PewterReport.com analyzes the top players in the 2019 NFL Draft with its position previews. Matt Matera previews the outside linebacker position with a comprehensive look at what the Bucs have and what they need at outside linebacker, a detailed list of this year’s top outside linebackers, 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 Outside Linebacker
With the move to a 3-4 defense under Todd Bowles, those that are defensive ends will be moved to outside linebacker, but still mainly be rushing the passer at the line of scrimmage. That means ends such as Carl Nassib, Noah Spence and Jason Pierre-Paul, the the Bucs’ team leader in sacks with 12.5, will play outside linebacker – SAM (strongside) and WILL (weakside) in the 3-4 defense. Lavonte David, who played WILL in Tampa Bay’s 4-3 scheme, moves inside to play the MO linebacker spot.
Nassib, who enters a contract year, had a promising season as well with 6.5 sacks, and more importantly, creating an excellent bookend on each side of the defensive line playing opposite JPP. Nassib and Pierre-Paul will have a new position title and may not play with their hand in the grass in base defense, but their responsibility will be the same – getting after the quarterback and setting the edge. It wouldn’t be in the Bucs’ best interest to have their Pierre-Paul playing in pass coverage on third down.
Also playing outside linebacker for Tampa Bay is Devante Bond, who returns on a one-year deal, newly signed free agent Shaq Barrett and unheralded new signees, including Corey Nelson, Emmanuel Smith and Zach Triner. Bond has primarily been in a backup role and on special teams. He did start in four games last season due to injuries to other players, and recorded 22 tackles in 11 games on the season. Barrett comes over to the Bucs after five years on the Broncos where he primarily was a backup behind All-Pro’s DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller.
Coming to a new team, Barrett always wanted the chance to be a starter, and he’ll get that shot with the Bucs. He’s a pass rusher with a whole arsenal of moves, rushing from the edge or over the guard inside. Barrett has recorded 14.5 sacks in an abbreviated role in his career, and an opportunity now to expand on that splitting time with Nassib at SAM.
What The Bucs Need At OLB
The Bucs could really use a linebacker with plenty of speed. They clearly have formidable pass rushers on this team, but it wouldn’t hurt to add one more, especially with Pierre-Paul getting up in age and Nassib coming into a contract year. Tampa Bay can draft an edge rusher that can be waiting in the wings if one of them were to depart after this year. Bruce Arians, Todd Bowles and the rest of the defense need players that can fly around in an aggressively set up defense.
An advantage of playing in the 3-4 system is that a team has the flexibility in how it deploys its outside linebackers. They can both be used as pass rushers, or they can drop in coverage, or one could blitz with the other dropping into coverage. What is key for the Bucs if they look for more of a traditional linebacker is to find someone with good cover skills in addition to being able to get to the quarterback. Tampa Bay has divisional running back opponents, such as New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara and Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey, so limiting them is a must for the Bucs if they want to any success in the NFC South this season.
If a quarterback or two is taken with the first four picks, don’t rule out the possibility of Kentucky’s Josh Allen falling to the Bucs at No. 5. He is ranked as one of the top players in this entire draft, and has excellent pass rushing skills, evidenced by 17 sacks last year, with athleticism that has made him one of the premiere talents in this entire draft pool. Should this prospect not be around by then, keep a look out for players later in that round like a strong and fluid pass rusher like Florida State’s Brian Burns, or in further rounds and find a high-motor, unrelenting type of player in Chase Winnovich from Michigan.
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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