The Hunt For A Pass Rusher

July 12th, 2019

Crystal ball grazing.

There is something about this organization’s distaste for a pass rusher that absolutely baffles Joe.

It’s not a Jason Licht thing, either. The Bucs’ AC/DC-loving general manager doesn’t seem any more or less motivated to build and find a feared pass rush or develop a serious edge rusher than his two immediate predecessors. It has to be an organizational thing.

Oh yes, Licht did trade for Jason Pierre-Paul last year and mad props to him for doing that! To Joe, the move almost had the scent that former Bucs coach Dirk Koetter was hounding Licht day after day to find a pass rusher, and that may have motivated Licht to pull the trigger on such a deal. And the trade was a total steal!

Ever since Simeon Rice’s last double-digit sack season going on 14 years ago this organization had just about been a laughing stock at finding or developing a pass rusher (or rushers). Worse than a kicker, even.

The Bucs have drafted and reached for and signed so many stiffs beginning with Gaines Adams, who former Bucs rock star general manager Mark Dominik hoodwinked Lovie Smith with. Dominik thieved a second-round pick from the Bears for Adams in 2009 (that right there should have been ample evidence that Lovie should have never been handed the keys to One Buc Palace).

And when the Bucs did have an ornery, top-shelf pass rusher, they let Michael Bennett go for no good reason. Someone at One Buc Palace needs to man up and go on the record and explain who was the culprit here with zero foresight and common sense to demand Bennett be tossed out with the trash — speak!

Joe is writing this because a well-respected draftnik believes the Bucs will finally break down and step into the 21st century and realize a pass rusher is the most important defensive position on the field.

In eyeballing next year’s draft, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report believes the Bucs, picking at No. 4 overall, will select a defensive end out of Iowa.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa

From being a backup in 2018—albeit with 16.5 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks—A.J. Epenesa will become a household name in 2019 as he moves into a starting role. And that’s important to note after Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz had the underclassman Epenesa in a backup, rotating role last year behind a redshirt senior. Seniority matters at Iowa, so this isn’t an indictment on his talent, but his class.

Miller, like Albert Breer of earlier this week, is basing the Bucs’ draft position on Las Vegas odds, which have the Bucs’ chances of winning the Super Bowl totally in the toilet, fourth-worst in the NFL.

You know, Joe doesn’t buy this pick. Not one bit. Again, this organization, for reasons that fully escape Joe, places such a low value on such a valuable position.

Let’s see, one pass rusher since 2005 who has had double-digit sacks and for much of that time the Bucs have had one of the worst records in football. Coincidence, perhaps? So no, Joe doesn’t believe for a second the Bucs will draft a defensive end at No. 4 if they do have such a horrid season. History suggests this is fantasyland.

At least Breer, who believed the Bucs would select a safety at No. 5, is going on Bucs draft trends and the patterns that both Bucco Bruce Arians and Licht have demonstrated over the years.

40 Responses to “The Hunt For A Pass Rusher”

  1. Race to 10 Says:

    Reckless talk….dirk koetter the guy who refused to intervene in the affairs of defense was hounding Jason licht? Somebody skills are seriously suspect. Everyone was on board with vinny curry including this site but pretended they weren’t when he wasn’t productive. They go after pass rushers but none stick. Even lovie went after michael Johnson who ended being trash here as well. How dumb to say it’s an organizational thing to avoid pass rushers. If you want to talk evaluation fine but you ain’t doing that. 5-11 type articles coming out of this website this offseason

  2. Tye Says:

    Most the predictions I’ve seen have Bucs picking top 5… I foresee no different…
    So many things point to disastrous season and SO little point to improved season that it seems impossible for them to pick much higher come draft time…
    Probably just missing out on an actual legit pro qb!
    Bucs just can’t win even when they are losing…

  3. BrianBucs Says:

    If the Bucs pick in the top 5 next draft, the new GM will be making the pick

  4. gp Says:

    Isn’t it just a little bit too early to be talking about next years draft?
    c-mon man!

  5. Lamarcus Says:

    I tried to justify this issue of not drafting a pass rusher and defend the Bucs is well drafting a DE is like walking into a minefield not all DE coming out last what 15 drafts are any good. I have no Facebook or Google stats to back it up but I can say it’s easier to draft a QB than a DE. Only a handful become impactful. That’s the only defense I have. DE is a position that has high bust rate…… Shouldn’t be this way but it is. I rather Khalil Mack one no problem

  6. Jean Lafitte Says:

    On a positive note#

    I’m hoping DE Anthony Nelson can fill the void and be our guy.

