Defensive Tackle = NeedJanuary 10th, 2017
Bucs fans know what a good run defense looks like.
They had elite ones in 2012 and 2015.
But 2016 brought a much more porous unit.
Blame could be thrown all over the place. And that’s so easy — too easy — for fans and media types to sling around.
But what’s undeniable is the following:
- Defensive end Noah Spence has a long way to go in run defense, which is why undrafted rookie DeVonte Lambert played a lot more than Spence with the season on the line in December.
- Injuries ravaged the D-line at various points in the season, including limiting Spence, who played through a messed up shoulder most of the year. Robert Ayers, Clinton McDonald, Howard Jones and Will Gholston all were sidelined for extended stretches.
- The Bucs did not get the production they were seeking at nose tackle. This was not a standout season for McDonald (12 games, 3 1/2 sacks) and Akeem Spence didn’t exactly bust out in his contract year.
Lance Zierlein, who does a great job on all things draft analysis for NFL.com, studied all 32 teams and identified draft needs for each.
For the Bucs, he pegged the following:
Top needs: DL, S, WR
Analysis: Tampa Bay will need to find a high-impact player along the defensive line who can create mayhem on a regular basis. Safety is a need and could get early round consideration. While Mike Evans is a stud, Tampa Bay has to find another threat for Jameis Winston.
Joe agrees with the “DL” assessment. McDonald is 30 and has only played 18 games the past two seasons. He’s entering the final year of his contract and he could be on the decline. Spence, 25, might already be displaying his ceiling — solid but nothing special. He’s a valuable player and maybe the Bucs re-sign him. Maybe.
Joe would applaud a defensive line pick in the first, second or third round of the draft, even another edge rusher. You simply can’t have enough raw talent on the D-line.
And if Gerald McCoy and Robert Ayers are such great mentors, and Jay Hayes is really the superior D-line coach many consider him to be, then what a great time it would be to invest in the defensive line.