When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted Noah Spence in the second round, I'm fairly sure they didn't think they were getting Von Miller. Sure, Spence is a slightly undersized pass-rush specialist, but Miller is in a class of his own -- arguably, he's the most explosive edge rusher in the NFL. He has 60 sacks in just five seasons. That's the kind of productions teams dream of.
Despite that, Bucs defensive lineman Robert Ayers thinks Spence and Miller are similar, though not identical. Ayers should know: he played alongside Miller for three seasons. Here's what Ayers said on Thursday, via the Tampa Bay Times.
"I told him he kind of reminds me, stature and watching his college film, he kinds of reminds me of Von Miller," Ayers said Thursday after the Bucs' OTA practice. "Von Miller was a 4.4 (40-yard) guy, though, so he's a little bit different, but their body language and their body movement, their build, their stature, their arm length and things like that, they're real similar. Von is a lot faster, but just the way they play and the way they do things is real similar."
As Ayers points out, Spence isn't close to being the kind of athlete Miller is. Not only did Miller run a 4.53-second 40-yard dash, compared to the 4.80 seconds Spence put up, Miller put up far better numbers in the short shuttle (4.06 seconds vs. 4.35 seconds), the three-cone drill (6.7 seconds vs. 7.21 seconds), the vertical jump (37" vs. 35") and the broad jump(10'6" vs. 10'1"). Spence only beat him in the bench press (25 reps vs. 21), and came close in the 10-yard split (1.61 seconds vs. 1.57 seconds). Spence is also a little heavier and shorter than Miller, making him better-suited to a defensive end role than Miller, who's often playing an outside linebacker role in a 4-3 on regular downs.
Really REALLY like what I continue to hear about #Buccaneers rookie DE Noah Spence and his approach thus far...— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) May 28, 2016
But Spence and Miller do move in similar ways. They're both edge rushers who have a feel for the quarterback, and the skills to consistently get past tackles on speed and with inside counter moves. They're both explosive, and they're both violent in their movements.
Here's another thing they have in common: off-field drug issues! Miller was suspended six games in 2013 for attempting to cheat a drug test. Spence, of course, hasn't failed a drug test in over a year, but was kicked out of Ohio State for abusing ecstacy. The Bucs are convinced Spence's issues are behind him, though.
The Bucs don't need Spence to be Miller, who's put up ten-plus sacks in every full season he's played. Just being a generally disruptive pass rusher would be good enough. Ten sacks as a rookie would be a bonus, though maybe that is what the Bucs need in the long term. Regardless, the comparison to Miller may be slightly hyperbolic, but it bodes well for the future.