Following the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ selection of cornerback Vernon Hargreaves in the 2016 NFL Draft, Jason Licht doubled down on defense and took Noah Spence to help improve the team’s pass rush.
In his rookie season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Spence did pretty darn well I’d say. Five and a half sacks to go along with 22 tackles in 16 games as a role player coming off the edge.
What made his first-year performance all the more encouraging was the fact we learned he’d done it with a rather bad shoulder injury, especially towards the end of the campaign.
His grit, toughness and performance despite it all was exactly what the team needed on defense and they finally had it.
Until his shoulder injury flared back up in 2017 and Spence missed most of the season repairing and rehabilitating.
Perhaps playing through 2016 helped lead to his injury in 2017. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence. Either way, the 2016 draft class is often counted as one of the weaker ones in Licht’s tenure with Spence and Hargreaves both struggling to make consistent impacts on the team to this point.
Both had average to solid rookie seasons. Neither lived up to their potential in the next. Even if injury played a part, year three is a big one for this duo.
We’ve all heard or read about Spence’s weight gain, and the young man does look significantly bigger while still looking fast and trim in body type.
But it’s all going to come down to the shoulder. When asked how it feels, Spence had this to say,
"“I feel great, man. It’s a blessing that I got the surgery I got, with the Laterjet. It’s a lot different. It’s a little more intense but it’s a lot better, though.”"
Encouraging words to say the least. There’s a saying which goes, ‘feel good, play good’. Of course, there’s a first part I’m leaving out to fit my message, but it’s important all the same.
When Richard Sherman ruptured his Achilles’ tendon last season he mentioned he could feel it going but pushed through it anyway. While it’s admirable of him, if you go back and look at tapes of those plays and games leading to his injury, you see a little bit different version of the dominant cornerback we all love.
Simply, he didn’t feel confident knowing his body was hurting, and his play suffered for it even if only a little.
Spence feeling good about his body and adding some muscle while maintaining his pass rushing ability should help the Tampa Bay Buccaneers improve in a much needed area of the game: Pass Rush.
Licht has done wonders to try and help his defensive line reach their full potential. If Spence can come back this year to reach his own, then there’s no limit (make ‘em say..) to what this defense could do.