The question marks that surrounded Noah Spence prior to April’s NFL Draft continue to fade from memory.
The Bucs’ second-round pick with first-round talent is proving himself as an impactful NFL edge rusher while making people forget about potential off-field concerns that marred his collegiate years.
Through 11 games, Spence has totaled 5.5 sacks, 17 tackles and forced three fumbles. He trails NFL rookie sack leader Yannick Ngakoue of Jacksonville by a half sack and his three forced fumbles ties him with the Jaguar.
DE Noah Spence – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
November’s been especially good to Spence and others around the league are taking notice. With 11 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles over four games, Spence was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month.
‘It’s a blessing. I’m just working hard and trying to get more,” Spence said from the locker room Thursday. “[I have] more confidence out on the playing field and am just trying to get better every week.”
According to a press release from the Bucs, Spence’s two forced fumbles were tied for the second-most among all players in November, while his 2.5 sacks during the month were the most among rookies. The 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles all came in wins.
The release also notes that Spence’s forced fumbles were part of Tampa Bay’s league-leading 10 takeaways in the month of November and the defense as a whole ranked sixth in limiting opponents to 19.5 points per game.
Spence is the first Bucs player to earn NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month since 2012, when linebacker Lavonte David also won in November of that year. They are the only two players in franchise history to win the award. Quarterback Jameis Winston earned NFL Offensive Player of the Month recognition last November.
Spence said he’s proud of the accolades and comparing well to other first-year players, but that he has more important things in mind. “It’s a big motivation to try and get the lead in the rookies. But I’m not really paying attention to that, I’m just trying to help my team get wins.”
This weekend in San Diego will feature another prominent defensive rookie who Spence is looking forward to seeing. Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa is one sack behind Spence and is fourth among rookies in tackles with 22. The two were teammates at Ohio State prior to Spence’s transfer to Eastern Kentucky in 2015.
“We were just texting yesterday, just excited to see each other out there and hopefully both have a good game,” Bosa said over the phone during a Wednesday interview with the Tampa Bay media. “Noah, he’s a testament to turning your life around because he never let a bad decision of his turn him around and I’ve always known he’s a great kid and any coach that ever asked anything about him to me, I always gave him the best. But, I’m happy. I knew he would work as hard as he can to get into the position he’s in now and I’m really proud of him and I’m excited to see him out there this Sunday.
“That’s my boy,” Spence said of Bosa on Thursday. “He knows the type of person I am. I went through some things and just had to get back my focus. He’s seen everything from start to finish.”