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One of the weakest aspects of the Bucs’ roster is the team’s depth, especially along the defensive front. Behind a base front five of outside linebackers Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul, defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea, and defensive end Will Gholston is an extremely unimpressive and/or unproven group of Anthony Nelson, Kahzin Daniels, Quinton Bell, Patrick O’Connor, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Jeremiah Ledbetter, and Khalil Davis, this year’s sixth-round draft pick.

Tampa Bay’s depth on the edge might be more of a concern than anywhere else on the roster, especially considering Pierre-Paul’s injury history. Nelson figures to have the inside track to the No. 3 edge spot, but he didn’t even play 200 snaps as a rookie, and as a fourth-round pick, he was far from being a sought-after talent coming out of college.

While Bell and Daniels are expected to compete for the fourth edge rusher spot, they’ve proven nothing in their brief careers, and there is plenty of room for someone to jump ahead of them on the depth chart. With undrafted free agent Cam Gill out of Wagner, I think the Bucs may have found a potential candidate.

Let’s dive into Gill’s tape with the understanding that every undrafted free agent in NFL history (other than Dallas’ La’El Collins) is a long shot to make the final roster. Clearly the Bucs’ lack of depth at outside linebacker reveals a simpler path to the final 55-man roster than many other teams may offer, but the climb for Gill is still decidedly uphill coming from a small school.

Still, it is hard not to get excited about the pass rush flashes he shows on tape. The most translatable collegiate pass rush process stems from a phrase you’ve often heard me use in scouting edge defenders: pass rush athleticism, which is burst, speed, bend/flexibility and change-of-direction. I don’t have a ton of tape on Gill, but even in the couple games I was able to watch, I saw enough of all four traits to pique my interest. No wonder the Bucs were interested in this guy.

The FCS Northeast Conference’s all-time sack leader with 36 career QB captures, one of the things Gill is best at is flipping his hips to reduce his surface area at the top of the arc. This makes it tough for offensive tackles to land punches on him and stop his up-field momentum. Once Gill can start turning toward the pocket, his ability to dip under contact and rip through strikes makes him hard to stop.

Gill exposes his whole chest on the up-field rush here, and then just as the tackle is about to punch, the Wagner edge rusher swivels his hips and captures his opponent’s outside arm with a deadly rip. I love the strength to run through contact to the pocket.

Edge pass rushers win on three tracks: inside their opponent’s pass set, through the pass set (power rush) or outside the pass set. The trick is that while it is possible to win inside and through an opponent in the NFL, an edge pass rusher is rarely successful unless they can first threaten an opposing tackle on their outside hip, forcing them to set deeper, open up sooner and even abandon technique at times in order to ward off speed and bend at the top of the arc.

Forcing pass protectors to respect a rusher’s ability to corner opens them up to inside moves and power moves. If you don’t have that ability as an NFL prospect, you might be a solid player at the next level, but you’re always going to be limited. With Gill, you see enough of that ability to win outside that it is easy to see how his game might grow from this point.

Gill shows bull rush, then a quick transition to the blocker’s edge to rip and bend the edge to chase the quarterback out of the pocket. I love Gill’s ability to stack pass rush moves on top of each other in order to win one-on-one.

Bull rush to push-pull to rip move at the top of the arc. Gill doesn’t have elite bend, but he still does a great job of turning the corner because of the strength in his lower half. He really leg drives through contact nicely, which is another reason to be optimistic about his potential success in the NFL. Even at 6-foot-2, 232 pounds with just 32-inch arms, physically winning one-on-one match-ups was rarely an issue for Gill.

The tape Gill put out against FBS competition in Florida Atlantic and UConn was really impressive. That’s Giants’ third-round pick Matt Peart playing right tackle there, as Gill takes him for a ride back into the quarterback’s lap. I only scouted Gill against better competition and he still stood out, not just athletically, but physically as well.

Gill can get deadly with these inside moves. He stays light on his feet and does an adequate job pushing tackles up the arc in order to widen the B-gap. I love that he keeps his hands active to club the UConn left tackle a couple steps out of the way.

I would love to see Gill finish here, but he still ruins the whole play with his quickness to fire through this gap. Front seven defensive players who consistently get free on the other side of the line of scrimmage are more valuable than any other kind. That’s how Barrett wins in Tampa Bay, and was able to rack up 19.5 sacks to lead the league last year.

Okay, so what are the concerns with Gill then? Why wasn’t he drafted if he can win inside, outside and through as a pass rusher, has pass rush athleticism and can physically body up opponents?

Well, Gill definitely should have been drafted in my opinion (the Bucs also had a draftable grade on Gill as Scott Reynolds noted in his recent SR’s Fab 5 column), but it still should be noted that his athletic traits are good, not great for the position, and he lacks the desired size and length to play full-time on the edge in the NFL. Could Gill put on weight at the next level? Maybe, but it’s unlikely he’d ever get over 240 pounds. Barrett plays at 250 for the Buccaneers.

