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Rakeem Nunez-Roches has been the Bucs’ ‘most improved player’ on defense

This is good to hear.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Detroit Lions
The hope is that Rakeem Nunez-Roches can be a big contributor this year.
Photo by Amy Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Most people know about Tampa Bay’s starting front seven, but not many know about the guys behind them on the depth chart.

For starters, they’re all young and mostly inexperienced. The average NFL experience among Tampa Bay’s backup front seven (defensive line and linebackers) is right at 25-years-old. Only one guy is above the age of 30 and that’s Kyle Love, whom the Bucs just signed nine days ago.

Therefore, it’s absolutely crucial that the Bucs build some sort of depth behind its front seven before the season starts. If a Vita Vea, Devin White, Shaquil Barrett —or any of the other starters— were to go down, it could set the defense back in a big way.

That’s why the news surrounding Rakeem Nunez-Roches (or Nacho, as he’s known around the Bay area) should be music to the ears of those who want to see the Bucs succeed in 2020.

In case you’ve missed it, Nunez-Roches has been on fire throughout training camp. People are starting to notice, too. Especially after Todd Bowles’ comments on Tuesday.

“Right now, in a week and a half, he’s been the most improved player,” Bowles told reporters via Zoom. “I think he’s changed his upper body – he looks more stout and he looks quicker. He’s more explosive, he looks more powerful right now and he’s adapted to the scheme and understanding things well.

“He’s taking advantage of the situation – he’s always the first one out stretching, he’s always the loudest one in practice on the field. He gets the other guys going [and] he’s been a joy to be around. He’s been great – I can’t say enough good things about him.”

Per defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers, Nacho bulked up from 307-pounds over the offseason in order to prepare for a bigger role on the interior of the defensive line. So far, it looks like things are working out just fine.

“He needed to bulk up and he took the challenge,” Rodgers said. “So far, he’s making some pretty good strides at practice.”

Bucs fans should take note of Bowles’ compliment and here’s why: Just yesterday, cornerbacks coach Kevin Ross was trying to dial down the hype of Parnell Motley, who is having just as good a camp as Nunez-Roches. Ross did so because it’s still early in camp and there’s a lot left to be seen. The fact that Bowles is heaping praise on Nunez-Roches says a ton.

If the Bucs can continue to get quality reps out of Nunez-Roches, it should go a long way in helping the front seven sustain its excellence from a year ago.