PewterReport.com analyzes the top players in the 2019 NFL Draft with its position previews. Mark Cook previews the defensive end position with a comprehensive look at what the Bucs have and what they need in the middle of the defense, a detailed list of this year’s top defensive tackles, and Scott Reynolds offers up the annual PewterReport.com Bucs’ Best Bets – one early round pick, and a pick from the later rounds.

What The Bucs Have At Defensive Tackle

The big question isn’t who the Bucs have at defensive tackle – it’s how much longer they will have him a certain defensive tackle. That player, of course, is Gerald McCoy, who’s future in Tampa Bay remains uncertain at best. The six-time Pro Bowler is slated to earn $13 million in 2019 and with the Bucs in a cap crunch, many feel the team will move on from the former Sooner, sooner rather than later. Whether is comes via a trade or an outright release, keeping McCoy and his large salary doesn’t make a lot of sense. If in fact the Bucs do part ways with McCoy, it does leave a huge void, although the move to a base 3-4 defense alleviates a little of the strain of a lack of depth at this point.

Bucs DT Vita Vea

Bucs DT Vita Vea – Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Vita Vea, last year’s No. 1 pick, is poised for what the organization is hoping will be a big year after coming on late last season once he recovered from a leg injury that cost him most of training camp, all of the preseason and three regular season games. Vea ended his freshmen NFL campaign with 28 tackles and three sacks, but was disruptive, especially towards the end of the season.

The Bucs released Mitch Unrein this offseason due to a severe concussion he got in training camp that wound up cost him the entire 2018 season and put his playing career in jeopardy.

Some figured nose tackle Beau Allen would be a cap casualty, but after agreeing to a reduced salary, the former Eagles lineman will be back to provide depth on the defensive line. After Vea and Allen things get murky. Nose tackle Stevie Tu’ikolovatu has yet to play in a regular season game, and Jeremiah Ledbetter and newly signed Nick Thurman are barely tested. Rakeem Nunez-Roches is the only other experienced three-technique defensive tackle and he’s a far cry from being at McCoy’s Pro Bowl level.

Tampa Bay could also line up some of their bigger defensive ends at the tackle position as well as they did at times last season with Will Gholston sliding inside on run downs in a pinch, and Jason Pierre-Paul moving inside to tackle to rush from the interior in nickel defense on passing downs, but overall, the Bucs need to add a defensive tackle or two from this year’s draft class.

What The Bucs Need At Defensive Tackle

The $13 million question of course is will McCoy be back in 2019? If so, the Bucs have a decent group of tackles, but if McCoy is gone, as most expect, then there is a definite void at the three-technique defensive end spot. McCoy’s worth or value can be argued, but what is not in question is whether he isn still the team’s best – and most effective – defensive tackle on the current roster. Finding a quick, up-field pass rusher with McCoy’s get off won’t be easy unless the Bucs are willing to take one early in the first round. Tampa Bay would love to see Alabama’s Quinnen Williams fall in their lap at No. 5, and probably couldn’t get the pick in fast enough if that were to happen, although it seems unlikely that Williams makes it to No. 5.

Some later round players may have to fill the McCoy void if he is in fact released or traded, and while they most likely won’t compare to McCoy, at least as rookies, they could be effective enough in the meantime as they develop, depending on how the edge rushers play, and of course, how Vea develops in his second season.

This year’s PewterReport.com’s 2019 Draft Previews + Bucs’ Best Bets and Draft Videocast are presented by Edmonson Electric & Security – the official smart home and security company of PewterReport.com.

Watch Pewter Reporters Scott Reynolds, Mark Cook, Taylor Jenkins and Matt Matera, as well as other special guests, live on-air via PewterReport.com from the team’s headquarters at One Buccaneer Place beginning on Day 1 of the 2019 NFL Draft at 7:00 p.m. ET.

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About the Author: Mark Cook

Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at mark@pewterreport.com
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Buc on the Move
2 years ago

“Todd Bowles loves versatility when it comes to player traits, and Cowart has played both inside and on the edge in college.”

I feel like we have heard too much of this from previous coaches as well. I guess for a 4-7 round pick on a role player, it’s not the end of the world, but no more tweeners in the first 3 rounds.

Theerealdiehl
2 years ago

Hate to tell you this boss, but if Rashan Gary were to be drafted by Tampa Bay, he wouldn’t be a DT. He’d be a 5 tech DE in a 3-4 and a strongside DE in a 4-3.