While Gill does offer a lot of variety as a pass rusher, his moves aren’t always timed out well, and he can sometimes rush the setup process and end up stuck on blocks. I’m not sure he’ll ever pack the necessary punch to be a great bull rusher in the NFL, which means speed, bend and hand usage will need to be his calling cards.

Even in some of the clips above where Gill won, his hands didn’t always land with the authority and timing they’ll need to in order to defeat bigger, longer, more technically sound blockers in the NFL. Gill’s intensity and motor will help, but he’s got to become more detailed with his pass rush approach if he’s going to make a splash in training camp.

Gill is a solid run defender, but one of the biggest areas of inconsistency for him is in unblocked situations where he fails to step down and box pullers trying to kick him out. By elevating up the arc without reading for run, Gill makes himself an easy target and opens up a massive C-gap crater for runners to scoot through. He has to play more under control and cerebral in these situations, stepping down to close off the C-gap when unblocked.

Even when Gill is play-side on runs coming right at him, he often tries to fire up-field and run around blockers, rather than holding the point of attack and playing through them. This creates massive run lanes inside of his position, making life really difficult on teammates and easy for the opposing running back to maneuver through defined space.

Gill’s lack of size and edge-setting ability may force him into a more versatile role as an off-ball linebacker who rushes situationally in the NFL. That means he’ll have to learn a new primary position, clean up some occasionally spotty tackling and build on what is currently a pretty basic coverage skill set. Gill dropped on passing downs for Wagner at times, but typically just into simple zone coverage in the flats.

Hopefully the Bucs continue to let Gill rush during training camp and in preseason games, while also seeing how he can pick up a new position as an off-ball linebacker, as well as weighing his impact on special teams. A 4.6 time in the 40-yard dash with tackles like this (the video below) outside his frame should help Gill find a home on teams during the preseason.

Even if Gill doesn’t make the active roster this season, he is an intriguing player who deserves a practice squad look to see if further coaching and muscle gains can help him evolve into a rotational defender by year two or three.

Gill has a lot of traits that teams should be looking for in developmental edge defenders, and his absurd FCS production (34 sacks, 57.5 tackles for loss, eight forced fumbles) shows a player capable of some splash plays when given opportunities. I’m excited to watch Gill go to work in training camp and preseason action, hopefully giving the Bucs another much-needed depth edge rushing option with the ability to perhaps do even more down the road.

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About the Author: Jon Ledyard

Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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destinjohnny
destinjohnny(@destinjohnny)
1 year ago

Guys after 7, yes 7 Jason drafts, should depth be a problem??
If you let me build a proper scouting dept, after 4 drafts depth won’t be an issue. Can anyone defend Jasons drafting ability?

destinjohnny
destinjohnny(@destinjohnny)
Reply to  destinjohnny
1 year ago

After 50 picks, we don’t have one person of depth? David was here when Jason came

skyrider
skyrider(@skyrider)
1 year ago

Definitely one of the main problems we have is depth. For example…Brady goes down…do we really have anyone who challenges him for the starting spot, regardless of his record. I say no and that’s a problem with Lycht. If you’re not being challenged at all positions and carry average players in depth, when the starters go down, team won’t get better or maintain dominance. Either get better recruiting of players at each position or look at other teams that are stacked at those positions of need and wheel and deal for their benched players who are skillful ready for a… Read more »

MichBuc
MichBuc(@michbuc)
1 year ago

Licht did get Jason-Pierre Paul for a 3rd Round pick and Shaq Barrett on a cheap contract for 19.5 sacks. So there’s that.
A lot of people are sleeping on Anthony Nelson, not saying he’s great or anything, but I believe he’ll be as effective as Carl Nassib was, if healthy.
The cupboard is far from empty, some people would rather focus on the negative. Here’s hoping Cam Gill can play, but if not, we’ll be fine.

BucWonder
BucWonder(@bucwonder)
1 year ago

I’ll say it again that it’s a really good sign that the discussion is depth and not the need to fill gaping holes in the starting line up. Every NFL team has depth issues. Every one. Every GM.

Go Bucs!

Dave
Dave(@bucball02)
Reply to  BucWonder
1 year ago

Exactly! Even the great Patriots have depth issues

scubog
scubog(@scubog)
Reply to  Dave
1 year ago

Who is the Patriot’s back-up and #3 QB? Heck most folks couldn’t name their projected starter.

