DE Noah Spence – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Just three games into his NFL career, Bucs’ second-round pick Noah Spence is already receiving some criticism for his limited production.
But it’s not necessarily his fault.
Defensive coordinator Mike Smith, assuring everyone that the defense is still a work in progress and improvement starts with him, defended Spence’s decreasing snap-count over the first three weeks – from 35 in Week 1 to 24 in Week 2 to 12 last Sunday.
The opponents’ personnel groupings and the given down-and-distance, Smith explained, dictate which players the Bucs defense send on the field. So if they’re not in passing downs – third-and-long – then a designated pass-rusher (DPR) like Spence won’t have an opportunity at that time to get in the game.
Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“It was a function of the way I called the game and it was a function of the way we played the football game,” Smith said, explaining why Spence only played 12 snaps against the Rams.
“When we can put him in certain down-and-distance situations and put him in certain situations where [the opponent is] going to put the right personnel out there for us to match, then we’re going to have our guy out there,” Smith said. “I think Noah is doing a great job. Noah wants to do anything and everything that he can to help us win. He’s going to get an opportunity. I don’t think we want to look and take a single game and say, ‘Well his snaps and his play time was at this level.’ Well it wasn’t because of anything Noah was doing. It was more about what they were presenting, in terms of the NFL groupings.”
The stat sheet supports Smith’s reasoning for Spence’s 12 snaps, as Tampa Bay had the Rams offense in eight third-and-5 or longer situations, holding them half of the time. While Spence hasn’t been particularly effective in his limited action – one sack in Week 2 – Smith said the rookie from Eastern Kentucky is “coming along very well” and “understands how to rush the passer.”
Smith said the Bucs are looking to get Spence, who had 13.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss at Eastern Kentucky in 2015, in the game more. Next Sunday against the Broncos could be their first opportunity.
Denver often deploys three wide receiver-sets, a formation that calls for a DPR. Provided the Broncos stay true to form, Smith believes Spence will see more time and “have a bigger impact on the football game” in Week 4. First things first, though, the Bucs need to get Denver’s offense in third-and-long.
Defensive end DaVonte Lambert played 51 snaps last Sunday, which Smith said was also dictated by the down-and-distance and opponents’ personnel groupings. An undrafted rookie from Auburn, Lambert has been a success story in Tampa Bay, earning a spot in camp and finding himself on the active roster by the regular season.
While Smith said the Bucs would ideally have their defense in more third-and-long, pass-down situations, Lambert, a run-stopper by trade, has played well in his role – one that began due to injuries to George Johnson and Jacquies Smith.
“He was a very quiet guy but you can tell that he’s driven,” Smith said of Lambert. “He’s got a lot of resolve and plays extremely hard. I like his length. I like his balance. He has the ability to play both inside and outside. He’s more of a run-stopper than he is a pass rusher. We have to put ourselves in position where we can get our pass-rushing unit out there on the field. That’s something that we hope we can deploy this week.”
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.
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The pass rush sucking is really causing problems and not Smiths fault. However the miscues with the safeties and CB’s and WR’s being wide open is squarely on him IMHO.
Perhaps fredster, but perhaps it’s because certain players still aren’t concentrating and focusing enough, which was a problem last year.
I originally thought a safety was to blame on the first Rams TD but I later learned the defense that was called had Verner playing man to man down the field. Verner was simply playing the wrong technique for that type of coverage.
Why did this happen I have no idea. You would have to ask Verner.
In regards to Spense it might help if he was allowed to rush from his natural RDE position. Every time I saw him on Sunday he was rushing from the LDE and Howard Jones,. who doesn’t have a sack this year and is another DPR, was on the right.
Perhaps our opponents having the lead the past two games and not having to pass is a factor too. I think we played in fear of Todd Gurley and schemed to stop him. Did a good job against him then let two 40 yard passes and a strip fumble TD beat us.
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