He didn’t seem the part of the frustrated defensive end as he faced the media on Wednesday in Tampa Bay’s locker room.
But first-round pick Gaines Adams seems ready to answer the challenge head coach Jon Gruden made on Monday when he told the media the Buccaneers need Adams to be more productive in the second half of this season.
“Most definitely,” Adams said. “I was just waiting. That’s why the coaches are here — to coach. I’m not going to step in and make waves. When they tell me it’s my time to go, I’ll go.”
Gruden made his expectations clear and that means more playing time for the Clemson product.
“I expect him to be a real big part of the second part of the season; we’re anxious to see what he can do,” Gruden said.
Then Gruden made a thinly veiled attempt at motivation, referencing a comment he made about what he wanted out of Adams after the Bucs made him the No. 4 overall selection —to lead the league in effort.
“Gaines you’re not leading the league in effort,” Gruden said. “Kyle Vanden Bosch from Tennessee leads the league in effort.”
Adams, for his part, said he and Gruden must get on the same page in that area.
“I mean, I’m not saying I disagree with him,” Adams said. “It’s just something he and I need to get on better terms with. We will.”
Adams threw his helmet in frustration in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss to Jacksonville. Adams had just entered the game for the injured Greg Spires, but came out shortly after that for Greg White.
Those who expected Adams to make an immediate impact have been disappointed. Adams had 21 tackles and 1 ½ sacks in the first eight games. The latter total even disappointed Adams.
“Most definitely (I thought I would have more sacks by now),” Adams said. “That’s what any (defensive end) would say. It’s a tough league and everything doesn’t happen the way you want it. I have to get better.”
Adams has not stepped into a starting role at right defensive end, the position the Bucs envisioned he would eventually take over. He’s shown flashes of the talent that compelled the Buccaneers to select him, and Gruden is not completely unhappy with the end’s progress.
“I think Gaines Adams had now a half of a season to get a feel for this league, who’s in it, how the game is played, and I believe he’s ready to take off,” Gruden said.
Adams has made plenty of adjustments since he joined the Buccaneers. He’s worked on using his hands better against offensive linemen. He’s worked on his play against the run. He’s done his best to fit in with a veteran defense.
He’s also learned that everyone in the NFL is smarter, football-wise, than college players. Preparation, he’s found, is the key.
“Anything you do, you can’t go in blind,” Adams said. “You have that have preparation. In football, it’s not like basketball when you go out and shoot the ball. You have to have everything down. It’s not just one person you’re guarding. It’s a whole team. You have to prepare well.”
Linebacker Cato June said the adjustment period for a rookie defender usually goes on the entire season because there’s more than just the game to adjust to.
“It takes time,” June said. “It’s a new system, a new team, a longer season,” June said. “It’s a lot for them to adjust to.”
Still, the Bucs see flashes, such as last week’s sack against Jacksonville when he and left end Greg White combined to sack Jaguars quarterback Quinn Gray.
White didn’t see what Adams did on the play until he saw it on film.
“He had a great move inside and it just happened,” White said.
Defensive ends selected in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft the past 15 years have averaged six sacks in their rookie season. It’s clear the Buccaneers expect more from Adams — and he expects more from himself — the second half of this season.
“We expect big things from him,” Gruden said.
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association and has won national awards for his Buccaneers coverage from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is also a contributor to the Scot Brantley Show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1470-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.