Buccaneers: A very early 53-man roster prediction
By Zach Sauers
Robert Ayers Jr., Gerald McCoy, Chris Baker, William Gholston, Noah Spence, Jacquies Smith, Clinton McDonald, Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, Ryan Russell, Evan Panfil
Heading into the 2017 off-season, there was speculation whether or not Tampa was satisfied on their defensive line… and the answer to that was no. After signing former Washington Redskins defensive tackle Chris Baker to a bargain deal, Tampa was able to continue to build through the trenches by taking mammoth Stevie Tu’ikolovatu in the final round of this year’s draft.
By adding Baker to their returning starting front from the previous season in Robert Ayers Jr., Gerald McCoy, and William Gholston, it was clear that Tampa wanted to get bigger in the box. By adding two great pass rushing talents in second year player Noah Spence and returning healthy Jacquies Smith, Tampa looks to build upon their the success they had towards the end of the season.
Although much of the position group is able to return this season, the biggest surprise of the list above is undrafted rookie Evan Panfil. The former Purdue Boilermaker was brought to Tampa on a tryout, and was able to impress the coaches enough to sign him to the 90-man roster.
It was clear this past season that when Ayers Jrs. went down with an injury, the defensive end spot struggled against the run. Although the hope was Spence would be able to grow into the role and gain mass, at his current 240 pounds this seems unlikely. By analyzing Panfil’s tape, it is clear the Bucs may have a diamond in the rough capable of both being successful against the run and a threat in rushing the passer.