  7. DB55 Says:

    Dude! Not only are you writing about a MOCK draft for 2020 you totally overlooked the fact that we passed up arguably the best pass rusher in the 2019 draft. I haven’t seen many players bend a corner like Allen but wtfdik.

  8. TDTB Says:

    They will draft a QB round 1 if they’re in top 15 spots regardless of how well Winston plays. Jax and Houston have pass rushers they can trade for or wait for free agency.

  9. Todd Says:

    “Hey everyone, this is Carl Nassib…BUCK OFF! What am I, a POS?!”

    No, no, no…it’s really not Carl. Probably got ya good, didn’t I Magadude?!

    Anyway, the ONLY meaningful aspect of this article is the introduction to Epenesa. Awesome. As an Iowa grad I’m always looking for even more reasons to follow the going-ons of this team. So thanks!

    10-6, BABY…10-6.

    If we draft at 4 it’s because Licht trades up to get another corner! 🤣

  10. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    If we draft at #4, it will be a QB…..

  11. Magadude Says:

    I disagree with just about all of this one. I don’t agree there is a distaste for pass rushers (seems to be directed at ownership). No, it’s not an organizational thing. Yes, it is baffling to me why they went so heavy on DBs yet again, but have to factor in the coaching changes and the fact they did take Devin White with intent to build a solid foundation on D starting with the middle. Bennett was thought (incorrectly) to be damaged goods. Now, Dom told him to please check back before accepting other offers (which is lukewarm) and he didn’t…which frankly was a good move. I’m sure Dom would have liked to have that one back. I was always of the thought they should have draftd DE in 2015 and not Winston or Mariota…and should have waited a year or two. I do think they will draft a DE next year if not a QB.

  12. Magadude Says:

    @TBBF…I agree. If the Bucs are drafting at #4 the last wheels have definitely fallen off. Don’t even wan to fathom that one.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    Gaines Adams was drafted when Gruden was here. 2007

  14. Joe Says:

    Gaines Adams was drafted when Gruden was here. 2007


  15. BucEmUp Says:

    We have a top 5 dt rotation, Carl nassib would have had double digit sacks had he started and played as many snaps, and our corners and lbs blitzing will be making a huge difference with some press coverage.

  16. Bucsfanman Says:

    Again with the draft talk?!
    I guess we have forgotten that we’re not running a 4-3? In a 3-4 defense, pressure comes from the LB position.
    We’re fixated on DEs! Unlearn what you think you know.

  17. Joe Says:

    Dude! Not only are you writing about a MOCK draft for 2020 you totally overlooked the fact that we passed up arguably the best pass rusher in the 2019 draft.

    Joe thought folks were triggered whenever Joe wrote that? Like it was some personal attack on Devin White. So Joe stopped. You want Joe to incite a mob by mentioning that over and over? 😉

  18. Joe Says:

    I guess we have forgotten that we’re not running a 4-3? In a 3-4 defense, pressure comes from the LB position.

    Which in the vernacular of a 34 guy that would mean “edge rusher.” Or outside linebacker.

    Did you see the Bucs draft an outside linebacker/edge rusher?

  19. Joe Says:

    Again with the draft talk?!

    You prefer Joe write about cats on vacations or the ever-exciting, [insert name] is pumping weights in a warehouse?

  20. Joe Says:

    Reckless talk….dirk koetter the guy who refused to intervene in the affairs of defense was hounding Jason licht?

    Joe will never forget talking to Dirk Koetter at the combine a couple of years ago. Koetter was sitting maybe five feet from Joe. Joe asked Koetter what the Bucs cannot do in order for the team to turn the team around.

    Koetter glared right in Joe’s eyes and barked, “We can’t have 22 sacks!”

    He was pretty adamant then. And that was in a “professional” setting within a gaggle of other reporters.

  21. Bucsfanman Says:

    Joe- You do you. I’m tweaked with all the high draft pick stuff. This before playing a down in 2019.
    As to the OLB, could that player already be on the roster? Truth is, we don’t know yet.

  22. Joe Says:

    I’m tweaked with all the high draft pick stuff. This before playing a down in 2019.

    It’s based on Vegas odds, not what these guys think the Bucs will finish.

    As to the OLB, could that player already be on the roster?

    *Hope* that would be Noah Spence and *hope* he wakes from the dead. But there’s that ugly word again.

