Just three days into camp, it’s clear Tampa Bay loves them some Jason Pierre-Paul.
“(He’s) just a real impressive veteran player that’s willing to share with the younger guys,” Dirk Koetter said. “His ability to work in the heat - sometimes those veteran players don’t want to come out and work as hard as we ask them to in training camp, but he’s been out front all the way. Real impressive so far.”
But what makes him so valuable in Tampa Bay - aside from the 58.5 career sacks and Super Bowl ring - is his versatility. He's shown that not only can he take down a quarterback, but he can play the run effectively as well.
“When we played them last year, just from our standpoint, we probably feared him more in the running game than we did in the pass game. That’s not a threat,” Koetter stated adamantly. “That’s not a downgrade to him because we see good pass rushers every week, but a lot of those speed rushers can’t play the run. I mean, he’s 280 pounds.”
The Bucs may be onto something with this. According to Pro Football Focus, Pierre-Paul was graded higher (81.9) in run defense than any current Bucs defensive linemen other than Gerald McCoy. He’s already lining up on the inside in sub-packages and Saturday he was on the outside, standing up on the edge with down defensive linemen.
The #Bucs had @UDWJPP Jason Pierre-Paul play DT in nickel pass rush on Sat. LG Ali Marpet found out how effective JPP can be as an inside rusher. @ProFootballTalk @nflnetwork @gmfb pic.twitter.com/4P9jsxWtOG— PewterReport (@PewterReport) July 28, 2018
It’s clear the Bucs have plenty of depth on the defensive line in order to make these types of moves, with hopes they’ll pay off in 2018. So far, it looks as if the coaching staff wants to maximize the potential of this defense by creating as many mismatches as possible.
Pierre-Paul knows that it helps to have a coach like his in Brentson Buckner, who has been to a couple of Super Bowls himself.
“He knows what it’s like to be on that D-line and you’ve got to stay consistent. Playing D-line is tough. Every day you are constantly hitting each other, you’re hitting the offensive line, playing the run,” Pierre-Paul said. “It’s tough to play D-line and Coach Buck does a very great job at teaching the fundamentals and what to do at what point.”
The potential starting combination of Pierre-Paul, McCoy, Beau Allen, and Vinny Curry is enough to vault the Bucs into the top 15 of the league when it comes to rushing the quarterback. With backups like Noah Spence, Vita Vea, Mitch Unrein, and William Gholston available - the Bucs can do whatever they want up front alignment-wise when healthy.
It seems as if Tampa Bay has the perfect combination of run and pass defense up front. Whether or not it translates into success during the season remains to be seen, but it’s hard not to like what they have done so far in camp.