FAB 2. Nelson Impressing After Missing Camp

Part of the reason why the Bucs are in position to move on so quickly from Jason Pierre-Paul if his neck injury hinders his production when he returns to action for the final 10 games of the season is not just the steady production of outside linebacker Carl Nassib and the emergence of pass rusher Shaquil Barrett, who signed a one-year deal in free agency.

It’s also the presence of rookie outside linebacker Anthony Nelson, the team’s fourth-round pick this year, who appears to have a bright future in Tampa Bay.

The Bucs believe they have three really good edge rushers in Barrett, Nassib and Nelson – and will have a fourth this year if and when Pierre-Paul can make it back from his neck injury.

Bucs OLB Anthony Nelson
Bucs OLB Anthony Nelson – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Although Nelson missed the entire preseason and most of training camp due to a sprained MCL, he made a near instant impact on defense in just his second NFL game. On a third down play in the first half of the team’s upset win in Carolina, the 6-foot-7 Nelson used his near 35-inch long arms to swat down Cam Newton’s screen pass attempt and force a punt. Later, Nelson created the game’s only turnover when he hit Newton and forced a fumble that was recovered by defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

“It was huge – two big plays,” said Bucs head coach Bruce Arians. “It was a shame he got that MCL [injury] on the last play of practice, but he’s got a bright future.”

While Nelson was out of action he was able to make the most of his mental reps in practice while watching from the sidelines. That visualization through the month of August paid dividends in the month of September where he recorded four tackles, including three in last week’s 32-31 loss to the New York Giants.

“I think mentally the game is starting to slow down for me,” Nelson said. “Then being able to recognize the guys around me and work within the defense to do my moves and all of the things I’ve done. Being able to fit in and think faster is where I have improved the most.”

Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles recognizes how cerebral of a player Nelson is and how that has quickly enabled to him to earn playing time right away despite missing most of training camp.

Bucs OLB Anthony Nelson
Bucs OLB Anthony Nelson – Photo by: Getty Images

“He’s smart,” Bowles said. “He came into the game smart. He rarely makes mental mistakes. He’s just got to keep getting better at the little things. We like what we see in him thus far – it’s early in the season, but he just has to keep grinding. We have a lot of confidence in him.”

One thing that has helped Nelson is having a pair of veteran edge rushers to learn from in Barrett and Nassib.

“I’m in a good situation for sure because those guys are great players,” Nelson said. “I’m just happy – blessed – to be here, and I don’t know if there is a better situation for me to be in.”

With Nassib also being 6-foot-7 and similarly built, Nelson has a player on the team he can model his game after.

“It’s a huge advantage for me to watch him use his hands and the way he works,” Nelson said. “Literally having a guy with a very similar body type and be able to prototype run this defense for you and you can watch him on film and then try to apply that for yourself is a huge help.”

Bucs outside linebacker Devante Bond agrees.

“When Anthony is in the meeting room he’s listening and absorbing everything,” Bond said. “He’s young, but he’s picking up everything well from watching Carl. Shaq and I are kind of in the same mold, and Anthony and Carl are in the same mold. It’s definitely a good thing to have a similar guy that you can watch and learn from.”

Bucs nose tackle Beau Allen has been impressed with Nelson’s cerebral approach to the game.

Bucs OLB Shaq Barrett
Bucs OLB Shaq Barrett – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“He does have good vets in his room like Carl and Shaq to help him along, and he’s a versatile player that can do a lot of different things,” Allen said. “I like what I’ve seen from him so far. I’ve been impressed with as a rookie so far with his demeanor and how much time he’s missed. The thing that I always notice about rookies when you get into the regular season is how they kind of get lost in the grind of how much there is to do off the field in terms of film study and learning the playbook and knowing the defense in and out. He’s got a really good feel for the defense and I attribute that to being a student of the game and learning how to be a pro. It was really good to see that out of a rookie. It’s really good to see that if you’re young and you have that mindset it can set you for long-term success down the road and create some good habits.”

