Buccaneers: Team can ride best front seven in NFL back to Super Bowl
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the luxury of having the greatest of all time in Tom Brady behind center. When he came to Tampa, they were hovering around a .500 record with talent all over the place. He brought stability, and ultimately, a Super Bowl championship. In the Super Bowl itself though, the defense took over and put on a show in front of the world. They made Kansas City Cheifs’ quarterback/NFL’s chosen next messiah Patrick Mahomes’ life a living nightmare, en route to a 31-9 victory.
The main reason for the Buccaneers’ defensive dominance, is their front seven. They took over in the Super Bowl and should take over in 2021 and beyond.
The age-old adage goes that offense wins games/sells tickets, and defense wins championships, and it’s the truth. For both of the Buccaneers Super Bowl wins in 2002 and 2020, they had the defense to thank. Football is also won in the trenches, so with all that taken into account, the ability to rush the passer is critical, especially in today’s pass-happy NFL.
That’s why having a strong front seven (defensive line and linebackers) are so important. If they can do their job and cause mayhem, it makes the secondary’s job that much easier. Even the best cornerback in the world can’t cover a receiver forever. Luckily for the Buccaneers, they have the best front seven in football.
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It starts with the pass rushers. Jason Pierre-Paul provides experience and veteran leadership for the defense that is crucial, especially being a former champion himself before coming to Tampa. His 30.5 sacks in three years help too. On the other side, Shaq Barrett has been an absolute wrecking machine when it comes to rushing the passer and has been ever since he came to Tampa. He’s racked up 27.5 sacks in two seasons with the Buccaneers. His re-signing with the Bucs was one of the biggest moves of the offseason.
Speaking of which, the same can be said for Lavonte David. David’s re-signing also ensured the defense would be back to its destructive ways, especially considering David is the best linebacker the Buccaneers have ever had other than Derrick Brooks. Like the two pass rushers, the veteran forms a dynamic duo with the young stud. Devin White will be entering his third year as the other middle linebacker and keeps getting better, which is absolutely frightening considering he had nine sacks last year as a middle linebacker. He and David very easily could have been co-MVPs of the Super Bowl as well. Barrett also had a strong case.
Then there’s the middle of the defensive line, perhaps the unit’s unsung heroes. Ndamukong Suh, yet another veteran offseason re-signing, provides the veteran leadership for this unit, and a nasty attitude to boot. William Gholston is very solid on the opposite side, and at the nose, Rakeem Nunez-Roches looked great for a reserve noseguard. Then there is the man he filled in for, Vita Vea.
Simply put, Vea is the key to this whole thing. Vea’s huge frame and herculean strength clogs up pretty much the entire interior of offensive lines and allows the rest of the defense to hunt. When he finally (and remarkably) came back from injury for the NFC Championship, that was when the defense completely came alive. By Super Bowl LV, the Chiefs had no chance. Should the Buccaneers be so fortunate to have a full season of Vea, the defense should be even better in 2021.
The Buccaneers should be overwhelming favorites to win the Super Bowl again in 2021. Of course, a large part of this is thanks to Brady, but if his play were to decline with age (signs so far don’t point to this) he can still lead with autonomy and let the defense do what they do. Now that the Bucs have that Super Bowl, this unit will walk with a different swagger. They’ll have their quarterback, and the best front seven in football to get them back to the promised land.