Despite the crushing failure of what was once a promising season, there are bright spots to be found on this Tampa Bay Buccaneer roster. One such is at defensive end.
Fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have prayed to the football gods for several gifts over the years. An exciting offense. A franchise quarterback. An early 2000’s throwback defense. A consistent kicking game. A playoff appearance. A playoff victory.
The list goes on. Most of these prayers have gone unanswered, but 2018 has seen one significant wish granted: the Buccaneers finally have talent at defensive end.
The drought of Buccaneer pass rushers has stretched back to Simeon Rice, who played his final season for the Bucs in 2006. For the entire time between 2006 and 2017, the Buccaneers were almost entirely without edge pressure, aside from one shining season from Michael Bennett before the team foolishly let him walk. They were regularly towards the bottom of the league in sacks, which played a huge part in some of the historically bad defenses that they fielded during those years.
To general manager Jason Licht’s credit, he set out during the 2017 off-season hellbent on fixing this crippling lack of edge pressure. He made arguably the best acquisition of his career as an executive when he traded for veteran Jason Pierre-Paul, who broke the infamous ten-sack drought and now sits at 11.5 on the season.
Licht also added veteran Vinny Curry from the Super Bowl champion Eagles, an established talent who can contribute as both a pass rusher and run defender. Unfortunately, Curry has been injured for much of this season and hasn’t been able to find his footing as a Buccaneer quite yet; consider him a red-shirt for now, and a huge chess piece for 2019.
The most surprising valuable addition that Licht made this season came from the waivers when he claimed Carl Nassib after being cut by the Cleveland Browns. Just 25 years old, it came as a welcome shock to see the Browns part ways with Nassib, and the Buccaneers were wise to pounce. He has a career-high 6.5 sacks on the season along with two forced fumbles, and he’s likely going to surpass his previous high for tackles on a season as well.
In last weeks’ game against the Saints, Nassib opened up the second half with a brilliant strip-sack of Drew Brees, which should have tilted the momentum permanently in favor of the Bucs (spoiler, it did not.)
Drafted in the third round of the 2016 draft, the 6’7, 275 lb. Nassib has one more season left on his rookie deal, but I expect to see the Buccaneers extend him at some point next year.
Thanks to these additions by Licht, the Bucs can finally begin to use their resources on other parts of the team and leave their defensive line mostly intact.
You can already pencil in Pierre-Paul and Nassib as the starters, and a healthy Vinny Curry will be able to provide plenty of punch off the bench.
The team will clear William Gholston‘s miserable contract from the books, affording them an opportunity to fill that roster spot with a younger defensive end prospect from the draft, or by claiming another waiver project like Nassib.
It’s just the Buccaneers luck that as they finally figure out their defensive end issues, they field one of the worst secondaries in the league. Unfortunately, until the team gets a reliable cornerback and safety, they will continue struggling despite their improved defensive line play.
Such is the life of being a Buccaneers fan; like a football-Hydra, one wish is granted, but two more problems immediately fill the void. Regardless, Buccaneer fans have to take what they can get, and having two talented pass-rushers is a sizable reward.