Perhaps no position group has gone over a bigger makeover than the 2018 Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive line. From Free Agency through trades and the draft, the Bucs have re-made themselves in the defensive trenches – but have they done enough?
DE Robert Ayers, DT Clinton McDonald, DT Chris Baker, DT Silver Siliga, DE Justin Trattou
Via free agency: DE/DT Beau Allen (Philadelphia), DE Vinny Curry (Philadelphia), DT Mitch Unrein (Chicago)
Via trade: Jason Pierre-Paul (NY Giants)
Via the draft: DT Vita Vea, 1st Round
UDFA’s: Demone Harris, Evan Perrizo
Others: Patrick O’Connor.
The Bucs legitimately have two starting lines after barely fielding one in 2017. The first group is of course led by All-Pro and perennial Pro Bowl DT Gerald McCoy. McCoy will team inside with 2018 1st round pick Vita Vea, Mitch Unrein or Beau Allen. On passing downs, Vinny Curry may join McCoy to provide an added push inside.
On the edge, Jason Pierre-Paul was brought in for one job, get to the opposing quarterback. Curry will likely start the other side, but Noah Spence will demand some playing time, provided he can stay healthy. Both Unrein and Allen can also play DE.
In addition to the longshot UDFA’s and 2nd-year guy O’Connor, Tampa Bay also have returning players Will Gholston, Will Clarke, Channing Ward, Davonte Lambert and Stevie Tu’ikolovatu.
That’s a lot of guys battling it out for what may turn out to be one or two spots.
Improvement or No?
Uh, yeah. Dramatic improvement. Day and Night improvement. Gone is the aging Ayers and McDonald, both talented players who seen their better days, as well as Baker, who stole money from the Glazers last year with his performance and effort (or lack thereof).
The Bucs had already upgraded with Allen, Unrein, and Curry – each who would help, especially against the run. Curry does have some pass rushing ability, even if his sack totals don’t wow you. But then you add Jason Pierre-Paul, who at 29 is still one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL – and spend your first round pick on Manbeast Vita Vea? Only on this defensive line would you simply forget about the return of Noah Spence, who before his shoulder turned into mush had the makings of becoming an elite pass rusher in the league.
That’s not even talking about the addition of defensive line coach Brentson Buckner, who brings a whole new juice and philosophy to the team.
In one off-season the Bucs flipped this from one of their biggest weaknesses to one of their greatest strengths.