Dirk Koetter’s 10 Biggest Decisions For 2017 — No. 7

July 23rd, 2017

Bucs DE Noah Spence

So you thought Joe wasn’t doing a Countdown series this summer? Shame on you. Joe always has something like this planned to make you think and throw stuff at your computer. Last year, it was the Top 10 X-Factors of 2016. In 2015, it was the 20 worst Buccaneers personnel moves of the past 10 years. Now it’s Dirk Koetter’s 10 Biggest Decisions for 2017.

(Of course, this list is about decisions forseeable now, not wacky crystal ball stuff.)

No. 7 — Developing Noah Spence

Joe has noticed Bucs fans are extraordinarily pumped up about second-year defensive end Noah Spence. He proved he’s a super tough dude, playing through — for most of 2016 — a shoulder injury that needed surgery immediately following the season.

He also showed strong rookie flashes (5 1/2 sacks) and was praised for his work ethic. But it’s become easy to forget that Spence was very raw last season and struggled in the running game, and he went sackless in the final five games with just three tackles.

He’s a question mark whether you want to admit it or not, especially coming off surgery.

A 23-year-old like Spence needs playing time and experience to thrive — if he’s going to thrive. He won’t grow much on the bench.

Joe thinks the call to play Spence so he can develop might be a big one for Dirk Koetter. Robert Ayers is better than Spence right now, Joe is confident. And the Bucs just coughed up big money to re-sign defensive end Will Gholston, who is one of the premier run-stuffing DEs in the game. Throw in free agent defensive tackle Chris Baker arriving, and snaps for Spence might find himself with just 30 percent of the defensive snaps.

Would that be enough for him to develop effectively?

It will be interesting to see how much the Bucs commit to Spence, and how much time he can earn.

No. 8 — Managing Locker Room Change

No. 9 — Engaging Brent Grimes

No. 10 — Playing The Best Players

12 Responses to “Dirk Koetter’s 10 Biggest Decisions For 2017 — No. 7”

  1. stpetebucsfan Says:

    OK here is my best guess….I think this year is going to be different.

    We are so used to pigeonholing players by position and the defense they are playing in. Are we going to run a 4-3 again…a 3-4…both…what %?

    Bottom line…we have two very creative coaches running our Offense and Defense. I’m not sure looking at our players in traditional roles is exactly what will happen.

    On D…perhaps Noah stands up more in a 3-4…we have the personnel now to run either defense. Perhaps Smitty has enough confidence in VHG to turn him loose on some blitzes ala Ronde.

    Bottom line for me is…I have a LOT of faith in this coaching staff on both sides of the ball and not just DK and Smitty….I’m liking Bajakian’s work with #3…Jay Hayes and the DL…Duffner…Warhop…Moncken….one thing we do not discuss much with the influx of player talent is just what a great job Koetter has done building an EXCELLENT staff.

    I judge EVERYBODY in life by how comfortable they are in their own skin. Not bragadoccio…not a fake belief in themselves…but an inner knowledge that frees a person to do their best in any activity and accept the results having done their best.

    Koetter is not intimidated by other excellent coaches…obviously bringing in Smitty who has HC experience and might be perceived by some insecure coaches as a threat. DK is confident enough and I believe Licht shares this trait to try and get the very best people around them. That is the formula for a successful person…surround yourself with the very best possible even if some might be better than you. All that really counts in the end….WINNING!!!

  2. Buccfan37 Says:

    Spence is a question mark in the coming season. Highly touted by many Buc fans, he has more time to develop his game which is positive.

  3. Kalind Says:

    It’s year 2 for him. He’ll develop, I’m confident. He’s probably stronger (though lighter apparently) and I think he’s gettin ready for a Von Miller type year /2.

  4. BucEmUp Says:

    I think St.Pete nailed it we will see some 3-4 with Spence standing up

  5. tnew Says:

    This is kind of a Mike Smith decision, but I’ve watched a ton of games for Bucs lately. The lack of sacks over the last 5 games, which is attached to his name much like KY was attached Mike Evans name last season, because this was kind of disturbing. When you watch the film, what jumps out is three things.

