What will the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive front look like?
By Cory Kinnan
Head coach Bruce Arians gave a look into the minds of himself and Todd Bowles and how they plan to deploy the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense this week.
From last season to the upcoming 2019 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be switching to a 3-4 scheme under new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. Instead of four down lineman and three linebackers, the Buccaneers will deploy three down lineman, two linebackers off of the edge, and two linebackers in the middle. With that being said, who will play where for the Buccaneers defense this season?
Head Coach Bruce Arians spoke to the media this week and gave some insights into his thoughts on how to deploy his current personnel. He made it clear that the defense will get after the quarterback and do it often.
First, the water is even murkier for Gerald McCoy as it seems like his time in Tampa Bay may be limited. When asked, Arians responded with an “if” rather than an “is” and stated:
"“He’s not as disruptive as he was four years ago,” Arians said. “But he’s still pretty disruptive. He’s still a good player….I got to evaluate him. I mean, guys at a certain age, it’s different. Usually, the age they get paid the most and production (doesn’t) match. We’ve got to find that out.” (via Tampa Bay Times)"
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It seems like McCoy will still be around if he is willing to restructure his contract; it is doubtful, however, that he would be willing to take a pay cut to stay in Tampa Bay. For now, McCoy is still a Buccaneer.
Arians stated to SiriusXM NFL that defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul will play over the guard this season, meaning that the pass rusher will be playing as an interior lineman as a three-technique end in 2019. Him and McCoy, if he is on the roster, will hold down those two end positions with last year’s first round pick Vita Vea plugging up the middle at nose tackle. Arians stated that Pierre-Paul could also kick out and come off of the edge as well.
This leaves new Buccaneer Shaquil Barrett, last year’s up and comer Carl Nassib, and 2016 second round pick Noah Spence as the options as the pass rushers off of the edge for the Buccaneers. It would bot be a shock to see Tampa Bay bring in another player at this position.
Right now the middle linebackers look to be Lavonte David, although Arians did stated that he expects him to blitz more, and Deone Bucannon. Bucannon will be playing a hybrid role in specific packages however, so finding another contributor who can play at middle linebacker fulltime is a must this offseason for the Buccaneers.
Look for the majority of general manager Jason Licht’s energy to be dedicated to addressing the front seven in the draft. Names such as Quinnen Williams and Ed Oliver have been floated as potential interior lineman that could be targeted with the fifth pick overall. Pass rushers include Josh Allen, Montez Sweat, and Brian Burns that could fit their needs at outside linebacker. The Devins, Bush and White, are the only two middle linebackers worthy of a first round selection in this year’s draft and require the most attention.
A transition in defensive schemes always requires some shuffling of positions, but it looks like Arians and Bowles have a plan on how to deploy the players currently on their roster. With the draft less than a month away, it will be interesting to see how Tampa Bay chooses to prioritize their front seven.