Gerald McCoy Jersey

Tampa Bay Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) raises his arms up to celebrate with the fans while heading towards the tunnel and off the field after the Bucs defeated the Panthers on Dec. 2. (DIRK SHADD | Times)

INDIANAPOLIS — Bruce Arians sees no reason why defensive tackle Gerald McCoy won’t return for his 10th season with the Bucs.

“You see him under contract and that’s a heck of a player they still have to game plan for, so I hope so,” Arians said.

According to Arians, even though the Bucs are going to a 3-4 scheme, McCoy should be a perfect fit for the defense under new coordinator Todd Bowles.

“Gerald has played three technique his whole life and we have a three technique in our defense,” Arians said. “And we’re penetrators. We’re not two gap. People say 3-4 they think of a two-gap (system). We’re not that at all. We’re penetrators, we’re attackers. So for him, there’s probably going to be no change.”

McCoy has had 12 sacks in the past two seasons and saw his streak of six consecutive Pro Bowl appearances snapped in 2018. His numbers weren’t overwhelming: six sacks, 28 tackles and 21 quarterback hits.

“Interior pass rushers don’t necessarily get a lot of sacks but they create havoc and he still can create havoc in the middle of the pocket and that leads to outside guys getting sacks because he can pressure the pocket,” Arians said. “He’s still a premier pass rusher. I think, like I said, he fits our defense. He’s a three down player. Stats don’t always say how good a player is, especially at that position.”

However, McCoy will earn $13 million this season in non-guaranteed salary.

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Bucs general manager Jason Licht sounded a lot less committed to McCoy returning in 2019.

“You know it’s hard to say that about any player right now,” Licht said. “We have so much between now and free agency, the draft, OTAs, the offseason, that I can just say that about anybody. I can tell you he’s a great player and ideally I’d love to have him.”

What could change that? Perhaps the draft if the Bucs use their No. 5 overall pick on a defensive tackle.

“Well, I can say we do want to have Gerald here … I just said it. He’s under contract and we want him to be back.”
Back in the saddle

Indianapolis will always be a special place for Arians, who went 9-3 as an interim coach for the Colts after taking over for Chuck Pagano and was named the NFL’s Coach of the Year in 2012.

That performance led to his first NFL head coaching job the next year with the Arizona Cardinals.

After retiring for a year, Arians was completely back Wednesday for the unofficial start of the 2019 season at the NFL Scouting Combine. He participated in a jobs in football for women forum in the morning, then held a media session around noon before interviewing prospective draft picks the rest of the day.

“Oh, it’s fantastic just knowing so many guys and then being with CBS last year, I got to see a bunch of guys. So, this is the beginning for me,’’ Arians said. “This is the beginning of a new year. This is getting the juices flowing real good. This is the beginning of next year’s football team.’’

Of course, Arians feels a special connection to the Colts, where he had two stints as an assistant coach.

“The first three (years) went great. But the last one, it was a fairy tale,’’ Arians said. “This city is part of me just for that whole season and everything that went on with Chuck down at the hospital and then coming back. And it’s very, very special. This town is every special to me. It’s fun. Just people on the street and thank you. For somebody to tell a coach thank you, I got booed too many times. I love thank you … this city is part of me.’’

Player notes: The Bucs believe Ronald Jones just needs some more confidence after a tough rookie season in which he rushed for just 44 yards on 23 carries (1.9 avg.) and a TD while adding seven receptions for 44 yards. “It seemed like every time he got the ball somebody was catching him right in the backfield,’’ Arians said. “Having seen him, knowing a little bit about him in college, he’s a very talented guy. He’s a young player and has got some room to grow maturity-wise but talent-wise, his opportunities were slim and none but he showed flashes of what he can do.’’ … Arians also loves RB Peyton Barber. “For a man that size, when you watch the tape, you don’t think he’s 230. You think he’s a 205-pound running back. He’s got great feet. When we’re building something, that’s someone I want to build around.’’ … Cornerback M.J. Stewart will move to safety next season and guard Caleb Benenoch will focus on playing right tackle … offensive lineman Alex Cappa will concentrate on guard.

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