Entering his third NFL season, edge rusher Noah Spence has returned to training camp healthy and could have a major comeback performance.
Former second-round pick Noah Spence needs a big year. His injury history and lack of production have put his long-term future with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in doubt.
For the past two seasons, Noah Spence has been hampered with a shoulder injury. The 24-year-old has already undergone a pair of surgeries on his right shoulder after multiple dislocations.
Unfortunately, his injuries made him ineffective in 2017. He played in six games and only managed one sack on the year. After a promising rookie season, his lackluster sophomore campaign has made him an afterthought for not only NFL pundits, but the most faithful Buccaneers followers.
Despite the unimpressive stat line, the only issue for Spence thus far has been his health. Entering the 2016 Draft, the question marks surrounding him had to do with his work ethic and off-field decision making.
Two seasons in, Spence has done a good job staying on the right course and focusing on football. His health has been what has held him back. It has lowered his ceiling.
Spence now has to prove he can stay healthy and bring consistent pressure off the edge following the surgeries. The character concerns are behind him and he needs to put it together on the field.
Without the ability to make the most of his tremendous athleticism, Spence has been an easy task for NFL caliber offensive tackles.
Following a procedure early in the offseason, Spence went to work on his body. He gained nearly 30 pounds and looks like a completely different player. With a healthy shoulder and more strength, Spence has done all he can to prepare for 2018.
With what appears to be a full range of motion and a new look frame, Spence’s pass rushing repertoire should be back to what it was in 2016.
Another positive on Spence’s side is the talent around him. At the moment, Spence’s role appears to be a situational pass rusher. With Jason Pierre-Paul and Vinny Curry lined up at defensive end, Spence won’t be asked to play on early downs. His sole focus will be getting to the quarterback.
Spence is in a good situation. He has teammates who compliment his style and who can take some attention from opposing offenses away from him. However, health is something Spence hasn’t been able to escape from.
At his age, his long list of injuries is something the Tampa Bay coaching staff has to be concerned about. If Spence is asked to play a big role in 2018, the injury bug may bite him again. That may play a role in defensive coordinator Mike Smith‘s decision to pick his spots with Spence.
This season could define Spence. He may be known as a talented player who just couldn’t stay healthy or a rejuvenated player ready to make some noise in an improved defense.