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After a heavy reliance on starting outside linebackers Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul to get the job done for the Bucs early in the season, Tampa Bay has shifted strategies. The team is now relying more on their backups than they did early in the season. And we’re not just talking about rookie first round pick Joe Tryon-Shoyinka either. Instead, the Bucs are going deep into their edge rusher room with Anthony Nelson and Cam Gill.

Nelson and Gill have continually made splash plays for the Bucs over the last four games. Nelson has recorded six tackles, two sacks and six quarterback hits in that time. Some of his production has come in unblocked situations, but he’s finding the ball extremely well.

Gill’s production is even more surprising. The second-year edge rusher has two sacks despite playing just 17 defensive snaps this season! And both sacks have been fairly impressive, including a spinning pancake of Giants right tackle Nate Solder. Gill also sacked Matt Ryan on Sunday, getting around Jake Matthews on the edge.

With a rotator cuff limiting the abilities of Pierre-Paul, that Bucs have turned elsewhere to get production off the edge. It’s earning other guys more playing time in the process.

“There’s no doubt, they’re earning playing time,” Bruce Arians said. “Anthony’s obviously been getting better and better this year. Cam Gill, every time he gets out there he makes something happen. He’s a high effort guy and he’s strong. They’re earning that playing time. I think it’s helping the other guys getting a little more rest coming into December now.”

Bucs OLB Jason Pierre-Paul

Bucs OLB Jason Pierre-Paul – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Pierre-Paul’s snap counts have dropped each game since Week 10, going from 79 percent of plays to 76, 65 and 52 percent respectively. Nelson played in 30 percent of the snaps on Sunday, which was the second highest amount he’s been involved in this season while Pierre-Paul was also in the lineup. His largest share was 35 percent, which came in a blowout win over the Bears.

Gill is still only playing in a single digit number of defensive snaps per game, but he did have a season high seven reps in the Bucs’ win over the Falcons. His two sacks on the year are just a half-sack behind Pierre-Paul. That’s especially impressive when you consider Gill has played 494 less snaps than the former Pro Bowler. If you’ll recall, Gill also had a half-sack in the Bucs Super Bowl victory.

This isn’t meant to be a knock on Pierre-Paul for his lack of production while playing through a torn rotator cuff. But the Bucs depth options are developing and making an impact right now. Their on-field production has opened the door for Tampa Bay to have more flexibility with their outside linebacker room moving forward.

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About the Author: Matt Matera

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BucLife
BucLife(@dback4life)
1 month ago

I was very excited about Gill when we signed him as an undrafted FA last year. His injury slowed him down early this season, but I am very curious what his future holds. In college Gill collected something like 35 sacks in 3 seasons. He was playing for Wagner, but it still showed his ability to get to the QB.
Just always love these underdog stories, so I wish him well.

Iowabucfan
Iowabucfan(@iabucfan)
1 month ago

Gill and Suh had that amazing hit on Mahomes in the Super Bowl. Glad to see this happen.

drdneast
drdneast(@drdneast)
Reply to  Iowabucfan
1 month ago

Whenever we talk about the lack of production from JPP it is always done with the knowledge he is playing with severe physical limitations. I for one admire the fact he has continued to play through his injuries but you can see they have hampered his production and are actually at times a detriment to the overall performance of the defense.
I always found it hard to understand how the Bucs coaching staff thought a one armed JPP was a better player than a two armed Shoyinka, Nelson or Gill.

inspecto
inspecto(@inspecto)
Reply to  drdneast
1 month ago

He’s a leader and brings the energy to the rest of the guys.

drdneast
drdneast(@drdneast)
Reply to  inspecto
1 month ago

Maybe you can print that on a small coin. In the end it is all about performance and production.

gcolerick
gcolerick(@gcolerick)
Reply to  inspecto
1 month ago

To that I say they are professionals and there should be no need for anyone to provide energy. If you had enough energy throughout life to make it to the pro level you should damn sure have enough of your own energy to play at that level.

buccaneerNW
buccaneerNW(@buccaneernw)
1 month ago

JPP is done.

drdneast
drdneast(@drdneast)
Reply to  buccaneerNW
1 month ago

I hope not but I’m not a doctor. My hope is he can recover fully from his rotator cuff injury and be back in Bucs uniform next year if he is healthy. He was a steal for a fourth round draft pick.

scubog
scubog(@scubog)
Reply to  drdneast
1 month ago

I’m pretty sure it was a 3rd round pick. In any event, he has been well worth it.

plopes808
plopes808(@plopes808)
1 month ago

Good to see the coaching staff finally using some common sense. JPP is a warrior and will not willingly leave the field. It’s on the coaching staff to save him from himself and give him time to heal up and get right. If we can get him close to 100% by playoff time, we’ll be in even better shape.
These young Bucs are showing out though and the reps are looking really good for the team’s future.

Mb Nfl Double Your First Deposit Football Team Vs Bucs Pewter 728x90 Jpg