FAB 4. Timing Is Right For Gholston To Rebound
Timing – as they say – is everything.
There is good timing and there is bad timing.
Now that he’s making $3.75 million, his smallest salary in three years, seventh-year Bucs defensive end Will Gholston is actually experiencing some great timing right now.
In 2016, Gholston was one of the Bucs best defenders, especially against the run in helping Tampa Bay to a 9-7 season in Dirk Koetter’s first year as head coach. Gholston played well enough to earn a four-year, $27.5 million contract with $13.5 million in guarantees. Unfortunately, Gholston’s production didn’t come close to matching his hefty price tag over the past two years.
We’ve recently seen what happens when the Bucs don’t feel players are playing up to their paychecks. Tampa Bay’s latest salary cap casualty was six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who I’m guessing didn’t accept a pay cut from his $13 million after producing just six sacks last year. The Bucs’ first cap casualty this year was defensive end Vinny Curry, who was due $8 million in 2019 after making $6.5 million last year and recording just 2.5 sacks. Defensive tackle Beau Allen was forced to take a $1 million pay cut down to $4 million this year to stay in Tampa Bay.
Gholston recorded 67 tackles and three sacks in 2015 and 49 tackles and three sacks in 2016, but totaled 46 tackles and one sack over the last two years combined. He had a $7 million cap number in 2017 while recording 36 tackles and no sacks for the first time in his NFL career. Last year, Gholston recorded a career-low 10 tackles and one sack last year and was passed on the depth chart by newcomers Carl Nassib and Curry while having a $6 million cap value.
A year ago Gholston might have been the worst value on the team. This year, his smaller cap value likely saved his job – in addition to Tampa Bay switching to a 3-4 scheme under new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. With Curry gone and Nassib moved to outside linebacker, Gholston is penciled in as the starting strongside defensive end
As previously stated, Gholston is experiencing some great timing.
Although he’s listed at 6-foot-6, 281 pounds on Tampa Bay’s roster, Gholston has added some weight necessary to play the 3-4 defensive end role, and has impressed head coach Bruce Arians.
“He’s in a natural position for him,” Arians said. “He can gain a little weight now and use his length. But he’s as steady and consistent as we have.”
New Bucs special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong singled out Gholston back at his introductory press conference with the media months ago, noting his kick-blocking experience. Gholston has blocked four kicks in Tampa Bay, including two in 2017.
“Field goal block – [they] did a nice job there with the field goal block stuff,” Armstrong said. “You had to know where 92 Gholston was. You had to protect against that.”
At age 27, Gholston is in phenomenal shape and is ready to get back to making an impact in run defense this year and blocking kicks on special teams.
“I’m playing where they tell me to play – any of those interior positions I’m ready to go,” Gholston said. “It’s kind of easier with a little more weight. I’m about 306, 308. It’s more comfortable for me for sure. I just have to stay consistent with my craft and just being a good vet and a good pro and showing the younger guys how to do things – and doing the things I’m supposed to do.”
Gholston’s playing time will likely increase in 2019, and even if he doesn’t light up the stats sheet by doing the dirty work of taking on tight end and tackle double teams, freeing up Nassib and others to make plays in the backfield. After two years of underwhelming play and being overpaid, Gholston’s salary and his role in Bowles’ attacking style of defense seem just right in 2019.
“Guys are just making plays all over the field in this defense – the whole time this spring,” Gholston said. “Up front we’re staying in our gap and penetrating. Schematically, it’s simple for us to do, but I think it will be hard for [our opponents] to pick up. And there are a lot of guys on our D-line that will command a double team, that’s for sure. I think it will open things up for our linebackers whether we are five [linemen] down and two [linebackers] up, or with the safeties and corners rolling. I’m excited about it.”
Not only is Gholston is excited about his role in Bowles’ defense, he’s also excited about his new teammate, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
“That’s what you need on defense – you need somebody that is nasty, that is aggressive and that is mean,” Gholston said. “When the marquee guy plays like that it rubs off on everyone else.”
Gholston believes that Suh will serve as a great role model for Vita Vea, who enters his second year on a high note after finishing his rookie campaign with three sacks down the stretch.
“Think about having that nasty temperament next to you if you’re Vita, man,” Gholston said. “Two really big, strong, 300-plus-pound dudes – just some nasty dudes – going at it next to each other – it’s really going to cause some disruption for us up front.”
Throw in next to Suh and Vea a bigger – and perhaps better – Gholston, who is hungry to prove his worth, and Tampa Bay’s three-man defensive line seems quite formidable this year.