  23. Bucsfanman Says:

    Agree Joe, but isn’t “hope” all we have as Buc fans? !

  24. El Buco Realisto Says:


    If you are trying to find a way to succeed, then “hope” or rather ” false hope” is all you have!!!!!! But many experts Realist have been trying to tell you the “truth” of what is coming!!!!! You can act surprised and wonder what happened to the season, or you can accept the truth and work on fixing the whole mess!!!!!!!!! Which will be a full rebuild!!!!!!!!!!! And dumping ole coach stale biscuit who is only here for a “reload”!!!!!!!!!!! And here is another one for you!!!! Ole coach stale biscuit will not make it to Head Coach Koetter’s 19 wins!!!!!! Ole coach stale biscuit will fall short of the mark then a silver alert for a golf cart will be the last we here of the current regime!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    2019 will reveal answers to the sheep, that the “real” fans already know!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  25. Bobby M. Says:

    The Bucs will always be reaching….from a free agent perspective, nobody wants to come here unless we are THE highest bidders. All things equal they land elsewhere. Drafting is another story….one would think extensive draft capital would be invested at that position because of the difficulty to find one, the boom bust rate is high and we simply cant lure a free agent here. Instead, we rarely swing for them. Its literally one of the top impact positions on the field behind QB and LT, yet we make no effort. I don’t get it.

    Then there the reality of our curse…When we do have one, something always happens. Bennett allegedly had a bum shoulder and we let him walk….We land JPP, he wrecks his car. It never fails with this team.

  26. diggler Says:

    It’s so hard to draft a DE or someone that’s a perfect fit for your defense that gets sacks in college. Josh Allen only had 17 sacks in his last year at Kentucky. That’s nothing to go on as far as tell tale signs a player knows how to get to the QB or that he would fit your system. Man, drafting must be sooooo difficult! LOL

  27. Bucsfanman Says:

    Realisto- Aside from the fact that I simply cannot take you seriously as someone who defended ‘ol Smitty to the very end, I completely disagree with your assessment of Arians.
    To be sure, we are already “rebuilding”. We have new coaches, new schemes, new philosophies, and a new crop of players. The difference is in the culture.
    You “telling the truth” of something already happening is hilarious!
    You are going to eat your words on Arians. THAT is the truth!

  28. Race to 10 Says:

    Saying you can’t have 22 sacks yes the coach said that so it doesn’t mean go out and draft a guy does it. They went out and got jpp. I personally think they made the right move and smarter to see what certain guys will do in the right scheme but people prefer to go the lovie smith route and just dump a bunch of people and go hog wild in the draft. They won’t top the league in sacks and they dont have to in order to have a good defense but they wont be at the bottom either. True JPP is probably done in tampa and chances are with their cap situation they will likely draft a pass rusher because I don’t see BA drafting in top 5.

  29. Defense Rules Says:

    I still don’t understand your fixation with DE pass rushers Joe. THAT wasn’t even close to being the weakest position on the Bucs’ defense last year, and yet we still went 5-11 for the 2nd year in a row.

    Bucs went from 22 sacks in 2017 to 38 sacks in 2018. Went from 79 QB Hits in 2017 to 93 QB Hits in 2018. Went from 65 TFLs in 2017 to 85 TFLs in 2018. That’s ALL pressure. Much better in each of those categories. And yet we ended BOTH years with identical 5-11 records. And worse yet, we gave up 82 MORE POINTS in 2018 (464 pts allowed) than we did in 2017 (382 pts allowed) despite better pressure.

    Several OTHER stats probably tell a better story.

    o Takeaways for our defense went DOWN last year. Bucs had 13 INTs in 2017 versus only 9 INTs in 2018. We had 27 FRs in 2017 versus only 21 in 2018. Interestingly passes defensed (PDs) stayed exactly the same in BOTH years at 56.
    o Rushing defense was significantly worse last year, despite similar rankings. Bucs gave up 1880 rushing yds in 2017 versus 1983 in 2018 (on 14 fewer rushing attempts). We allowed 2 more rushing TDs last year than in 2017. Yards per rush went up from 4.3 in 2017 to 4.7 in 2018. And most significantly IMO, the Bucs allowed 20% MORE rushing 1st downs in 2018 than in 2017 (122 allowed in 2018 versus 102 allowed in 2017).

