Pro Football Focus ranked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers run defense as one of the best in the NFL. Will they be able to live up to the offseason hype?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers feature some of the league’s best run defenders. At every level of the defense, the Bucs have players who love to lay the boom on opposing running backs.
As they continue their rankings of units and positions for each NFL team, Pro Football Focus has high hopes for the Bucs ability to stop the run:
"The Buccaneers have revamped their defensive line heading into 2018, and it bodes well for their success against the run. Their top draft pick was Washington’s Vita Vea, who ranked fourth among all draft-eligible defensive tackles with a 12.1 run-stop percentage. At linebacker, David produced the second-highest run-defense graded in the NFL among linebackers at 93.4, while Kwon Alexander was tied for 10th among inside linebackers with a 10.0 run-stop percentage."
Tampa’s run defense will be effective this season because of their front seven. The Bucs versatile defensive line and star-studded linebacking corps will sniff out any attempt on the ground.
Although Tampa boasted one of the league’s worst defenses last season, most of the damage was done through the air. The secondary was targeted by opposing offenses while the Bucs stout front held their ground.
With even more improvements to their front seven through the draft and free agency, the Buccaneers should have zero problems stopping the run.
Vita Vea, Beau Allen and Mitch Unrein would be a nice trio for any team but put them next to former All-Pro Gerald McCoy? It creates a dangerous unit.
One of the biggest concerns along the Tampa defensive line was on the outside. Noah Spence has shown flashes, but William Gholston has been a replacement level players for most of his career.
General manager Jason Licht decided to trade for Jason Pierre-Paul and sign Vinny Curry in free agency to add the final touches to his defensive line.
The additions will be a massive help, but the Buccaneers already featured stars on their roster, giving them a strong foundation to work with.
Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander are one of the most dynamic linebackers in the league, while McCoy anchors a defensive line which can field countless combinations of players. The versatility and power makes it hard for offensive coordinators to stick to their ground game for very long.
Although they aren’t often known for their run-stuffing prowess, Tampa Bay does have some solid run defenders. Ryan Smith is a willing tackler and Justin Evans who may take too many chances but he isn’t afraid to wrap up running backs.
There is no doubt Tampa Bay has the talent on paper to become one of the league’s premier run defenses. Defensive coordinator Mike Smith has all the tools to finally turn the Buccaneers defense around.