New Bucs defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and his teammates donned the shoulder pads for the first time during their 2018 training camp on Saturday. That means it’s time to better gauge and evaluate the play of Tampa Bay’s offensive and defensive linemen, especially in 1-on-1 pass rush drills.
With 58 sacks in his eight previous years with the New York Giants, Pierre-Paul is a two-time Pro Bowler and was as good as advertised on Saturday – even playing defensive tackle in nickel pass rush situations, which he did with great regularity. The Bucs plan on using Pierre-Paul at right defensive end opposite Vinny Curry on first and second downs, and bring him inside to defensive tackle next to Gerald McCoy in nickel pass rush situations. When that happens, Noah Spence steps in at right defensive end to replace JPP.
Pierre-Paul is embracing the opportunity to play multiple roles on Brentson Buckner’s defensive line.
“Yeah, I’ve been getting it,” Pierre-Paul said of the wrinkle of playing inside at tackle. “I can play the whole line, all across the board and that’s what makes me special. I can play the whole line.”
This isn’t the first time the 6-foot-5, 275-pound Pierre-Paul has played defensive tackle. He was used inside as a nickel rush tackle earlier in his career in New York.
“That’s what he started out as early on,” Buckner said. “When he came in and the Giants were running the three-end package that made it possible, and he was the guy inside with [Justin] Tuck and all them. Because it went from Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan outside and Tuck had to do it inside. Then when Strahan left, Tuck went outside and JPP replaced him inside, so it’s somewhere he’s comfortable being.
“Like I’ve said before, we’re D-linemen for real – we don’t have positions. Some of us, by our size, limit what we can do on certain downs, but I’d rather have those guys like that that are capable of going anywhere because now we can dictate the matchups we want and he’s comfortable in there.”
Although Pierre-Paul missed the OTAs but showed up for the mandatory mini-camp in mid-June, he has quickly formed a bond with Buckner, who played 12 years in the league as a nose tackle in San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Carolina.
“I like him as a defensive line coach and I’m learning a lot from him,” Pierre-Paul said. “He knows what it’s like to be on that D-line and you have to stay consistent. Playing D-line is tough. Every day we’re constantly hitting each other, we’re hitting the offensive line, and we’re playing the run. It’s tough to play the D-line, and Coach Buck does a very great job of teaching the fundamentals and what to do at what point.”
Whether it’s at defensive end or defensive tackle the Bucs are counting on Pierre-Paul, who was acquired in an offseason trade, to improve the league’s worst pass rush as Tampa Bay had just 22 sacks in 2017.
Pierre-Paul and the rest of the defensive line were in action during the one-on-one drills versus the offensive line on Saturday. Click to the next page to see videos and recaps of which unit was victorious.