In just a few short days, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be taking the field for their first preseason action. Highly scrutinized rookie Noah Spence is ready to show he was well worth the risk.
Defensive coordinator Mike Smith must have felt like a kid on Christmas after the Buccaneers used a second round pick on defensive end Noah Spence. By now, we all know the story behind Spence’s dismissal from the Big Ten Conference and his journey to Eastern Kentucky. He was deemed a character concern, some believed he was undraftable. Not Jason Licht. Not the guy who was part of a war room that took a chance on Tyrann Mathieu. Now, Spence will see his first professional action as the Bucs travel to Philly to take on the Eagles Thursday night.
Spence isn’t going to be an immediate, every down starter. Smith is going to have to pick the right spots for Spence to start the season off, and he may not even become a full time starter this season. Smith talked about Spence’s size, his ability against the run, and if he’s going to be mostly a third down player;
"“Noah by standards is an undersized defensive end, but I think he plays a lot bigger than his measurable. He has a very good short punch, and he understands leverage, and he’s got quickness. He can move and run around blocks at times and make some plays and he’s also got strong enough hands and punch that he can hold the point. We’re going to have to be very careful about what we’re going to ask him to do early on in the season.In the NFL today you’re going to play your sub defensive package probably about 65 to 70 percent of the time, so really your nickel package is your base package. We use the term that it’s a nickel or our sub package – it’s not because you’re playing against teams that are working on spacing routes and trying to spread the field out. I think it’s realistic if he continues to progress, he’s going to have an opportunity to play a whole lot of snaps. I don’t think that we have 11 starters, we don’t think of that, we think of it as we’ve got 15 or 16 starters based on the defensive plan for that week, and how people are going to present offensive formations to us."
Despite many thinking Spence couldn’t be drafted due to character concerns, there are just as many that recognized that he very well could be the best pure pass rusher in this past draft. Spence understands what challenges lie ahead of him, especially working on his run defense;
"“I’m getting a lot better since the first day for sure. My first couple of days I didn’t know what was going on with the run, it was all moving so fast. Now it’s starting to slow down a lot more for me. I’m just lining up in the right spot and things like that, being able to hold my blocks.”"
Noah Spence might be the player Bucs fans are looking forward to seeing the most Thursday night as pass rush has been one of, if not the biggest weakness on this team for a while. Fortunately for all of us, the wait to see him isn’t much longer.