At the conclusion of the 2017 season, the Buccaneers had a depleted and unproductive defensive line. You can argue that it was that position group that resulted in the defense playing poorly as a whole all season long. Since the end of the season it has been a complete overhaul, including the defensive line coach. The Buccaneers hired Brentson Buckner, who will look to put all of these new pieces in the right place, and get this defense to where it needs to be.
One player who benefited the most from all of these off-season acquisitions, is six-time pro bowler Gerald McCoy. McCoy has never had any real help during his time in Tampa Bay. It has been absolutely unfair to him because he truly is a top three defensive tackle in this league. There are no more excuses because he now has all the help he needs to be even more effective.
The addition of Vita Vea will help relieve some of the constant double teams that McCoy has to face throughout the game. In years past, teams didn’t have to worry about a true 1-2 threat at defensive tackle. No disrespect to guys like Clinton McDonald or Chris Baker, but they just didn’t really strike fear into opponents. I believe it’s the complete opposite with Vea, he truly strikes fear into opponents and can be much more disruptive than previous defensive tackles who played next to McCoy. It’s going to be a pick your poison for interior offensive lines going against Vea and McCoy. They are not going to be able to double both and that should make both of those guys extremely happy, especially McCoy because he has never had that luxury.
It isn’t just Vea who will help out McCoy. The team added four other defensive linemen who are set to make significant contributions to this football team. The team traded for Jason Pierre-Paul who is only 29 years old and has 58.5 career sacks. He is coming off a season in which he had 8.5 sacks and to put that into perspective, not one Buccaneer defensive end had more than 2.5 sacks. The defensive end sack leader for the Buccaneers last season was Will Clarke. With Pierre-Paul’s ability to get around the edge and force the quarterback to step up in the pocket, it should create many more sack opportunities for McCoy who penetrates up the middle as good as anyone in the NFL.
At the other defensive end spot, the team signed Vinny Curry who was a key contributor to the Eagles super bowl team. According to PFF, Curry was the 21st best defensive end last season and finished with an overall grade of 84.8. Curry is also 29 years old and has 22.5 career sacks. That number doesn’t jump off the page, but last season he registered 47 quarterback pressures in very limited pass rushing situations. It will be interesting to see the numbers he puts up when he has more of a chance to rush the passer on third downs.
The team also signed Beau Allen and Mitch Unrein who are veterans that know their roles. Allen was the unsung hero for the Eagles last season and was one of the big reasons as to why their run defense was number one in the NFL. Heading into free agency, Allen had a 11.3% run stop percentage among free agents which was good for best among interior defensive lineman. Number two on that list was Mitch Unrein who had a run stop percentage of 10.8%.
All five of the new additions along the defensive line are going to do wonders for Gerald McCoy. Not to mention, Noah Spence and William Gholston are still on the team and are expected to be a part of the rotation. McCoy asked for more help and received a lot more than he probably thought he would get.
It’s time to get 10-plus sacks, Gerald.