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Lovie Smith: Gerald McCoy is 'best at his position'

Seven NFL teams have new head coaches in 2014. No player on those teams will benefit more from the change in leadership than Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.

The former No. 3 overall pick has been unblockable during the preseason in new coach Lovie Smith's scheme. No longer is McCoy asked to stunt or play games. He just gets after the quarterback.

"Does it look like I've been doing any kind of thinking in the preseason?" McCoy asked, per the Tampa Bay Times. "I'm just getting off the ball ... Every play is a pass, you trample the run on the way to the quarterback. I mean, that's freedom. You can't ask for more than that."

This week McCoy will debut his newfound pass-rushing freedom against a questionable Carolina Panthers offensive line.

The Panthers' line lost key pieces from the team that played in the playoffs last season. Pro Bowl selection Ryan Kalil is the rock at center and will surely see plenty of McCoy in double-teams. Left guard Amini Silatolu is coming off a torn ACL and right guard Trai Turner is a rookie. Nate Chandler and Byron Bell sit as starting tackles. 

Question marks in the line breed cracks, and cracks create opportunities for McCoy.

"Everyone has talked an awful lot about Gerald McCoy, and we should," Smith said. "Very seldom do I make the statement, 'best at,' but to me, he's the best at his position in the league."

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is coming off ankle surgery and a rib injury. Even with a flak jacket, if McCoy is constantly bursting through that offensive line and putting his shoulder into the signal caller's core, it's going to be a long, painful day for Ace Boogie.

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