Day one of training camp has come and gone. Amidst the aftermath of Jameis Winston taking the podium, Gerald McCoy working overtime with his fellow line mates and Fitzpatrick working with the first team there is a shallow story line that will be familiar for Buccaneer fans following along. Noah Spence was not utilized in either the first or second team base defense. This isn’t necessarily shocking but more of a disappointment to some extent. Injuries have tarnished Spence’s first two seasons in Tampa and the development of a highly touted former Ohio State big recruit haven’t manufactured into visible and tangible results as of yet.
When Spence entered the league there was an expectation that the dominant college pass rusher could blossom into an all around starting defensive end with double digit sack potential. Injuries as stated above have derailed two seasons and as we enter year three, Spence is still a rotational/situational pass rusher at best. Spence enters this training camp in possibly the best shape of his career. There’s a chance to stay healthy and earn himself some reps and more importantly, prove he’s more than just a pass rusher in nickel packages.
Today in camp, Spence watched as the first and second team base defenses took their reps. It wasn’t until the sub-package group lined up with Jason Pierre-Paul taking the inside slot vacated by Beau Allen while Spence slid in to take Pierre-Paul’s spot on the edge. Come pre-season games, it’s these situations where Spence is going to have to take full advantage of every snap to earn his way into a more prominent role. Curry and Pierre-Paul were the first team ends with Gholston and Clarke running as the second team ends.
As camp progresses, it will be interesting to see how the team dishes out reps in base packages and whether or not Spence gets any looks in these settings. For those questioning the difference in it all, the base package would be the early down situations where running the ball is more prevalent, leaving Spence to fight for snaps in obvious passing downs. The last two seasons as a whole, Spence has not shown the ability to play the run well, making his appearances against the run rather detrimental to the defense. It’ll take some serious pass rush pressure and results (a.k.a. actual sacks) to give the team a reason to trust Spence more often. That whole health thing needs to work in Spence’s favor as well this year.
In the end, I will be rooting for Spence to stay healthy and take that next step into becoming a weapon for Mike Smith and this defense. Between the new player additions alongside him and Coach Buckner, there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic for both Spence and this entire group as a whole in 2018. Go get you yours Noah Spence, make 2018 a year of redemption. As always, Go Bucs!