FAB 2. Bucs Have Insane D-Line Depth

Not only has Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht revamped the Bucs defensive line with a handful of talented new players, the personnel grouping options for Brentson Buckner, the new defensive line coach Licht and head coach Dirk Koetter hired this offseason, seem endless. Prepare to be excited about the possibilities, Bucs fans.

First, let’s take a look at what could possibly be Tampa Bay’s starting defensive line.

LE Vinny Curry
DT Gerald McCoy
NT Beau Allen
RE Jason Pierre-Paul

That’s two Pro Bowl-caliber players in McCoy and Pierre-Paul, and three players with Super Bowl-winning experience in JPP, Allen and Curry. McCoy and Pierre-Paul can bring the pass rush from both inside and outside, while Allen and Curry are noted run stuffers.

Now let’s examine what the Bucs’ second-string defensive line could resemble.

LE Will Gholston
DT Vita Vea
NT Mitch Unrein
RE Noah Spence

While this unit is younger and perhaps less experienced with Vea and Spence, there is still plenty of talent. Gholston and Unrein are proven run stoppers, Vea has the talent to push the pocket and Spence has the speed to seal the deal after get after quarterbacks.

Bucs DE Will Clarke - Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs DE Will Clarke – Photo by: Getty Images

That’s a hell of a second defensive line, and there would be some NFL teams that would love to have the Bucs’ second unit. And in a recent sitdown with the PewterReport.com staff, Licht told me he loves the competition and to not count out Will Clarke, DaVonte Lambert and Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, either.

Licht said that Buckner plans on mixing and matching the defensive line personnel this year.

“Every D-line coach is a little different,” Licht said. “It’s too early to tell exactly what’s going to happen, but I’m sure you can expect a few different wrinkles here and there. I know Buck likes taking advantage of match-ups.”

When the Bucs are facing a short-yardage or goal line situation, how about a defensive line that features the 347-pound Vea and the 320-pound Allen inside with Gholston and Unrein, who both check in around 290 pounds, at defensive end?

When Buckner wants to go to a “Jet” package in obvious pass rushing situations to get some speed on the field I could see him put McCoy and Curry inside as nickel rushing defensive tackles with Spence at left end and JPP at right end.

“We were real creative last year and Mike Smith is an intelligent guy,” Bucs linebacker Lavonte David said. “He can come up with everything, but it is all about us executing. With the defensive weapons we have now, I won’t be surprised that it will happen.”

Last year the Bucs defensive line was one of the team’s weak links. In the span of just one offseason Licht has turned it into what should be one of the team’s strengths, beginning with he and Koetter bringing in Buckner, followed by a slew of new defensive linemen.

“They set the tone,” Licht said. “They really set the tone up front. Show me a good defensive line and you have a couple of Pro Bowl players in the secondary and in the linebacker corps, too. I say that Buck is probably the happiest guy here, but Lavonte, Kwon [Alexander] and Kendell [Beckwith], once he gets healthy, should be pretty happy, too.”

Bucs DT Vita Vea - Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs DT Vita Vea – Photo by: Getty Images

“Having those big guys in front of us will help us (linebackers),” David said. “I haven’t met Vita, but he had a visit a couple weeks ago and I have heard nothing but great things about him. It was obvious we picked him because the talk about him was real big. He will fit our locker room and we are ready to see how it goes.”

While David is overjoyed about the team’s big, new additions up front, some of Tampa Bay’s offensive linemen know that their job on the practice fields at One Buccaneer Place just got harder.

“It makes things difficult, but that’s a good thing in the end,” Marpet said. “I think it will definitely make things difficult, much harder for the opposing teams to game plan. And it isn’t just Beau Allen and Vita Vea. I think it makes the whole defensive line difficult to scheme against. I think everyone is excited to see what our defensive line is going to do. We know they are going to dominate. Every position group is important, but in the NFL if you can rush the passer and stop the run, that helps your team tremendously.”

New Bucs center Ryan Jensen was happy to come in as part of a free agent class that consisted of Allen and Unrein, but the more recent additions of Curry, JPP and Vea have him really excited – even though training camp will become a war in the trenches.

“When you see a front like that from a scheming from an offensive front, that is a lot of big names and guys right there,” Jensen said. “It is going to be heck for teams going against is next year. It is hard going into a game knowing it is going to be coming from everywhere, so it is an advantage for us.”

