Many Bucs fans were skeptical of the front office’s decision not to add a defensive tackle in May’s draft, but the team’s head coach doesn’t share that same unease.
Dirk Koetter – Photo: Mark Cook/PR
Speaking after practice last Thursday, Dirk Koetter said he was confident in the current situation at interior tackle while also, in a more practical tone, shining a bit of light on the realities of the NFL.
The fact of the matter, Koetter explained, is that no team is going to have perfectly balanced depth to begin the season, so there’s no use dwelling on the slightly thinner areas.
“The way the salary cap is right now in the modern NFL – it’s always going to be like that, so we can’t cry about what we don’t have,” Koetter said. “You’ve got to bring your young guys along and you’ve got to develop them.”
Like every team, he said, Tampa Bay has “really good depth at some positions and not so much at others.”
With that in mind, here’s a look at who the Bucs have at defensive tackle heading into training camp: Gerald McCoy and Clinton McDonald, the presumptive starters, Akeem Spence and Will Gholston, both of whom have proven their value on the team over the past three years, and A.J. Francis and two undrafted rookies.
When asked specifically about Francis, Koetter said he was “definitely one of the guys in the mix,” though it was far from a ringing endorsement. From the outside looking in, it would seem that Francis, an undrafted pro out of Maryland in 2013, has just as much of an uphill climb as the 2016 undrafted signees, Travis Britz and DaVonte Lambert.
It’s conceivable to think the Bucs will go into the season with four defensive tackles. Spence has shown himself to be a formidable run-stopper and Gholston, a former defensive end, has had success moving inside for nickel rush situations. Given his unique build – 6-foot-6, 281-pounds with a 34-inch wingspan – he can squeeze in between tight spaces and put his arms up in the throwing lane.
What’s more, the Bucs believe they added another player with that type of versatility over the offseason, in Robert Ayers.
“Let’s also not forget that when we’re in sub defense we can move some our ends inside and rush them inside,” Koetter said. “Robert Ayers is sort of a guy that’s going to be in that role.”
In SR’s Fab 5 on May 13, he predicted the Bucs would keep nine defensive linemen, including a couple that could play both inside and outside depending on the situation. Koetter’s early assessment of the unit, factoring in flexibility and the reality that not every position group is going to be deep, would seem to support Pewter Report’s forecast at defensive tackle. Of course no one will get a true sense of the situation until training camp, when the real battles at every position begin.
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]
Add this to the fact that Gerald McCoy has only played two full seasons out of six in the NFL.
I will give him his props for last year though for playing through a reported torn rotator cuff and a broken hand.
Hey, if Aquib Talib asks you to go out on the town with him, make sure you bring your Glock.
One guy says this, another guy says that! Who you gonna believe? As Zach says – no one will get a true sense of the situation until training camp, when the real battles at every position begin. Need to see some football!
Mac- You need training camp to see how these DT’s the same ones we have had past 3 yrs plays out this summer? Just look at last 3 yrs of tape and you will see how it plays out
The Bucs have 6 DTs. 3 that are new. And as jme0151 says may add another as the season goes on. Best to keep an open mind. Apply the Stocker Rule – people change! lol.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE – 6
79 Britz, Travis DT 6-4 293 22 R Kansas State
70 Francis, A.J. DT 6-5 330 26 3 Maryland
75 Lambert, DaVonte DT 6-2 282 R Auburn
93 McCoy, Gerald DT 6-4 300 27 7 Oklahoma
98 McDonald, Clinton DT 6-2 297 29 7 Memphis
97 Spence, Akeem DT 6-1 307 24 4 Illinois
Name all the guys you want but it will be the same ones we had for the past 3 yrs once cuts are made
Zach you called Gholston a former DE, but he’s still listed at DE on the roster.
We will pick someone up as this off season goes forward.
Seems like a good bet jme0151. We have done a pretty good job of late picking up late season castoffs like last years OT and center Joe Hawley. Hope we have better luck with our FA’s signs this year now that the enigmatic Love Smith has no influence in the decision making anymore/
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