    IOW pass rush was significantly better in 2018 than in 2017 and yet our defense regressed. I’m excited to see how THIS YEAR’s Bucs defense will improve on those stats. I’m convinced that our run defense will be MUCH BETTER than it was in 2018 or 2017. Also convinced that our PRESSURE on the QBs will be much better this year. And we’ll do it this year without the best player we had on defense last year: JPP. Why? Better coaching, better TEAM construction (fewer weak links), and improved FIELD GENERALSHIP (better on-the-field chemistry and communication). Go Bucs.

  30. Dapostman Says:

    2018 sacks by team: Playoffs?

    KC > 52 > yes
    Pitt > 52 > no
    Chi > 50 > yes
    Min > 50 > no
    NO > 49 > yes
    Arz > 49 > no
    Was > 46 > no
    Den > 44 > no
    GB > 44 > no
    Phil > 44 > yes

    4 out of 10 teams made the playoffs. Since teams are going to move the ball between the 20’s I’d suggest keeping teams out of the end zone and settling for FG’s is more important than this obsession with a pass rusher.

  31. Pryda...sec147 Says:

    Such fools no way we pick at 4….

  32. diggler Says:

    And when the Bucs did have an ornery, top-shelf pass rusher, they let Michael Bennett go for no good reason.

    ^^^Remember this guy losing his marbles after making a play and just in awe how pumped he was. Dood has endless motor and endless energy. A good pass rush makes impact plays at crucial times. Simeon Rice was a lock on 3rd down and/or Sapp.

    You can throw that sack/playoff stat grouping into the trash Dapostman.

    The higher the number of team sacks does not a playoff team make 🙂

  33. Dapostman Says:


    Your last statement is my point. My opinion is keeping teams out of the end zone is much more important since teams are going to get there anyway.

  34. 813bucboi Says:

    if we’re picking #4 in the draft, its for a QB unfortunately….

    GO BUCS!!!!

  35. Destinjohnny Says:

    When you have the worst gm in the nfl this is your reality

  36. WestChap Says:

    If we’re picking 4, he’s a QB… or, maybe, we’re trading down with someone who wants a QB. No way do you stink it up enough to land the 4 pick with a former #1 on his 5th year option at QB… and then not pick his replacement. Maybe if the W-L is because JW tore an ACL in week 2 and we signed him back pre-draft on the cheap… but, even then, how could you possibly pick a DE that high with that much uncertainty at QB? Malpractice!

  37. stpetebucsfan Says:


    Bingo. I’m with you. The Buc’s failure is far more related to their horrible lack of execution in the draft and FA as it is lack of effort. It’s not like they haven’t tried…it’s like they’ve sucked.

    And I like the abuse this panel likes to deliver. So here’s a take to peeo some of you. One of those efforts to fix the draft was Spence! He still has plenty of career left IF his shoulder is truly healed.

    Many here believe Spence was played out of position…more of an Allen type…not a bull rush power player but a speed finesse player. This year Spence will finally get to play where his talent can stand out on the outside. He won’t be required to wrestle interior OL every play and give up 50 lbs and have no chance to make up some of that difference with a head of steam like he can generate off the edge as an OL…hand on the ground or standing up. Remember many OSU coaches believed Spence had more talent than Bosa their freshman years. This will be his

    So let me have it guys because I believe Spence has a career year. Since he had 5.5 sacks his rookie year so 7.5 this season is not a reach. I don’t believe Spence and Nassib will challenge ten sacks…but I believe 18 combined between them is not out of reach. These guys will have the advantage of not being a focus of OC’s playing alongside…White…LVD…Suh and the rest of that front seven.

    I read one formula that said Suh and Vea will be indomitable forces in the middle of the DL collapsing the pocket on passers and forcing runs to the outside where White or LVD will run them down. There will be too many bodies to account for and so Nassib and Spence will have a chance to shine. They are not the stars of our defense…we don’t expect it which is why they are two of my picks for most pleasant surprises.

  38. Joe in Michigan Says:

    I’m excited for the season to start. The 2019 NFL season. You’re talking about mock drafts for 2020 in July of 2019? Something is really wrong here.

  39. WhatTheBuc Says:

    Joe, I guess it’s irrelevant that this guy is projected as a 4-3 DE? Maybe they think he can rush the passer as a 3-4 end like Watt but it’s rare to generate a pass rush as a 3-4 end. Possibly could be an OLB that only rushes the passer. At his size, I don’t see him covering anyone down field.

  40. Joe Says:

    Joe, I guess it’s irrelevant that this guy is projected as a 4-3 DE?

    Miller categorized him as an “edge rusher.” Claimed last year he saw the field mostly on passing downs only.