With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2018 campaign on the horizon, much of the hope relies on the defensive line.
If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to return to the playoffs for the first time in over a decade, their defensive line has to play at an elite level.
With the talent general manager Jason Licht has added up front, there are plenty of reasons to believe in the Bucs defense. If Tampa succeeds in 2018, its defensive front will be the reason why. They have a pair of former All-Pro level talent and plenty of depth to keep fresh legs on the field throughout the season.
When the season opens up and Tampa Bay is without Jameis Winston, the defensive line will hold the keys to the team’s success. If they can dominate in the trenches and pressure the quarterback, it will take the pressure off of turnover-prone Ryan Fitzpatrick and what could be a lackluster Bucs offense.
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Although the Buccaneers managed just 22 sacks last season, there’s reason to believe that number could nearly double next season. Edge rusher Noah Spence will garner less attention and Pierre-Paul had 8.5 sacks last year.
Tampa may lack a premiere pass rusher, but the talent along the interior will make life easy for the speedy sack artists on the outside.
The bread and butter for the defensive line will be their play against the run. With Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David behind them, the big bodies up front will make life impossible for opposing ground games.
Between McCoy, Vea, Beau Allen and Mitch Unrein, there won’t be many holes up the middle. Sniffing out the run will make opposing offenses one dimensional, allowing for defensive coordinator Mike Smith to send extra pressure.
The success of the Buccaneers front could propel this defense from one of the league’s worst in 2017, to one of the best in 2018.
On the roster:
Defensive Tackles: Gerald McCoy, Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, Beau Allen, Mitch Unrein, Vita Vea
On the bubble:
Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, Will Clarke, Demone Harris, Evan Perrizo, DaVonte Lambert, Channing Ward, Patrick O’Connor
Some of these players deserve to be on an NFL roster, but Tampa’s depth forces them to miss the final 53. Hopefully some of them can sneak onto the practice squad as insurance.
Health. The only way the Buccaneers defensive line struggles will be due to injuries. If this group can play together and gel they will wreak havoc on the NFC South.
It would take a lot for Tampa to not have success at the first level. How much success, that will depend on the development of a handful of young players.
The first being Vea. If the first-round selection can produce immediately, he would be devastating alongside McCoy.
Noah Spence is also a wildcard. He has the potential to become a problem off the edge, but he hasn’t yet lived up to it just yet. With the talent around him, Spence could see a big boost in production from a pass-rushing standpoint.
It’s simple, the Tampa Bay defensive line has the chance to carry this football team. New defensive line coach Brentson Buckner has made it a point to turn his group into leaders in the locker room and on the gridiron.
If the Bucs have any hope of returning to the postseason, the defensive line is where it all should lie. Jameis Winston and the offense will be able to handle themselves, but the linemen can turn a a struggling defense, into one of the elite units in all of football.