Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Defensive line looking to improve on last season

The Buccaneers go into the 2019 with a lot to prove on the defensive side of the ball. The defense was one of the worst in the NFL last season and one of the worst defenses in Buccaneer history, giving up 383 yards a game.

The Bucs cut veteran defensive tackle Gerald McCoy in a cost-cutting move as McCoy was due to earn over $13 million dollars. With the Bucs struggling with salary cap issues, they had to free up some money to sign their 2019 draft picks, so McCoy moved on to Carolina and the Bucs went in a different direction by signing Ndamukong Suh, whose one-year deal is worth just over $10 million if all the incentives are reached. He steps into a starting position right away on the defensive line taking the spot of Gerald McCoy.

Last year’s first-round pick, Vita Vea, struggled with injuries the first half of the 2018 season, and then did a complete turnaround the second half of the season, registering three sacks and 28 tackles.

Beau Allen should also get plenty of work on the defensive line. Allen was one of the free agent signings that actually worked well for the Buccaneers last year as he had 20 tackles.

The Bucs, under new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, will play a 3-4 defensive scheme, so last year’s waiver pick-up Carl Nassib will play primarily at linebacker this season after playing at defensive end last season. Nassib was one of the better waiver wire pickups by Jason Licht as Nassib was second on the team with 6.5 sacks and 36 tackles.

With Bruce Arians’ and Todd Bowles’ defensive scheme, it is hard to say exactly where these guys will line up and play come September, as Bowles likes to move the players around on the field.

One player who will be missed is Jason Pierre-Paul, who was the best player on the defense last year and the best defensive linemen the Bucs have had in years. Pierre-Paul suffered a neck injury in an auto accident in May and fractured his neck. Pierre-Paul has been wearing a neck brace since and there was hope that he may be ready to play football in October, but photos have surfaced of Pierre-Paul still wearing a neck brace and the best case scenario is he will be back sometime in November. There was no surgery required, but you have to be very careful with a neck injury and especially at his position. Pierre-Paul will be re-evaluated in October when it will be determined if the neck has healed on its own or wether surgery will be required.

One rookie to keep an eye on is fifth-round pick Terry Beckner, Jr. from Missouri.  Beckner, who was the top rated high school prospect in 2015, had one injury after another when he arrived at college and never played up to his potential. The Bucs are counting on Beckner to be a key component of this defensive line after the injury to Pierre Paul. The Bucs also drafted Anthony Nelson out of Iowa and he is expected to play at linebacker/defensive end.

William Gohlston, Rakeem Nunez-Roaches, Jeremiah Ledbetter, and Patrick O’Conner round out the depth chart. Gohlston has been a solid player on this Bucs’ line for a few years now as has registered sacks and tackles.

Look for the sack totals to go up this season as defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will have this defense blitzing more than you have ever seen.

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