South Carolina’s inside defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw could be a perfect replacement for Ndamukong Suh in the Buccaneer 3-4 defense.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ run defense was the best in the league in 2019. If this is a trend that Todd Bowles and Bruce Arians wish to continue, Javon Kinlaw from South Carolina could not only fill the role that Ndamukong Suh played but also carry a much cheaper price tag.
The addition of Todd Bowles and the transition to a 3-4 largely revolutionized the Buccaneer run defense. Vita Vea is one of the best nose tackles in the league and fits that role far better than when he played tackle in a 4-3, William Gholston was one of the most surprising players of the season for the Bucs with his high level of play against the run, and Suh is one player who perhaps underperformed on an extremely successful line as a whole.
Suh’s main stats didn’t jump off the page. He finished the year with 2.5 sacks, seven tackles for loss, and 14 quarterback hits. Suh did jump off the stat sheet though with an incredible four fumble recoveries and two defensive touchdowns. Despite all of his offensive stats, according to pff.com Suh finished with an overall grade of 69.7 while William Gholston finished with a 69.9 grade with Suh remaining the far more expensive player.
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The best way for the Buccaneers to maintain their defensive juggernaut status against the run would be to replace Suh with a younger and cheaper option. The best player to do this with, and one who would likely be available at the 14th overall pick, is Javon Kinlaw from South Carolina.
Kinlaw is around the same size as Suh weighing in at 310 pounds and standing at 6’6” and would likely be able to line up in the same exact position on day one. Kinlaw would be more of a run stuffer rather than a pass rusher for the Buccaneers, but the hope is that this will matter little if the Bucs are able to bring back Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barrett.
While Kinlaw was able to finish his senior year with six sacks and two forced fumbles, the Bucs would really be using a first round pick on Kinlaw in an attempt to put another younger but talented player next to Vita Vea to stuff the run. Javon Kinlaw possesses a similar run stopping ability to that of Suh while also hopefully bringing a better pass rush that Suh seemed to lack in 2019.
While many people believe that the Buccaneers need to draft an offensive lineman in the first round, a pick used on Kinlaw would pay off in a big way especially if his combine stats match the hype that he is starting to receive. Bruce Arians’ philosophy on drafting the best player on the board makes it seem as though drafting an offensive lineman in the first round is not a foregone conclusion like most fans believe. Because of this, Kinlaw has a very real chance of being the best player on the board at pick 14 and thus a very real chance of being the Buccaneers’ first overall pick in the 2020 Draft.
The Buccaneer front seven was one of the best in the entire league in 2019. The best thing for Todd Bowles to do maintain this level of play and support his young secondary is to keep the front seven as close to the same as possible for continuity’s sake. Assuming the secondary can take the steps that it needs to this offseason, Javon Kinlaw may move into a starting role on one of the best defenses in the league while also saving the Buccaneers some money.