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Defensive line coach Brentson Buckner was the biggest addition of the offseason

Can Buckner get the most out of a re-made unit?

New Orleans Saints v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Tampa Bay Times writer Rick Stroud wrote this when Buckner was hired in February:

Buckner, 46, who coached the Cardinals defensive line the past five seasons, guided a unit that helped Arizona lead the league in sacks with 48 in 2016. He replaces Jay Hayes, who was fired Feb. 9 after the Bucs finished last in the NFL with 22 sacks in 2017.

Buckner played 12 seasons in the NFL with the Steelers, Bengals, 49ers and Panthers. In 2001, he joined Julius Peppers, Mike Rucker and Kris Jenkins to form what many believed was one of the most dominating defensive fronts in football which led the Panthers to Super Bowl XXXVIII against the New England Patriots.


Bucs general manager Jason Licht was the Cardinals vice president of player personnel when Buckner was hired as their defensive line coach in 2013. Described by many as a “hands on” teacher, Buckner led the Cardinals defensive line to at least 35 sacks in each of his five seasons there.

As we now know, Buckner was simply the first piece in Licht’s plan to completely remake the Buccaneers’ defensive line this offseason. Now that the dust has settled lets take inventory - Licht hired a new position coach, signed role players Beau Allen and Mitch Unrein and starter Vinny Curry in free agency, traded for starter Jason Pierre-Paul, and drafted Vita Vea, widely regarded as the best defensive tackle prospect in the draft.

While talent is important and something the Bucs have largely lacked along the defensive line since Gerald McCoy was drafted, the truth is most NFL teams are just degrees apart. Coaching matters a great deal and Licht went and found someone he trusts and respects to spearhead the effort to reshape not just the line but if successful also the entire defense. Former defensive line coach Jay Hayes and head coach Dirk Koetter knew each other for decades and firing him couldn’t have been easy. But this staff likely enters the season on the hot seat as fans have grown restless with the lack of playoff berths in the last decade.

It’s important to note that injuries have a way of derailing the best-laid plans. But if McCoy can stay healthy this line is the deepest its been in years and has a chance to actually be good. The fastest way to improve a defense is to improve the defensive line and the pressure they create on quarterbacks can change games. We’ve seen Buckner begin to coach up Vea:

...and there’s still much work to be done. Licht has put the pieces in place and on some level is putting his job and those of the rest of the staff in Buckner’s hands.


How many sacks will the Bucs get in 2018?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    30 or under
    (46 votes)
  • 33%
    (172 votes)
  • 40%
    (206 votes)
  • 17%
    41 or over
    (90 votes)
514 votes total Vote Now