Final Grades for the Buccaneers 2016 Season
DEFENSIVE LINE: B-
The award for most improved has to go to the Bucs secondary, but man did the defensive line give them a run for their money.
Try to find one fan in using #SiegeTheDay or #FireTheCannons who doesn’t like Noah Spence and I’d be surprised if you found even half of one.
The fact this second-round draft pick finished the year with a separated shoulder shows you the level of determination and dedication he also showed during his time overcoming his ejection from the Big-Ten and Ohio State University.
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5.5 sacks for the rookie is a promising number when you look at his role on the team this season, and his future is as bright as any at this point.
Gerald McCoy has been anchoring this defensive front for some time now, and he was up to his usual tricks on his way to yet another Pro Bowl this year.
Turning in seven sacks with two forced fumbles is humble on the stat sheet, but his ability to show up and pressure the offense when it was needed the most was anything but.
Robert Ayers battled injury early in the year and William Gholston battled injury later. Both men finished with a combined 9.5 sacks and while the younger of the two will be a free-agent upcoming, Ayers will be back in pewter next season, and the fans should be jumping for joy to see him in his second year on this line.
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The Bucs finished Top-10 in sacks this regular season, and the defensive line had a hand in every single one of the 38.
Clinton McDonald gets lost in the shuffle a bit playing amongst some of these names, but his 8th season as a pro football player saw him come up with 3.5 sacks as well.
Overall, the unit was consistently good at getting in the faces of opposing quarterbacks and preventing running backs like Devonta Freeman, Jordan Howard and Latavius Murray from taking over games.
There was a stretch during the year where this front line contributed to allowing just one rushing touchdown to a running back in six games.
Down the stretch this group got victimized by the likes of Ezekiel Elliott and even Mark Ingram, but overall, it was still a strong year for the defensive front.