While Allen likes Nelson’s mental make-up, defensive end Will Gholston likes his increasing physical nature.

“He’s becoming more vicious and he’s beginning to play more violently,” Gholston said.

Bucs tight end Antony Auclair has to block Nelson in practice and has been awed how quickly he’s gotten up to speed after missing almost all of training camp with his knee injury.

“He didn’t play in a single preseason game, but he’s getting better and better every day,” Auclair said. “I get to go against him on the scout team and that guy is long and he’s got long arms. For me those guys are hard to block for sure. I have long arms myself, but his are longer. The more experience he gets the better he’ll be. “He looks like Carl, but I think he can be his own player. I think Carl is getting so much better, too – It’s scary.”

Bucs DE Carl Nassib - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs DE Carl Nassib – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

While both Nelson and Nassib are both 6-foot-7 and weigh over 270 pounds, Nelson is slightly faster – running a 4.82 to Nassib’s 4.84 in the 40-yard dash – and more athletic. Nelson had a 118-inch broad jump, a 4.23 time in the 20-yard shuttle, and a 6.95 time in the three-cone drill. Nassib had a 114-inch broad jump, a 4.37 time in the 20-yard shuttle, a 7.27 time in the three-cone drill

Nelson has slightly longer arms that measure nearly 35 inches, and an 83-inch wingspan, whereas Nassib has 34 1/2-inch arms and an 82-inch wingspan. Nelson – and the Bucs – hopes he can follow in Nassib’s footsteps.

“He’s relentless every day,” Nelson said of Nassib. “He’s the guy that comes in every day and gets us fired up for practice and let’s everybody know that this is an advantage to get better and try to win every day. He’s consistently been high-effort and high-energy. He’s been a great leader for us through the whole spring and all of training camp and he hasn’t stopped. Nobody was surprised when he was named a team captain.”

Nassib has taken Nelson under his wing and helped fast track the rookie’s start to the season after he missed the month of August with his knee injury.

“Nelson is doing a lot of good things,” Nassib said. “He’s going to continue to get better. I really like the way he comes to work. He’s not one of those talkative rookies that I was. He shuts his mouth and works. I like him.”

Bucs OLB Carl Nassib
Bucs OLB Carl Nassib – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Arians feels like the sky is the limit for the team’s rookie linebacker and has been impressed with his production thus far.

“He’s just starting,” Arians said. “What he showed in OTAs with his length and his athletic ability – I started making him a tight end, but we’ve already got tight ends. He’s that type of athlete. He’s learning this game as he’s playing it, and he’s doing a pretty good job.”

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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]

27 COMMENTS

  1. Well we stopped Barkley, and the Giants running game last week, and still gave up 35 points to a rookie QB getting his first start. I think it’s getting old saying we have to shut down the run every week when the NFL has become a passing league. I said last weeks game would come down to what the QB’s did, not just stopping Barkley, and it did. Spin Jameis’s numbers all you want, but he was completely out played by Jones in the second half last week. In the home opener he handed the 49ers the game with two pick six’s. He did enough to win at Carolina, but more importantly he didn’t give the game away with picks, or fumbles. Last week as I said he had an impressive first half, but sure didn’t do enough in the second half to secure the win. Don’t hate me, I don’t hate Jameis, but he hasn’t shown me so far he’s the man we should give 30 plus million a year to. Now to this game. Yeah Gurley needs to be held in check, but the game will come down to which QB does better. There’s a reason QB’s are paid the most, and every team want’s ( that guy). So will Jameis tear it up, and not be the reason we lose, or will Goff do it. Most weeks that’s what it comes down to. Which QB puts his team in the best position to get the win.

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    • Which qb puts their team in postion to win you say? So having a fg from about 27 yards to win the game isnt putting your team in position? Spin it how you want dude ,but you just made your own comments look stupid.

