan. Snee noted Tampa Bay’s pre-snap shifts and big-bodied nose tackle Roy Miller helped create opportunities for McCoy.
"Miller fires the gap, but you can’t really come off on him all the time because then he’ll play across your face and you’ll look silly," said Snee, a three-time All-Pro selection. "That’s the challenging part about their defense — the fact they move so well. Some teams have movement and don’t do it well. These guys, they run their defense very well.
"If you’re able to edge or stop their movement, you’re going to have a big gap. But it didn’t happen last week."
McCoy said the sound execution stemmed from the emphasis on discipline that new head coach Greg Schiano began instilling early in the offseason.
“One of the first things (Schiano) told us when he introduced himself at a team meeting was the sooner we buy in, the sooner we’re going to win," McCoy said. "He told us change was not going to be easy, and it wasn’t. We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs. But after last season (at 4-12), what was the worst that could happen following him?"
In the process, McCoy hopes he has left the worst behind.