BREAKING: I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made serious upgrades to their defensive line.
All jokes aside, the Bucs will enter the 2018 NFL season with what looks to be their best defensive line since 2004, when Simeon Rice, Greg Spires and Dewayne White lead a line that produced 33.5 sacks. Bucs fans are drooling over the potential for Tampa to finally control the line of scrimmage on defense, stop the run and get to the quarterback after so many years of mediocre results from the defensive line.
Unfortunately, the new d-line will be tested early and often by a slate of very good offensive lines in 2018. However, new defensive line coach Brentson Buckner has Gerald McCoy, Vinny Curry, Vita Vea, Noah Spence, Beau Allen, Jason Pierre-Paul, Mitch Unrein, and William Gholston to counter that challenge. Let’s have a look and see what kind of task the Bucs d-line will be facing this season. Here are the 2017 rankings of the offensive lines on the schedule.
*Writers note, PFF grades are subjective, but they put a lot of work into their rankings/writing. Run blocking and pass protection stats come from Football Outsiders*
Run Blocking - 2nd Pass Pro - 2nd PFF Rank - 9th
Run Blocking - 22nd Pass Pro - 12th PFF Rank - 1st
Run Blocking - 7th Pass Pro - 1st PFF Rank - 12th
Run Blocking - 28th Pass Pro - 23rd PFF Rank - 11th
Run Blocking - 8th Pass Pro - 8th PFF Rank - 2nd
Run Blocking - 14th Pass Pro - 22nd PFF Rank - 14th
Run Blocking - 24th Pass Pro - 20th PFF Rank - 28th
Run Blocking - 24th Pass Pro - 19th PFF Rank - 10th
Run Blocking - 21st Pass Pro - 19th PFF Rank 21st
Run Blocking - 15th Pass Pro - 10th PFF Rank 26th
- San Franciso 49ers:
Run Blocking 11th Pass Pro - 18th PFF Rank 20th
Run Blocking 6th Pass Pro - 4th PFF Rank 18th
Run Blocking 4th Pass Pro - 15th PFF Rank 4th
Right off the bat, the Bucs face 3 top tier teams/offenses in the first four games of the season. The Saints, Eagles, and Steelers not only all made the playoffs last year, the Eagles won the Super Bowl, they also boast top offensive lines. Talk about a tough opening slate. Controlling the line of scrimmage and affecting the quarterback will be essential if Tampa is going get off to a good start to the season. The Bucs revamped defensive line will have their hands full from the first kickoff. The rest of the schedule features four teams with top 15 lines, although the Panthers could see a noticeable dip in their run blocking/pass protection as All-Pro Andrew Norwell left via Free Agency.
If the 2017 rankings hold true, the Bucs will face top offensive lines in 11 games this season. The Giants o-line could see an improvement as they added Will Hernandez and Nate Solder this offseason. It will be imperative that the defensive line lives up the hype and provide the type of dominant play Bucs fans were so used to seeing when players like Warren Sapp, Booger McFarland, Brad Culpepper and Simeon Rice terrorized opposing quarterbacks.
In the NFL, a lot can change from year to year. Free Agency, the draft, players retiring and coaching changes can all affect how well a team plays. With that in mind, and since a down has yet to be played in the 2018 season, the stats I posted are merely a guideline to what possible challenges await this new defensive line. The task of dominating the opposing teams o-line will likely be a difficult one, but one I ultimately think the Bucs will succeed at this season.