In the span of just one offseason, the Bucs’ defensive line cupboard has gone from being almost bare to completely stocked – perhaps overflowing thanks to the additions of Buckner and a handful of really talented players. Where those players line up and which mismatches Buckner and Smith can create will remain a mystery that opposing offensive linemen will have a tough time solving in 2018.

 

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

33 COMMENTS

  1. I like the energy and experience Buckner has!
    On a unrelated subject can anyone tell me what to do with PR I CAN NOT give thumbs up or down. I have emailed them 2 times no response and called no response.

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    • You called them over that?? In addition to 2 emails? It’s such a trivial thing.

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      • Your Opinion is your Opinion.

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    • We are working on it.

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      • Thank You.

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  2. Is Buckner the DC in waiting, and, if so, how long do the Bucs wait?

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    • I believe he is but I don’t know how long they wait. Depends what the defensive production is outside of the d-line!

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    • Buckner may need to be HC in waiting.

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  3. I know one thing, those are some big boys up front now!

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  4. It’s interesting to hear Licht talk about taking guys off the board for character issues, yet he drafted Jordan Whitehead. Whitehead was suspended for three games by Pitt last season for an undisclosed violation of team policy. Also interesting is that there were consensus higher ranked safeties still on the board. I really hope that pick pans out!

    On your podcast last week, Mark and Trevor were adamant that Derwin James would have been the better pick. They kept calling Vea a “complementary” player because he would be on the field less than James. My response: so what? Even though a starting safety is on the field more often, what percentage of plays do they actually affect? Meanwhile, Vea will affect things just about every play he is on the field. Also, James didn’t impress last year. FSU defense was soft and weak, where was James? That’s the reason he slipped to 17.

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  5. Are we there yet? No! But we are pretty close. We’ve had the offensive skill pieces in place and with the addition of a quality RB or two, they have the table set to be a complete offense. A couple of questions remain on the O-Line, but I think those questions will be answered in training camp. The defense on paper looks to be significantly improved – and as Scott opined, the depth is substantial. The secondary is a work in progress, but the draft pieces added will be an upgrade and should benefit from the improvements in the D-Line.

    So what’s left? All eyes should be on the coaching. GM Licht went all out to give them the pieces to be successful. Now it’s incumbent on the coaches to mold and shape this team into a contender. On this front I should be more optimistic, but we shall see. No excuses! Bucs win!

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  6. Good Article Scott! I’ve got a concern as to the third backup QB? Why Griffin and a small guy like Allen? I believe this will force us to use a 3rd or 4th round pick for our back up. We obviously won’t know our answers as to where we stand at CB until a couple games into the regular season. Still not sure where we will actually stand in game wins, but it’s better than last year for sure. Go Bucs!

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  7. David Logan deserves consideration for RoH.

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    • I agree!!!

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  8. There comes a time when mistakes bite you and paying JJP so much money cost Bucs a shot at Dez Bryant .
    Jamies could have used Dez more than any other QB in league .

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    • Did you really just say that? So the Bucs, who had one of the worst pass rushes in NFL history last year, should have not signed JPP, to have a chance to sign a WR Dez Bryant(not a position of need) who’s a complete head case with basically no playoff experience. You realize that Jameis if you just take the games he started and finished, was on a 16 game pace of almost 5000 yards, 30 total TD’s, 64.5%, at 8.2 YPA and a QB Rating of over 100. The Bucs had a top 5 passing offense, as the absolute worst pass rush I’ve seen in a long long time. So yeah let’s take Dez Bryant, over JPP. You’re a clown

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      • Could of wood should does not count in NFL his average rating 88 over three years 92 last year
        I know it not what blind fans want here , you need back out yardage for lost Fumbles and INTs Dammm
        Jamies loses 70% of games he starts because of INT and lost fumbles ,
        You can not bring Defense tired back on field 2 times a game and still have functional Defense and win games . He needs stop throwing INT if Bucs want win.

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    • Bryant is nothing but trouble.

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  9. Dez Bryant!? Are you high?

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    • The Defense needs stay on sidelines more this year , JJP is not the same as he once was Giants dumped him for a reason . Does not seem any one in Bucs land get it
      Giants would have keep him if he was worth the money, they not total stupnickles . New style defense at Giants has nothing to do with it. He was sent to Bucs so Giants could use money get better players.
      Maybe Perter fans think Giants sent him here to make the Bucs a better team cause they are such nice guys.