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      • A quarterback who scored no TDs in the second half, but throws it to the other team in the second half, completely negates any possible effect of any kicker.

        If you are depending upon kickers to win games, you have a losing team. Period.

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        • A qb that throws for 380 yards and 3 tds is more than enough naples. It was a chip shot fg to win the game, spin it how you want. But that is a fact. And how is jameis supposed to do anything when he passed the ball 1 time in the 4th quarter? I know i know, its hard for you to grasp, but again youre making zero point here as usual. Fg was a chip shot to win, jameis put us in position to win. You cant change that to fit whatever narrative you want.

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    • Agreed CG. Surfer, I used to enjoy your posts. They were always informative. Now you sound like a kid who got his ball taken away from him. Jameis doesn’t call the plays, jameis didn’t give up 35 points to a rookie, jameis didn’t miss two extra points and a field goal. Take the hate elsewhere because your credibility is about as high as BAB and that’s not a good thing

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    • You know nothing about football so please watch more games so you can learn thank you

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  2. Hoping Jensen, Godwin, and Vea all get to play Sunday. They’ve all made their presence known so far this season. I like the idea of locking up Barrett and Nassib long term. JPP prefers to play in a 4-3 anyway. Glad we’re likely to have that extra 13 million in cap space next season.

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  3. So the Bucs will have close to $79 mill next offseason? Winston, Barrett and Nassib extensions. Also need to get a vet CB, let VH3 go, and sign a LT, move Smith to RT.

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    • You think Donovan smith will be better at RY? I never thought about that. I agree with everything we need too add a Veteran CB and Safety to this team

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  4. Winston extension? Hold on there fella, maybe you’ve seen enough to extend him, but I’m still waiting. Read my last post, it’s going to come down to which QB plays better as it usually does. Winston has to prove he can win more games then he loses to get a big pay day, that’s why he’s hasn’t been locked up yet. This is prove it year, and so far he’s proved jack shit. Let’s see how it plays out before signing that check.

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    • Since you seem to think it’s all on the QB, I guess Rodgers was the reason they lost last night huh? We all know if Jameis did that, you’d be calling for his release. You can’t have it both ways.

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    • I’m an FSU fan. I’ve been watching Jameis since like 2012. I know the QB he is and the potential is still there.

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  5. Can’t believe you waisted an entire page talking about “Captainship”. Listen Nassib may be a nice guy, vocal leader, hard worker and everything else but what Nassib has shown me the 1yr he’s been here is that he is just a guy. Nassib still haven’t figured out how to get off a block, he’s drawing on every play a single blocker and once they get their hands on him he’s stuck. Nassib is a decent rotational player but that’s all. Nothing against him it’s just my opinion.

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  6. A win Sunday and we are right back in the thick of things. I hope Daniel Jones lights it up to help mend another QB having there career game against the Bucs. Pound the rock and let Rojo have a great homecoming. Defend the run, keep Gurley under 75 yards and lets see if we get a couple breaks for a road win on the dreaded west coast.

    Go Bucs
    Bucs 24-17

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  7. Well, as always, the bottom line is the bottom line. And in football and other team sports, the bottom line is winning. Everything else is just explanation for the winning or losing.

    To date this season, at 1-2, the Bucs on “on pace” to win 5 games, repeating the sorry results of the previous two 5-11 seasons.

    Unfortunately for the Bucs, most expect the “pace” to go lower not higher.

    But we’ll see come the end of the season.

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  8. Soooo is anyone else concerned that Jameis has never thrown a reciever open to get YAC when the ball has to travel 30+ yards in the air ? If that throw to Mike is a little bit better, Mike gets into the endzone. We’ve never seen that kind of throw from him!

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    • Rewatch Godwins last catch of his rookie season vs NO. That’s the throw you’re looking for. Can Winston do it? Yes. Would we like to see more of it? Absolutely!

