The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have added so many capable players to improve their depth at the positions that lacked depth. As we enter the 2018 Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ season, I kept wondering which position group on the current Bucs squad could be the answer to more wins in 2018.
I asked the writers of FPC Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week which squad on the 2018 Buccaneers team will directly impact the overall success of the team.
While most of us had the same idea, there were a few that were different, but we can all agree that every position will have a big impact as long as they gel this season.
Christian Worthen: Contributor
This may be an obvious selection, but let’s be honest. It is no secret that the 2017 Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive line was the worst in the league after only getting to the quarterback 22 times. The biggest transformation to this team this off-season was the defensive line.
The Buccaneers brass threw big bags of money towards a position that has been neglected the last 10 years by bringing in Beau Allen, Vinny Curry, Jason Pierre-Paul, Mitch Unrein, and Vita Vea. All these players paired up with one of the league’s best premier defensive tackles in Gerald McCoy should bring the defensive line the strength they’ve been missing.
In addition, th Tampa Bay Buccaneers brought in Brenston Buckner who puts the weight of the defense line on his shoulders. He believes the success of the defense starts up front with his group of guys and he is not wrong. The first three games of the season aren’t going to be easy, especially without your starting quarterback.
The defensive line is going to have to make an impact immediately and help get the defense off the field on third down, which has proven to be a contributor to the teams success.
Think back to 2016 when the Buccaneers defense was one of the best in the league on down. The best way to keep the opponents off the field is by applying the pressure. That’s something this team ultimately failed to do last season. This defensive line is night and day from a year ago.
Last year they were a bunch of puppies who had a lot of energy, which is good, but they lacked experience and competitiveness. Without this, you can’t win in this league due to the pass heavy nature the league has taken. This is especially true in a division where quarterbacks can throw the ball with ease.
You need dogs and Jason Licht found him some dogs.
The Bucs Win Total Will Be Dependent on the Performance of the Defensive line.
Rod Thurman: Contributor
There are two key position groups that will have a big impact on the Bucs win total in 2018. Clearly, the Bucs wanted to upgrade their toughness on both lines of scrimmage, but they went all out to sure up the defensive side. Mike Smith’s unit gave up 378.1 yards per game, which ranked last in the league.
The Bucs hierarchy used every avenue of resources there were to revamp a defensive line that was one of the worst in the NFL.
First off, They added new defensive line coach, Brentson Buckner, then added defensive linemen, Vinny Curry, Beau Allen and Mitch Unrein through free agency. They also traded for defensive end Jason Pierre Paul and used the 12th overall pick in April’s draft to select the massive defensive tackle, Vita Vea.
The Bucs fired Defensive Line Coach Jay Hayes after his unit finished dead last in the NFL with just 22 sacks. They replaced him with Brentson Buckner, who has never had less than 35 sacks in either of his five seasons with the Arizona Cardinals.
Jason Pierre Paul
General Manager Jason Licht didn’t waste any time targeting Jason Pierre Paul as soon as he was available for trade. He used a premium third round pick to acquire Pierre-Paul from the Giants because of his ability to play the run and the pass as an every down defensive lineman. He had eight and a half sacks in 2017.
Vinny Curry can also play both the run and pass at a very high level. In 2017, Curry accumulated 45 total pressures and ranked seventh best in the NFL as 4-3 run defending defensive end.
Stopping the Run
The Bucs acquired two defensive ends with elite ability to stop the run and who can put pressure on the quaterback. They also found a similar trait with their interior defensive lineman off-season signings. Defensive tackle Beau Allen’s run stopping percentage topped all unrestricted free agents and Mitch Unrein was the top free agent interior defender at defensive end. Last but not least, the Bucs used their 12th overall pick to select defensive tackle, Vita Vea who ranked fourth among interior defenders in run-stop percentage.
The new editions to the Bucs defensive line all have one key ingredient in common, and its their elite ability in stopping the run. The Bucs look to improve their awful 32nd ranked defense by stopping the run first. Then couple that with the Bucs carry-over guys like all-pro defensive tackle Gerald Mccoy and the up and coming Noah Spence.
If the defense can get back to at least the middle of the pack defensively, their win total should increase just as it did in 2016.
Evann Goitia: FPC Bucs Podcast Producer
The position group that will have the biggest impact on the Buccaneers win total this year will be the defensive line. Last season, Tampa Bay ranked 32nd in the league in terms of sacks per game with a total of 1.4. Without putting pressure on the opposing quarterback, especially in a division with Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, and Cam Newton, the defense is going to be carved apart.
Since the team’s secondary is not the strongest component of the roster, they will depend on the defensive line to generate pressure and force quarterbacks to pass the ball quickly.
