“The Battle At Defensive Tackle Lies Within Him”

July 15th, 2017

More takes from JoeBucsFan Saturday columnist Gil Arcia

The Buccaneers have several headlines heading into training camp in just over a week. The obvious is the battle for kicker between Roberto Aguayo and Nick Folk, but there’s more going on than who will be the No. 1 leg in pewter.

There has been much hype about first-round selection O.J. Howard, and rightfully so. The kid is a monster of a specimen with hands and speed at the tight end position. It’s easy to project that he’ll give linebackers headaches.

The forgotten man has been Cameron Brate. He’s been a solid addition to the offense and grew to be one of Jameis Winston’s favorite targets, catching 57 passes for 660 yards and eight touchdowns last year.

In 2017, Winston will have both Brate and Howard on the field. But make no mistake, there will be depth chart talk. Who’s listed first and who’s listed second? Regardless of what’s said by the coaching staff, this will be debated. Much of that will be irrelevant, as this battle will merely be for showcasing talents of players I expect to be 1A and 1B.

Running back has big question marks and that’s primarily due to the hamster. Doug Martin’s decision to let the team down last season carries bigger weight into this season, as he will miss the first three games. So in camp, how will the depth play out?

Opinions putting Martin in a hole that he may not escape join those from the Martin fan club that back him 110 percent. For now, it can go either way. While this will be an intriguing position to watch, we may not know much until the season gets underway.

Jacquizz Rodgers

If two of either Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims, rookie Jeremy McNichols, or Peyton Barber manage to be more than serviceable, protect Winston well, and produce, then Martin is certainly guaranteed a home elsewhere.

Speaking of protecting quarterbacks, what about getting after them? We’re still waiting for that Buccaneers pass rush to come out and play consistently.

Veteran defensive end Robert Ayers made his presence felt in his first season in Tampa Bay and will hopefully build on it in 2017. Second-year DE Noah Spence had flashes of why he was once thought of as a potential top-of-the-first-round selection.

Where does that leave the interior of the defensive line? William Gholston can rotate inside but he was real good against the run from the outside. The addition of Chris Baker may make a difference inside, and Clinton McDonald hasn’t been on the field consistently enough – which is extremely unfortunate.

No, I haven’t forgotten about the golden child, Gerald McCoy. He’ll be on notice this season to finally crack the double-digit sack mark, and for having his celebrity status featured on HBO’s latest teaser for Hard Knocks.

The teaser shows McCoy in a perfectly edited and produced clip jogging into Raymond James Stadium and up the steps of the upper deck to the very top before ending the ad with a death stare into the camera for HBO’s producers. All while graphically displaying his stats in the middle of it.

Will the Bucs get the fun-having McCoy in 2017, or the McCoy that looked like he was about to rip someone’s head off in that teaser trailer? No one will demote McCoy. Instead, the battle at defensive tackle lies within him.

Yes, there will be lots more position battles to look at. But crucial positions and their debates will play key roles in the success of 2017. The ones mentioned here are exactly that.

16 Responses to ““The Battle At Defensive Tackle Lies Within Him””

  1. Buc 4ever Says:

    I like the new Hard Knocks promo, but Gerald Mccoy has to want to rip someone’s head off this year. He is our most dominant defensive player and we need him to show that aggression. Enough with the happy and smiling. He plays like Dwight Howard plays basketball (the biggest guy on the court and can dominant but chooses to be happy without winning championships ). Be DOMINANT Gerald.

  2. Destinjohnny Says:

    Sucks we never got 93 a de to take the pressure off.
    Bad drafting man

  3. Defense Rules Says:

    Great piece Gil, lots of food for thought. Surely the Bucs have some issues … with very good alternatives … to still deal with before season starts. We’ll end up with a very good kicker, one way or another (if we don’t, our coaching staff really screwed up). We should end up with several very serviceable RBs; maybe not an Ezekiel Elliott type, but serviceable for our needs nonetheless. We’ve got 3 (and potentially 4) very good TEs and at least 3 (and potentially 4 or more) excellent WRs. The only 2 real issues to be concerned about offensively IMO are (1) how well our OLine will do this year; and (2) Jameis’ backup. The rest will sort itself out pretty quickly I think in preseason. And IMO we’ll be a Top-10 defense this year IF we can stay reasonably healthy. Injuries is the wildcard on defense, as usual.

  4. Bird Says:

    Don’t understand GMC hate . However, no excuses this year for him not having monster year. He has the behemoth next to him 320-340 lbs in baker that could take on 2 guys. And if guys stay healthy (big if there) Ayers and Spence on one side and gholston and smith on the other. Rotating them will keep fresh legs. So if there was a year for 10 sacks , it’s NOW

  5. Fsuking Says:

    Still, 2 weeks from training camp, we continue to get delusional Doug Martin talk!!!! It’s incredible

  6. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Many think GMC lacks aggressiveness but none of them are the offensive linemen he faces…..I am quite sure they feel it every time they are matched against him.
    Sort of the “talk softly and carry a big f’king stick” type.

  7. BradentonBuc Says:

    The more I think about it, the more I wonder how much did Jameis elevate the play of Cam Brate. I can remember another TE he played with at FSU in Nick O’Leary that Jameis made look like the next Dallas Clark, since being drafted by the bills I can’t even tell you what O’Leary has done. Hopefully Howard realizes all the potential that A.S. Jackass never found here.
    @Defense a top-10 defense? That’s a bold statement. There are so many question marks going into this season, God I haven’t wanted a third game of the preseason so bad

  8. Defense Rules Says:

    Bold statement, yes, BradentonBuc but the caveat (… “IF we stay reasonably healthy”) is the key. Our starting 11 on defense, plus our primary 4-5 rotational guys) will be able to hang with just about anyone I think. It’s depth beyond that which should be our biggest concern. Our depth players tend to be younger and less experienced (for obvious reasons), and there’s no way to know how they’ll respond if their number gets called. That’s where teams like the Patriots excel (quality depth). We’re still building that IMO.