NaplesFan2.0
NaplesFan2.0(@firelichtmovement)
Reply to  BucWonder
1 year ago

Depth is an issue on every team, but the how you pay the talent at the top, is what creates a dynasty. Repeatedly ignoring the pass rush in the first round, is an awful draft strategy. Wouldnt it be great to have a good QB or a pass rusher getting 10 sacks or better, on their rookie deals? The last 2 first rounders look to be working out, but did you know Shaq Barrett would get 19.5 sacks? Did JL? If you have players of equal talent, the position that will pay more in the future, is what should be… Read more »

Dave
Dave(@bucball02)
Reply to  NaplesFan2.0
1 year ago

I hate to say it but you’re right. The maneuvering of salaries, FA pickups, and solid drafting, is what makes a good franchise or a great franchise. It’ll be interesting to see who we keep or let walk the next 2 years. I’m sure the next 2 years, most players will make it easy for Licht one way or another. The potentially overpaid and the futures of the franchise usually make themselves known

drdneast
drdneast(@drdneast)
1 year ago

MichBuc, I like your positive outlook but the fact of the matter is Licht’s drafting acumen is below average. There are blown No. 1 and 2 picks scattered around his drafts and his 2016 draft was an abysmal washout. Add to the fact that after six seasons he’s still trying to build an offensive line that can run and pass block effectively and consistently makes it even worse. The DL isn’t much better. His trade for JPP was rock solid and and despite what Lanyard writes, the only time JPP seems to get injured is when the season is over… Read more »

BDOG
BDOG(@borkdog)
1 year ago

excellent analysis, much speed on edge, doesnt play with consistent mentality of an OLB to defend/contain edge or stuff/take on blocks, which as you pointed out leads to huge running lanes. dont like run game defense instincts, a “LB mentality”, but seems focused on only rushing passer, or DE focus. agree with Gill as a situational passer now but if cant be well rounded olb, not regular on roster/team. developmental player with Barrett like upside for sure from college review of tape. took Barrett some time, pay it forward with Gill if he has drive, determination, effort, maturity and hunger… Read more »

Dave
Dave(@bucball02)
Reply to  BDOG
1 year ago

With Shaq, it wasn’t like he was a late bloomer or something. Like Haeg, he just happened to be on the wrong team if he wanted to be a starter at his position. Broncos were just loaded with pass rushers. His talent was evident from day 1. He only started 31 games in 4 seasons with the Broncos. And they were mostly injury fill ins. His PFF grades in his 4 seasons in Denver were 15)78 16)84 17)83.6 and 18)74. It’s amazing that all these teams didn’t see how talented he is

Pick6
Pick6(@pick6)
1 year ago

licht is not done building this roster…there are 2 or 3 guys on other rosters right now who will be important parts of the Bucs’ front 5 rotation, as well as a decent crop of unsigned free agents whose asking price moves closer to the vet minimum every day…… if Cam Gill’s odds look decent, then that 4th or 5th best edge rusher who doesn’t make someone elses’ roster probably has an even better chance to win snaps on a Bucs team that is all about winning now. Would be great to see a guy like Gill to follow in… Read more »

bucballer
bucballer(@bucballer)
1 year ago

I hope Cam Gil balls out and makes the team. It really doesn’t matter what someone did or didn’t do in college. They key is just getting a chance to land on an NFL roster. It’s then up to them to take advantage of their opportunity and use their athletic abilities to work hard, study, and give maximum effort for a chance to stick with an NFL team. I hope the kid achieves his NFL dreams!

Ghost in the Ruins
Ghost in the Ruins(@ghost-in-the-ruins)
1 year ago

Great article Jon. Are you planning on doing more of these for some of the other UDFAs? It would be interesting to see what the Bucs saw that made them want to bring them in.

Alldaway 2.0
Alldaway 2.0(@alldaway)
1 year ago

I liked this article. It was very informative and I am eager to see the edge battle with the young players.

scubog
scubog(@scubog)
1 year ago

I find obscure guys like this the most interesting to watch during Training Camp practices. Guys that just start standing out, who force you to look at the roster to find their name. It’s a lot better than focusing on a high round draft pick waiting for something, anything, to make you think he’s a future star.

Bradenton BucFan
Bradenton BucFan(@bucsblues)
1 year ago

Great article. This Gill maybe a solid player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the Tompa era.

owlykat
owlykat(@owlykat)
1 year ago

Loved this article! Buc’s Coaches need to train him how to look for the run on the way to the QB and he needs to put on a lot more muscle. It was a big fault of McCoy too as Charlotte must have discovered since they let him go.

MikeJ813
MikeJ813(@mikej813)
1 year ago

its hard to tell how drafted rookies will branch out let alone UDFA. You just kind of hope to hit a home run with your first 2/ 3 rounds and land some gems in the late rounds, and every once in awhile an UDFA is a stud. If we can get all 3 thatd be great but im more so fingers crossed our draft picks form round 1,2,3 make an impact

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