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      • Who the heck is JJP?

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    • 69 catches for 838 yards is 2017 must be pretty bad in your book

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      • Looks like an over the hill guy to me.
        133 targets were the 12th most in the league and he was the 36th rated receiver in yards.

        Other comparisons.
        Rishard Matthews with 87 targets and 837 yards
        Julio Jones with 148 targets and 1639 yards

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  10. Licht is talking out of both sides of his mouth when he discusses how important character is in the locker room while spending a 4th round pick on a guy in Jordan Whitehead who was suspended, not 1, not 2, but 3 games THIS year due to a violation of team rules.

    Does Whitehead interview well? Sure. So did ASJ. As PR knows all to well, ASJ is great about telling you what he thinks you want to hear. I’m not sure how he is that different from Whitehead, who used questionable judgment in declaring for the Draft early, despite a less than stellar season and multiple week suspension on his resume.

    Don’t forget that MJ Stewart was suspended along with Mike Hughes as a Soph in UNC for punching a guy If you’re going the character route, Licht passed on Shaquem Griffin and A&M Captain and 4-year starter Armani Watts, neither of whom were ever suspended.

    There’s certainly a gray area when it comes to off-the-field problems; you have your busts like Johnny Manziel, Justin Blackmon and Randy Gregory. You also have some all-time good players like Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Lawrence Taylor, Cris Carter, Dez Bryant, Aquib Talib and many others who more than panned out for their teams despite their personal problems.

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  11. Great piece Scott, love your ring of honor rankings! And see it just made me revisit the moment they let Warrick Dunn go and how upset I really was over it lol. I’m excited to see what coach Buck can get out of the guys this year. Should be fun to watch!

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  12. Buc ass Bob, you literally have no idea what you’re talking about.

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    • I think he’s a Cowboy ass.

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  13. I literally have no clue how the way the Dline plays is up to the Dline coach and not the defensive coordinator. So Smith let Hayes have them stunt the majority, yet Buck will have them going straight. That stuff affects the whole defense. The fact that Smith didnt stop that nonsense last year is mind boggling to me. He left it to the position coach. He says the 10 yard cushion is up to the DB. Unreal. I just dont get it. The guy had better get it together this year. He needs to make the rules for all the positions or its not gona get better. Get all the different players you want but if theyre not all doing the best thing to complement each other it aint working. Cmon Smitty get it together.

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  14. Great insight as always, Scott. I always look forward to the Fab 5 and the cover 3.

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  15. Great insight as always, Scott!

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  16. I’m excited to see this defense this year! It’s far too early to be sure but right now DL is looking like it’ll give the LB group some competition for strongest unit on the team.

    Hopefully our DC will get together with the position coaches and figure out how to play to the players’ strengths rather than trying to put square pegs in circle holes as he did last year. Smith had a good year in 2016 so if he can get back to that we will be dangerous!

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  17. Can’t wait to see that 3,206-pound Syracuse try-out safety get onto the field. I bet he can redirect the route of any receiver in the league.

    Fab 5 is an entertaining read, as always. Man, NFL off-season goes on too long!

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  18. The Ring of Honor selection process has as much to do with the popularity of the guys selected as it is about the perceived magnitude of their actual contribution to the team, don’t you think, Scott?
    How else do you explain the fact that Alstott and Lynch are already enshrined? They were both very good players, but certainly not great players. They were both popular as hell with the fans, though.

    The fact that Wilder has been forgotten by so many fans is a real shame. I think it comes down to him playing during a time when the Bucs just absolutely sucked! For several years, Wilder was the only real offense the Bucs had.

    As for McKay – I don’t see how you can even begin to compare his ‘worthiness’ of inclusion into the Ring with Dungy’s. They coached in two completely different eras, for two completely different owners. McKay had to deal with an expansion franchise, no free agency, and cheap-ass owner Culverhouse signing (or NOT signing) the checks. McKay built that mess into a conference contender in four years. Dungy faced his own hurdles, but you can’t say he was worthy of earlier inclusion in the Ring. McKay was here first, so McKay was honored first. Both McKay and Dungy deserve to be in the Ring, and both will be, now.

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