  9. dooshlarue Says:

    I’ll say it again:

    Let Jeff Spicoli crash GMC’s Camaro and spray paint “93 sucks” on the side of it.
    Maybe that will light the fire under his soft azz and we can beat Lincoln……..or ya know, any of the other teams we play.

  10. BradentonBuc Says:

    For sure but the depth at corner and LB are a little suspect. Particularly at corner. I liked what Javien Elliot brought last year as a UDFA and we will see how Hey-Jude responds to last years disappointing season. I think we have bigger starting questions with Safety. Like joe just posted about, Tandy’s got a lot to prove after ending the season the way he did. Clearly the Bucs are concerned about Safety considering they signed Wilcox and drafted Evans.
    With the offense, we have seen them put up numbers two seasons in a row. Our defense has only put together half a seasons worth of high quality play. I just need to see wayyyyy more consistency before I begin to believe we have the players to get us to top 10 status.

  11. Defense Rules Says:

    Interesting, I guess we’re just focused on different aspects of the game BrandentonBuc. Our offense in the 1st 8 games put up 180 pts, but only 174 pts in the 2nd 8 games. Bucs had 8 games in 2016 putting up 20 or less pts … 5 of those came in the 2nd half of the season (we went 4-1 in those 5 games thanks to, you guessed it, our defense).

    Admittedly our defense played much better in the 2nd half of the season. I’d expect that since we had a new DC, installing a new system, and several new starting players (Ayers, N. Spence, D. Smith, VHIII). Once they got comfortable in the system though things improved rapidly, despite injuries to some key folks. They gave up a whopping 232 pts in the 1st 8 games, but only 137 pts in the last 8 games. That’s a pretty significant improvement, especially considering that in our 2 losses in those 8 games we gave up 57 pts (we didn’t match up well defensively against Dallas’ #5 offense or New Orleans #2 offense IMO, with both those games played in their house). Despite the poor 2016 start, we still ended up the year ranked #15 defensively, and I believe I read we were in the Top-10 during the 2nd half of the season. With our new additions on defense, I see no reason, other than excessive injuries, to think we can’t rank there this season.

  12. Pickgrin Says:

    Nice article Gil.

    I’m hoping for some real competition at RT from Benenoch (or Pamphile if Benenoch is deemed more capable of taking over a starting spot at LG).

    Interested to see which young CB emerges from the pack to solidify the nickle spot. (Ryan Smith, Hey Jude or Elliot)

    The SLB starting spot battle should be interesting to watch (Bond, Beckwith, ?)

    Safety is an important spot and we need better, more consistent play there than we’ve see for awhile. Tandy, Conte, Justin Evans and Wilcox are all somewhat intriguing individual stories to watch unfold this year. Hoping for the youngun’ to emerge of course. #50 pick is a fairly big investment at the safety position and we’d all like to see that pick pay dividends sooner than later of course…

  13. rsd99200 Says:

    If McCoy gets double digit sacks and no DE does the Bucs will have a losing record and the Defense will have been torched many times over. DT is not necessarily a stat position, sacks do not always equate to dominance.2 LBs in top ten for tackles DEs with good sack numbers and a top ten defense would be better indicators of dominance at DT. Gerald McCoy is a dominant DT!!!!

  14. BradentonBuc Says:

    @pickgrin I think the safety spots can be one of the most crucial position battles we see. I believe that Tandy and Conte, depending on Training camp play, will get the start for the 1st PreSea game and we’ll see from there. I think Evans has got all the potential he just needs to wrap up up and go for solid tackles not big tackles.
    @Defense so last year I totally agree that we leaned on our defense that second half of the season. I truly believe much of that falls on a receiving corp that couldn’t get open, I can’t say that I have watched the games with the coaches All-22 and so I can’t even say that I know these things. But truly, besides Russ Shepard and ME, who else was Jameis throwing too that was even drafted? I truly believe the offensive struggles particularly in the second half were due to inconsistent play at the WR spot which exposed an O-Line that are not world beaters in pass defense, not a knock on our o-Line because I like the progress and the draftees we’ve used. Between Pamphile, Beneoch(SP?) and other young guys we have brought in compared with the The o-Line pre Jason Licht (Why did we let Donald Penn walkkkkkkkkkk such bull spit), i see progress and stability there but clearly the WR was an issue of concern considering the D-Jax and Godwin acquisitions

  15. BradentonBuc Says:

    Pass protection*

  16. BradentonBuc Says:

    Also as much as I love #54 and #93 they have shown a tendency to wear their heart on their sleeve a little too much. Perhaps consistent play from other team mates will allievate that but god damn I have never been so perplexed and elucidated on the mental state of an individual then when #54 talked about Major Wrights pass interference call to start the 2015 season. Maybe I can hear that out of a rookie, 54 was not a rookie then, and who can forget the jets game.
    Let me be clear, I love Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy, but they are not even close to Brooks and Sapp, so I cannot expect them to keep playing at the level they do and not feel frustrated, but work-place frustration is what is it is; indicative of an unhealthy mindset and misplaced values