Training Camp is finally here and on Thursday August 9, 2018 the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will travel to Miami and kick off their first exhibition of the preseason.
I don’t know what was more brutal to watch last year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ rushing offense, or the defensive line that finished last in the league in sacks. The last time the Tampa Bay Buccaneers failed to get 30 sacks in a season was in 2012 when they got to the opponents quarterbacks just 27 times.
An Off-Season for the Defense
This off-season, Jason Licht made it a point to drastically turn this defensive line around. Chris Baker and Robert Ayers were released. Clinton McDonald was not re-signed and signed a contract with the Denver Broncos.
In free agency, the Buccaneers signed Beau Allen and Vinny Curry from the Philadelphia Eagles, Mitch Unrein from the Chicago Bears, traded a third round pick to the New York Giants for Jason Pierre-Paul, and spent the 12th overall pick in the 2018 Draft on defensive tackle Vita Vea.
Time to preview the defensive line!
This is a talented group led by long time Buccaneer Gerald McCoy. The interesting question will be how many defensive tackles the Buccaneers’ keep on the 53 man roster. My guess would be 4, so that would mean right now that Tu’ikolovatu and Lambert are on the outside looking in, barring any injuries.
Speaking of injuries, Vea was carted off the field during Sunday’s practice. Right now, what is being reported is that he just sprained his left calf, but shouldn’t keep him off the field for too long. I would expect Dirk Koetter and the Bucs to be very cautious with him to have him available for the regular season.
Last season the Buccaneers relied heavily on Spence, but injuries cut his season short. This year that is not the case with Spence, who will most likely be in role of situational pass rusher. Spence is going to be an exciting player to watch this year if he stays healthy.
The Buccaneers most likely will keep six defensive ends in reality. There are four players fighting for one spot on the 53 man roster. Whomever of the remaining four are left will make the roster, but it’s anyone’s guess until we witness them on the field during preseason.
So far Pierre-Paul has looked like a stud during training camp and not many offensive linemen have been able to block him at defensive end or defensive tackle. Yes, I said defensive tackle. This is a role both Pierre-Paul and Curry will play on third downs which allows Spence to come in and rush the quarterback.
First Team Defensive Line
This is what the first team defensive line looks like that we have seen so far in training camp:
Defensive Tackles: Gerald McCoy and Beau Allen
Defensive Ends: Pierre-Paul and Vinny Curry
I wouldn’t get to worked up that Vita Vea isn’t on the first team defensive line, he has a lot of developing to do and so far he has done a good job, but he just isn’t there yet.
Second Team Defensive Line
Defensive Tackles: Mitch Unrein and Vita Vea
Defensive Ends: Will Gholston and Will Clarke
The surprising thing is that Spence wasn’t on the second team. Like I mentioned earlier he will be playing as a situational pass rusher and needs to be fresh when the situation arises. If Spence stays healthy, he will eventually grow into a much larger role. The Buccaneers do not want to force him back too quickly.
Making the Cut
As I stated earlier, the Buccaneers will probably keep four defensive tackles and six defensive ends. If that is true, then this is what the 2018 Buccaneers defensive line will look like:
Defensive Tackles: Gerald McCoy, Beau Allen, Vita Vea and Mitch Unrein
Defensive Ends: Jason Pierre-Paul, Vinny Curry, Will Gholston, Will Clarke, Noah Spence and Evan Perizzo
Evan Perizzo was signed by the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent and is the defensive end that I will be keeping my eyes on during training camp and the preseason.
Perizzo played four years at Minnesota State and recorded 27 sacks. He was also impressive in tackles for loss in which he got 18.5. He has a lot of upside in both the run and pass game. There is no doubt he will have to do some developing, but it will be interesting to see him during the preseason games.
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Christian Worthen has been a fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 22 years. He currently is a contributor/writer for Full Press Coverage Tampa Bay Buccaneers. To see more of his work or the work by Full Press Coverage follow @FPC_Buccanners on Twitter.