Noah Spence – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
While Jameis Winston’s jersey remained clean against a Seahawks’ front seven that, entering Week 12 led the NFL with 31 sacks, the Bucs defensive line planted Russell Wilson six times, flushing him out the pocket another 27 times. Before Sunday the Pro Bowl signal caller had only been sacked 20 times over 10 games.
“We were worried about that all week because Russell Wilson is a tough quarterback to sack,” coach Dirk Koetter said after the game. “He did get out a few times, but we hit him and kept him in. Noah Spence was big [Sunday]. Gerald (McCoy) had a sack and a half.”
DE Noah Spence – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Tampa Bay pressured Wilson into a few errant throws, and the sacks came at critical points in a close game. Spence and McCoy each had one on third down, while the Bucs were able to record two on the final drive to help drain the clock. Kwon Alexander, for his part, added a sack in the second quarter, one of 10 third-down stops for the Bucs.
But Spence, as Koetter mentioned, stood out with one and a half sacks in his best game as a pro to this point. The Eastern Kentucky product started the year as a designated pass rusher, limiting his time on the field significantly early on. Then in Week 4, a game against the Broncos in which he played just 16 snaps, Spence suffered a slight tear in his labrum. The injury left him with two options: undergo surgery and wait until next year or play with a harness on his right shoulder. Spence chose the latter option, and to Koetter’s surprise, became a more well-rounded player largely because of the crutch.
“This seems weird to me, but when he hurt his shoulder and [the medical staff] said, ‘You’re either going to miss the rest of the year or you’re going to play with this harness’, he started playing the run better after he put the harness on,” Koetter said Monday.
Along with his progression – health- and versatility-wise – Spence has steadily seen his time increase because of injuries to others along the defense line. He’s taken advantage of his opportunity.
“He’s gotten a lot better against the run,” Koetter said. “And his confidence is high. When you get a sack in the first series against Russell Wilson, it was on after that.” Koetter added that Spence could’ve had an even better game had he anticipated Wilson’s spin out move a couple times while evading pressure. The expectations show how high the Bucs think the ceiling is for Spence, who played 51 of 63 snaps Sunday.
Along with defensive line coach Jay Hayes, Spence credits his development to the guys around him, particularly to his right and left.
“It’s a blessing to be with these dudes along the defensive line with me,” Spence, who now has 5.5 sacks on the year, said in the locker room Sunday. “Always telling me what to do and trying to teach me things throughout the game. “It’s helping me a lot. We’ve got great dudes on the line.”
One of those mentors, it’s safe to assume, is Gerald McCoy. The Bucs’ captain also spoke after the game, primarily about the heart of Alterraun Verner, who played an inspirational game in the wake of his father’s passing Friday, and the success of the offense and special teams.
Bucs DT Gerald McCoy – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
But considering the seventh-year pro has endured more losing than most of his young teammates, it was only natural to get his opinion on the state of the Buccaneers, which have their first winning record in November since 2012.
Confident yet levelheaded, McCoy sounded cautiously optimistic.
“We know who we are and we know where we’re working to be,” McCoy said, asked if it’s time to take the Bucs seriously. “We’re just going to keep showing up every day, taking it one meeting at a time, one walk-through at a time, one practice at a time. If people want to believe in us, that’s on them. If they don’t, they don’t. But we know who we are and we’re just going to keep working to get better.”
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: [email protected]
DE Noah Spence is named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month. Congrats Noah! There must have been a flood of votes. Wink, wink!
Are you suggesting that some obscure rookie who thought Joey Bosa deserved the honor wants a recount?
Noah’s improved play against the run is what gets me the most excited about his development. Rookie DE always take awhile time to figure it out at the next level. If he continues to play well against the run, he’s going to be scary good next year. Very excited about where he’s headed.
That’s crazy he’s playing better with the tear. Maybe it’s healing on its own or wasn’t as bad as thought? Anyways just glad he’s progressing.
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