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  9. This article is close on JPP but not quite right. Yes, the Bucs hope he can come back this year but the odds are stacked against him. They are cutting their potential losses by paying him more but cutting the contract for one year. There is a story out there saying the Bucs doubt he will be able to play again. That is the reality of JPP. https://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/nfl/jason-pierre-paul-agrees-to-restructured-contract-with-bucs/ar-AAHPtYd

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  10. IDK Scott – I find it amazing no matter how hard it’s raining on him, you can always find a ray of sunshine around Jason Licht.

    How much better would our offense be with Humphries ($5m cap in Tenn), instead of the horrible Perriman ($4m cap in TB) and his 4 drops this year? That’s $1m difference.

    You also missed noting his biggest financial move of the offseason – swapping out Donovan Smith at $1.93m of cap, for Donovan Smith at $12.5m of cap…a negative to the cap of $10.5m!!!! All to sign the worst LT in the league…..and it’s not just me, or pff saying that….you guys put Donovan Smith on your Worst Performers list more than any other Buc.

    Face it – the guy is not good at this GM stuff….

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  11. The fact still remains that we can win any game if everyone shows up. Just like the past couple years we could be 3-0 just as easily as 0-3 so far this year. If we can bring both ‘fences together at once we can win any game. We have seen improvements in some areas and weaknesses in others and it’s all about how they learn and improve. For al we know, this long road trip will allow them to focus on nothing but their game and it could go a lot better than expected. Nothing wrong with Hope!!!

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  12. Thank you Scott for the information.
    I will be recording the Bucs and will not be watching them live for a while until I feel like they can be winners. I’ve been disappointed so many times, but this last one has really got me.
    I have been a Buc fan since 1976. I have gone through two 15 year no playoffs games time-frames. I’m not wasting my time anymore for a while. I’m not giving up on Bucs, but I’m not going to put myself in a position again where hope is scratched just like that! Presently we are no better than what we were last season or many past seasons. You all enjoy the game; I’ll watch them if they win the game via recorder; much healthier for me right now.

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  13. Blaming Jameis Winston for the loss to the Giants is just another attempt to spew the anti-Winston agenda with virtually no supporting data other than the “L”. Typical Naples who, while far more rational than Bob, usually emerges to enlighten the rest of us about #3 after a loss. To be sure, Jameis has his faults and his play hasn’t been consistent enough or spectacular enough to overcome the shortcomings of his teammates. But in this game against the “Gints”, Jameis’ play contributed to the 18 point lead and put the team in excellent position, with but a few seconds to travel the length of the field, to kick what should have been the game-winner.

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  14. Much less drama without GMC. The D-line seems to work as a unit not individuals. Good future.

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  15. Great work by Licht!!

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  16. Licht releases free agent mistakes (though weren’t your examples really Lovie’s?), but he does hold onto draft picks (Spence and Hardgraeves come to mind). To me having a guy money for the really, really important kicks (40 in) who *can* bang a long one (Santos) is more important than spending a draft pick on a guy who’s iffy from closer but can bang from far (and don’t give me Gay’s 39-40 ratio within 40 in college. Look at how the ball comes off his foot. If it’s straight and true (think Justin Tucker), it doesn’t matter if he makes it, it’s HOW he made it. With Gay and Aguayo, even though the field goal was made it was always drifting to one side or the other. This will manifest itself in the pros and has).

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  17. Let me see if I understand. We’ve lost of three games to the worst two teams in football and the answers provided by the coaching staff are platitudes as follows:
    1. It takes 60 minutes to win games.
    2. We just didn’t make plays.
    3. I took a penalty to move back.
    4. I took a lot of sacks.

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  18. Fab 3 is incorrect. Arians said in his presser Matt Gay “is our kicker and isnt going anywhere.” So no they will not be releasing Gay of course

    The kid bounced back and nailed 4 straight FGs including a 50 + yarder. He wasnt the reason we lost. It was obviously on the defense and specifically the Secondary is to blame.

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