NFL teams have a “next man up” mentality, and the Bucs latest example of that is Rakeem Nunez-Roches who is taking the reins at defensive tackle replacing Vita Vea, who broke his leg in Thursday night’s game and will miss the rest of the season.

“It’s always been about the next man up,” Nunez-Roches said on Tuesday. “Seeing one of your brothers go down like that – it’s heartbreaking.”

Nunez-Roches, or “Nacho” as many call him, has been commended by his coaches since training camp for the work he put in this offseason. Nunez-Roches trains like a starter even if he isn’t one, because you never know when your number is going to get called.

Bucs DT Rakeem Nunez-Roches

Bucs DT Rakeem Nunez-Roches – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“To be honest with you, it’s not a big shocker as far as my role having to increase,” Nunez-Rohces said. “Because every time I come to work – and in my whole offseason – I’m preparing to be a starter. If you’re preparing to be a backup, you’re in the wrong game. I come to work as if I’m going to be out there playing 50-60 plays. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. I fit where I’m supposed to be at. For my role to change, it doesn’t change my preparation [and] it doesn’t change my mentality. It’s just understanding [that] my role is bigger, and I have the opportunity. Don’t count the plays – make the plays count.”

There’s no replacing Vea along the defensive line. He’s been an integral part to the Bucs’ defense ever since he was drafted in 2018, including this season where he recorded 10 tackles, two sacks and three tackles for loss before his injury.

This isn’t unfamiliar territory for Nunez-Roches.

Back in 2017 while playing for the Kansas City Chiefs, Nunez-Roches started 11 games replacing an injured two-time Pro Bowler, Dontari Poe. This scenario isn’t anything new to him, and that’s why he says it’s important to always be prepared.

Rakeem Nunez-Roches – Photo by: Getty Images

“Dontari Poe went down before and I had to do the same thing again.” Nunez-Roches said. Step in and fill big shoes. Something can happen at any moment. You don’t want to be sitting there, ‘I’m preparing for five plays or 10 plays.’ One day someone wakes up with a stomach sickness and now you’re in there for 40 plays and it shows in your preparation. You’re out there making mistakes, losing downs or you’re getting cut out of your gap because you didn’t put yourself in the best situation to be successful. When the opportunity comes, you just want to be ready.

“I always prepare like I’m that guy [and] I’m going to be out there for 40 plays. Regardless of what happens on Sunday, I feel like I’m going to be out there for 40 plays. I always play like that [and] I always come to work like that. It’s just my joy, so I take pride in what I do.”

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About the Author: Matt Matera

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Spenciebobencie
6 months ago

with our defense losing a key piece, hopefully he can fill big shoes in the run game We need to be disciplined too, last week was embarrassing to watch millionaires play like children , ( the penalties) (4th and 1 weak ass field goal call) praying for our secondary this weekend, they need to play on point this week at home for us to stand a chance,- the run will have gaps- they will test us. and I’m just throwing it out there, but watch Rodgers get us with the hard count, every other team does. For as long as… Read more »

Spitfire
Reply to  Spenciebobencie
6 months ago

The hard count has been an issue this year and I find myself constantly saying out loud on 3rd and long “Don’t jump don’t jump!”

Though I will say they were spot on with it against the Bears. The one call I remember us getting was the botched False Start call. Still, it is something our guys need to continue to work on.

Buc-Up
6 months ago

Marcell Darius is a 6’3 330 DT that can plug up the middle who is an Available FA.

Dave
Reply to  Buc-Up
6 months ago

That would be a great move! He’s an excellent run defender. Always been a big Dareus guy

Buc stops here
6 months ago

Rakeem Nunez-Roches is an interesting borderline player. He has been forced to play as many as 14 games in a season, his third year in the NFL in 2017. In that season he had 0.5 sacks, 24 tackles. His other big season where he played 9 games in 2016 he had 1.0 sacks and 23 tackles in only 9 games. Since then he played in two games in 2018 and had 2 tackles, 9 games in 2019 and had 9 tackles, and 2020 three games and 3 tackles so far. So with that kind of stats you can expect from… Read more »

SenileSenior
Reply to  Buc stops here
6 months ago

 “… Don’t count the plays – make the plays count.”

I love that