The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected arguably the best edge rusher in the 2016 NFL draft in Noah Spence, the defensive end out of Eastern Kentucky who had gotten kicked out of Ohio State over abusing ecstacy. Which is why he was available in the second round, and didn’t come off the board at the top of the first.
Spence came in with high expectations and certainly looked good in the preseason, but has been less impactful in the regular season so far. He did, however, get his first sack against the Arizona Cardinals. Anthony Becht broke that sack down for Buccaneers.com.
What stands out for me isn’t Spence’s sack in and of itself, which is fine as far as it goes, but the work Gerald McCoy and Spence do to set it up. This is how you adjust during a play.
Both Spence and McCoy push upfield, with McCoy beating his man. That forces the center to come in and bump McCoy — which then allows Spence to come off his man, around the two linemen occupied with McCoy, and get the sack. The key here isn’t Spence in particular, who hasn’t made much of a splash in his first two games, but the way McCoy sets up the move, and the way he finishes it.
This play also demonstrates a problem Spence has faced in both of his games: he doesn’t have much of a counter to his speed-rush right now. He tries to run around offensive tackles, which is fine as far as it goes, but with tackles wise to that, they simply drop back deep and catch him — and he doesn’t have the power to run through them right now, nor the counter move to redirect inside.
That’s a process, though, and a reason why rookie pass-rushers tend not to produce too much. They’re adjusting to a new speed and can’t rely on athleticism as much as they did in college. It doesn’t help that Spence’s reps are limited because he’s getting blown off the ball against the run.
One thing does stand out for Spence on this play: his finish to the quarterback. That closing burst is often the difference between a pressure, and a sack. And Spence at least is displaying the talent to turn his pressures into sacks.