In addition, putting pressure on the opposing quarterback often leads to turnovers, which can have a major impact on the game. In 2017, the Buccaneers defensive line also struggled to stop the run. The team ranked 23rd in the NFL in terms of rushing yards allowed per game. Running the ball effectively allowed opposing teams to wear down the Buccaneer defense while keeping the Buccaneer offense off of the field.
Fortunately, both the coaching staff and management recognized the defensive line struggles and decided to revamp the unit. The team released Robert Ayers and Chris Baker during the offseason, Clinton McDonald darted to Oakland in free agency, and Sealver Siliga was not re-signed.
Instead, the team decided to sign Mitch Unrein, Vinny Curry, and Beau Allen. The Buccaneers also decided to trade for Jason Pierre-Paul and draft defensive tackle Vita Vea with the 12th pick. On top of those additions, Noah Spence will be returning from a torn labrum in his shoulder. The only other returning players from the 2017 defensive line group are Gerald McCoy, Ryan Russell, and Patrick O’Connor.
The most underrated addition to this group, though, may be defensive line coach Brentson Buckner. Since becoming a defensive line coach in 2013, Buckner has had at least one player record 8 sacks each season. The defensive line will not only be the most changed group from last season, but also the most impactful.
J.T. Olsen: Contributor
For better or worse, the position group that will have the biggest impact on the Bucs win total in 2018 will be the defensive line. Last year this group was inept in every aspect. Everyone knows how bad the pass rush was, but the run defense in the trenches was also pretty bad. It led to very manageable third and short situations, which made life easy for opposing offenses.
This year I expect this group to be improved across the board to the point to where they will even shape the identity of the Bucs defense. The additions of Beau Allen, Vita Vea and Mitch Unrein on the interior of the defensive line should make the Bucs one of the tougher teams in the league against the run.
All three of these guys have thrived in this area and should bring that physical run defense to Tampa with them. Having some kind of defensive identity will go a long way on improving the Bucs. It will also improve the defense in other ways.
With more third and long situations, it will allow the line to really get after the quarterback more effectively. How you ask? With the line not having to honor a play action on third and long they can focus all their effort towards attacking the passer. That alone will likely add wins they let slip away last year. If the line can turn this into a top ten run defense then there’s a real chance the Bucs are in the playoff hunt.
Ben Wilson: Contributor
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2018 season may only go as far as the right foot of Chandler Catanzaro will take it.Point blank, the Bucs had the worst kicking game in the NFL last season. After cutting Roberto Aguayo in the preseason and giving the job to Nick Folk things were looking up. Folk gave the fans optimism but unfortunately it didn’t last. Folk began missing kicks week one and it didn’t stop there. Patrick Murray took over when Folk was cut after his 4th game as a Buccaneer. Things got better, but only marginally.
Murray and Folk combined to make 73% of their field goals and 90% of their extra points. That simply wasn’t good enough but it gets worse. The pair had 65% of their kickoffs returned, 30% above the league average. Enter Chandler Catanzaro. In full disclosure there is another kicker on the roster. Undrafted rookie Trevor Moore is on the 90 man roster and will see some work. That being said Catanzaro will be the man opening day. Jason Licht didn’t give him almost $4 million in guaranteed money to give him the boot before week one.
Catanzaro has been decent over his career and put 83% of his field goals between the uprights last year. He was perfect on extra points, something we haven’t seen around here in a very long time. Ideally, we’d like to see Catanzaro return to his 2015 form when he was at his best. He nailed 90% of his kicks that year. The strong legged Catanzaro also excels on kickoffs. Folk and Murray had 65% of their kickoffs returned. Chandler fares much better in this area having only 37% of his returned.
You could argue that at least 3 losses last year were a direct correlation to poor kicking. If Catanzaro can be just a little above average this should be huge for the Bucs. We haven’t seen a decent kicker since Matt Bryant was around. No doubt, if Chandler can get the ball between the goal posts we will see more wins. The kicking game has been a nagging concern for far too long around here. The 2018 Bucs will only be as successful as their kicker is. I think I speak on the behalf of Bucs fans everywhere, we are counting on you Chandler Catanzaro.
Philip Schwegler: Managing Editor
If there was one area of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that needed that extra boost to extend plays or create explosive plays, it’d be the running backs. I believe with a stronger run game, the Buccaneers could’ve scored those six or seven points they needed to win a lot of those close games in 2017.
Doug Martin wasn’t the same back that we all fell in love with (again) in 2015. Yes Peyton Barber did what he could and perfromed well, but overall this running back room failed to produce in 2017.
With the addition of Ronald Jones II on the roster this year, I beleive the Bucs running attack with ultimately influence the scoreboard the most if the defense isn’t what we had hoped for.
There you have it folks. We can all agree that the defensive line will be one of the most influental positions on this team in 2018.
Can they put it together on the field?
I sure hope so.