The Buccaneers have a core on defense that is going to make them great for a long time.
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After watching the Lions get handled by the Seahawks on Wild Card Weekend, many felt that the Buccaneers were more deserving of the playoff spot. It’s a reasonable point considering the Bucs won six out of their last eight games, including a win over those same Seahawks.
Yes, the win was in Tampa, but it still showed us the quality of team the Bucs are becoming.
But in the end, it didn’t work out, so we are left with our 9-7 record, looking forward to the 2017 season.
We have talked already about the fact that there are reasons to be excited about this team going forward. One of the biggest reasons is the defense. Over their five-game winning streak, the defense gave up 12.8 points per game. That’s an elite number, ladies and gentlemen. Elite.
The best part is, they are only going to get better. Why? Because they have a young core group that will be together a long time.
It starts up front with Noah Spence. He was the highly regarded pass rusher that came out of school with some questions. He was kicked out of Ohio State, causing him to finish his college career at Eastern Kentucky. After the Bucs selected him in the second round, he proved his worth by posting 5.5 sacks, good for fifth in the league (tied with Emmanuel Ogbah). Spence is a whopping 23 years old.
We move to the linebackers and talk about the tackling machine, Kwon Alexander. Upon arrival in Tampa in 2015, he started in the middle of this defense and took on a lead role. He missed four games as a rookie due to suspension, but started 12 games and posted 93 tackles, 57 solo. He followed that up this season with 108 solo tackles to lead the league, and 145 tackles overall to place him fourth.
Not too bad for a fourth round draft pick who, by the way, is only 22 years old.
Finally we have the first round pick, Vernon Hargreaves. He was targeted by the Bucs early in the draft process, and Jason Licht made him the team’s first pick of the 2016 draft. Hargreaves showed himself as a guy who would stick his hat in there and make a play. He finished his rookie campaign with 76 total tackles and three for losses, per Sporting Charts. His Pro Football Focus grade of 83.0 against the run ranked him ninth among cornerbacks.
Now, he had some moments against the pass he would like to forget. He did allow 86 receptions for 1,271 yards, both league-topping numbers. But as a rookie, adding ten passes defended and an interception to his tackles show us a player with a lot of promise. He’s the youngest of the trio at 21 years old.
That places the average age of these core players at 22 years old. These Bucs are talented, young, and only going to get better. This group is going to be around for a long time, and will be instrumental in a whole lot of wins.