When asked about rookie defensive end Noah Spence last Thursday, defensive coordinator Mike Smith echoed a similar tune to the Bucs’ brass, calling the second-round pick “one of the best – if not the best – pass rusher in the draft.”

Smith said they’ve thrown a lot at Spence over the last week, in terms of defensive strategy and techniques, and he’s come away impressed with the former Eastern Kentucky standout’s football intelligence. There will be a number of packages and prominent role players in Smith’s defense this season, and Spence figures to be a big part of it one way or another.

“What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to put together a defense that doesn’t have 11 starters,” Smith said. “We’re trying to have somewhere between 15 and 16 guys that we consider starters on our defense. It’s a long season. You’re going to have guys playing in different packages and we’ve got a plan for Noah in terms of bringing him along.”

While Smith called Spence a prototypical right defensive end, size-wise, he said flexibility will be important for Tampa Bay and Spence will have opportunities at both sides. One of the things that jumps out about Spence are his measurements and elite athleticism.

Bucs DC Mike Smith – Photo: Mark Cook/PR
Bucs DC Mike Smith – Photo: Mark Cook/PR

The 6-foot-2, 251-pound edge rusher earned a reputation as a high motor guy, finishing with 7.5 sacks his sophomore year at Ohio State and 11.5 sacks last season at Eastern Kentucky. He also recorded 63 tackles in 2015, 22.5 of which behind the line of scrimmage while showing significant burst and closing speed.

“Usually when guys are successful in high school and they’re successful in college and they have the traits that you’re looking for – the height, weight and speed – they’re usually successful in the NFL,” Smith said, agreeing with the comparison of Spence to five-time Pro Bowler Elvis Dumervil. “I know that he’s going to be ready to come in here and compete. Nobody has got a position on our team. We’re not saying, ‘These are our starters.’ We’re going to let the guys come in here and compete.”

Considering that Smith is looking for 15 or 16 players to contribute like starters, combined with the fact that they’re challenging the rookies to step outside their comfort zone early on, it makes sense that everyone will compete for their job – nothing will be handed out. But Spence would seem to have a significant advantage.

Along with being a high second-round pick – which many analysts felt was a steal at No. 39 overall – Spence already had his new position coach in his corner even before becoming a Buccaneer.

Jay Hayes, hired away from Cincinnati after 13 years with the Bengals, spoke shortly after Smith and recalled Spence from both their days in Ohio. Hayes went to the Buckeye’s spring game a few years ago and quickly took notice of their young and fast edge rusher.

“They played in Paul Brown Stadium (where the Bengals play) and Noah had like four sacks in the spring game,” Hayes said. “So that was my first exposure to him. He is a guy that can put pressure on the passer. He’s basically a guy that’s a specialist and that’s kind of where we saw him.”

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: zshapiro12@gmail.com
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Horse

I’m feeling better about this pick as I hear more and more how he and others are going to be used. Go Bucs!

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seat26

HE has the speed and the moves, although he is a little small. As long as he doesn’t get pushed around at the line he will be strong for us.

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76Buc

He will get a little bigger..260? And a lot stronger in the next couple of years.

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townsend3

Agreed. Play him as a situational pass rusher until he’s big enough to play the run, maybe next year.

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Dude

Von Miller:
Height: 6-3; Weight: 250

About the same size as Spence. So Spence’s size shouldn’t matter.

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jongruden

To me Spence is more of a 3-4 outside linebacker, 6’2 251 seams light for a 4-3 DE with hand in dirt and yes I know he played some in college but NFL a different ball game

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TAMPA23

Dwight free Neyland wasn’t tall either and he played de for many years his height is a advantage against taller tackles

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jongruden

When they are that small they are liabilities against the run, the bigger LT’s just lean on them and drive them out of the way, maybe they will use Gholdston on first and second down then bring in Spence on obvious passing plays

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drdneast

Tampa23, you are right and it is pure physics at work. Lover man wins force when rushing the QB. Once you get a back peddling OT on his heels going back you have won. However, speed alone will not win the battle of the trenches. We have plenty of speed rushers in the ends right now and although we raised our sack total last year and were in the middle of the pack in the NFL in sacks, the Bucs DL lack pressure on the QB many times. The reason for this is the players have to learn and use… Read more »