Noah Spence was supposed to give the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ pass rush a significant boost this season. The second-round rookie was very impressive on his college tape, and seemed to have all or at least most of the skills needed to transition to the NFL. So far, though, he has all of one sack (which was almost entirely caused by Gerald McCoy) and very little pressure outside of that play.
Spence’s disappointing play has been reflected in his playing time, which was already limited as he’s been an outright liability in run defense. As Greg Auman points out, though, his playing time has plummeted week to week.
Not the playing-time trend you expect from a second-round pick: DE Noah Spence has played 35, 24, 12 snaps in Bucs' first three games.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) September 27, 2016
Part of the reason is that the Bucs have faced teams that have passed less and less. In week one, Matt Ryan attempted 39 passes. In week two, the two Cardinals quarterbacks combined for 34 attempts. And on Sunday, Case Keenum had just 26 attempts, with many of those coming on running downs.
In other words: there are fewer clear passing downs, which means fewer opportunities for Spence to get on the field.
But that’s not the only thing we’re seeing: Spence simply hasn’t been all that effective. While he’s got a good jump off the ball and the ability to reach the corner, offensive tackles can just drop deep and block his outside speed rush, because he has no real, effective counter right now. Tackles are stonewalling him when he tried to turn his speed into a power rush, and when he tries to jump inside after threatening inside offensive linemen are finding it easy to adjust.
That’s not necessarily a surprise: rookie pass rushers almost always struggle to make a consistent impact early on. But the Bucs don’t have much time to wait for Spence to get it, and they really do need to get some kind of pass rush soon — or we’ll be looking at yet another lost season.