    1) He needs to work on an inside move, would like to blame this on the shoulder but it happens on both sides so thats not an excuse. Tackles had no respect for an inside move. With an inside move he becomes a true threat. Almost every play he made this season came from an outside move. Must be fixed. Given that he still was able to get around a fair amount of the time, which leads me to point 2

    2) The interior push was gone late in the season until it reappeared in the Carolina game. Another stat, name another Buc who was also sackless for the final 4 games… GMC. They kind of go hand in hand. The interior push was not there so the QB’s where able to step into the pocket. Spence did cause a couple of sacks by pressuring the QB into another Buc but most of the time a nice pocket was available. When the Buc defense was playing well a great push from the middle of the line was there. Will Baker allow for GMC to be fresher deep into the season? Lets hope.

    3) Spence was playing the run WAY better over the last third of the season. He did get washed out on a big run by Ezekiel Elliot but more of the big plays ran away from him or came right down the middle of the defense.

    Bottom line this year. Huge continuity with the entire defensive staff especially Mike Smith and Jay Hayes. I expect this to be a monster year for the entire defensive line. Watching and isolating on the d-line, it is obvious the difference GMC makes. When he is on and consistent, the entire defense is so much better. When he is getting washed out (which happens too much) the defense gets gashed. He needs to find that balance of when to push and when to penetrate. I look forward to a career year for GMC, I just feel it. Everyone will benefit including Spence. I’m not sold yet on him coming in lighter yet. Leaner, absolutely. The players and coaches see something great happening with him this season. Too many references to him breaking out from GMC, Ayers, Jay Hayes and Licht.

  6. Pickgrin Says:

    Spawn – the sequel – coming to an NFL field near you.

    If our Dlinemen can stay healthy, the Bucs defense will be formidable.

    Unfortunately – GMC, McDonald, Ayers, Spence and Jac Smith all have histories of being vulnerable to injury. Its our biggest concern heading into this season IMO – and there’s absolutely no way to predict nor protect against who will and who won’t be able to stay injury free.

  7. Defense Rules Says:

    Pickgrin, I don’t know this to be fact but I’d surmise that DLinemen are more susceptible to injury during the season than probably any other group. For one thing they’re going against OLinemen who usually outweigh them (as a group average) by quite a bit (and most OLinemen are no slouches either). For another, the OLinemen know what’s coming (what play’s being run?) & that’s a big advantage IMO. The DLinemen may know whether it’s a pass vs run, but they typically don’t know where or who (unless they get lucky), so most of what they do in a play is reactive as opposed to proactive I’d think, increasing the risk of injury during the course of the season.

    It continues to amaze me how GMC has been able to consistently play 75-85% of the defensive snaps (he was injury-prone early in his career, but has been very stout since then IMO). I’m hoping that adding Chris Baker, plus having a healthy Clinton McDonald, will allow the Bucs to decrease the number of defensive snaps GMC averages. Firmly convinced that the ‘fresher’ Smitty can keep the interior DLine in general, the more pressure we’ll see on the QBs. And if that forces opponents to adjust their offense, our outside guys should benefit. How formidable our defense becomes all hinges though on our DLinemen staying healthy as you wrote.

  8. RayJameisStadium Says:

    He’s a question mark whether you want to admit it or not, especially coming off surgery…..Joe

    Not to everybody. To me he is and exclamation point! New shoulder with his tenacity should take him to another level. I expect him to be able to pound runners to the ground since he is 100%. Without seeing him healthy to think he won’t handle the run is “wacky crystal ball stuff.”

    The open communication within the defensive players should continue to be the glue to the defense.

    I expect Smitty to keep polishing his resume while adding more wrinkles to our defense. The ability to have 3-4 and 4-3 defenses will continue to create confusing and will force opposing OCs to address more during their practices prior to game day. This makes playing the Bucs a nightmare specially when they also have to face our improved offense.

    BTW Thank you Stick Carriers you force Joe to drop “the den of depression” drama before the 2017 season. Job well done!!!!

    Go Bucs!!!

  9. Bob in Valrico Says:

    It really depends on what type of shoulder surgery.for instance rotator cuff recovery is long and painful. A friend of mine said he wouldn’t do it again for anything.Hopefully it is a more minor surgery.

  10. Phil Says:

    Spence needs to play. His ceiling is very high. The other guys are already at their ceiling.

  11. Ptwalk Says:

    I don’t know that Ayers is better than Spence, he knows more but that doesn’t mean he’s better. And he’s a year older which might slow him down a little. I would start Spence.

  12. SOEbuc Says:

    Well we just got the info today that Jaq Smith is on the PUP so I can see Spawn getting more playing time. And for those of you that saw that pic of Noah on the beach this offseason after rehab, my God, dude was chizzled like a gem stone.