How much is fair to expect from Spence as a rookie?

by Gary Shelton on May 3, 2016 · 1 comment

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Tuesday, 6 a.m.

Forget about the drugs, if you can.

Forget about his getting kicked out of the Big Ten.

Forget about the parties, and the immaturity, and the journey back from nowhere. For the time being, just concentrate on the pass rush. For the time being, think about whether Noah Spence can finally provide the answer for the Bucs' always-lacking pressure.

This is the discussion that was overlooked when the Bucs drafted placekicker Roberto Aguayo. The noise that followed drowned out any talk of Spence that might have followed. But we'll get to it. When it

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comes to the Tampa Bay Bucs and the endless search for a defensive end, we always will.

In Spence, the Bucs believe they drafted the best pass-rushing defensive end in the draft, which isn't bad considering that Spence was the sixth defensive end taken. Granted, the best pass-rusher doesn't mean that Spence is the best defensive end. He's small — only 252 pounds — and no one can be sure if he can stand up to the running game. But the Bucs needed a pass rush desperately, and so the hope is that Spence can provide it.

Does that sound familiar to anyone? After drafting Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon with their first-ever draft pick, the Bucs have sort of wandered through the wilderness. They've tried — and failed — with Booker Reese and Ron Holmes, with Keith McCants and Eric Curry, with Regan Upshaw and Marcus Jones, with Gaines Adams and Adrian Clayborn, with DeWayne White and Da'Quan Bowers, with Stylez White and George Johnson. And all the rest of the sackless horsemen.

Now, the Bucs expect Spence to be better than all of them.

Of course they do.

And perhaps he will. Certainly, the Bucs are due for someone to be an answer, aren't they? Even if Spence has to start off as a situational pass rusher, he needs to be the guy to put heat on Drew Brees and Cam Newton and Matt Ryan, on Russell Wilson and Philip Rivers and Tony Romo. And so on.

But how much is fair to expect of Spence, really?

Consider this: Bruce Smith was one of the finest pass-rushers in NFL history. His first year, he had 6.5 sacks. Just that.

J.J. Watt is a beast when it comes to rushing the passer. His first year, he had 5.5.

Robert Quinn had 5.0. Jason Pierre-Paul had 4.5. Javon Kearse had 5.0. Michael Bennett had one. Chandler Jones had six. Demarcus Ware had 7.5. Mario Williams had 5.0. Richard Dent had 3.0. And so forth. It's a hard position to play, especially with the new pass blocking rules. Granted, Spence would be lucky to be included in this company eventually, but it's a hard place to shine as a rookie.

Oh, there are exceptions. Aldon Smith had 14 sacks. Reggie White had 13. Julius Peppers had 12. Simeon Rice had 12.5. So it can happen.

What's fair? Start at six. Just that. Hope for eight. Consider 10 the start of a great career.

Because if the Bucs' defense has that weapon, if it has the element to rob an opponent of down and distance, then the Bucs will be better. Defensive backs won't have to cover as long. There will be more third-and-14s. There will be more passes intercepted.

If Spence can do that, no one is going to ask him about his drug addiction anymore.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Cecil DeBald May 3, 2016 at 9:56 am

Sacks are great, but pressures are nice, too, and of course the more pressures you get, the likelihood is the more sacks. When I watch our defense on passing downs, I look for pressures, disruptions to the passing game, rushing the QB, forcing a scramble, all that good stuff. If Spence can up our pressure significantly I’ll like the guy, even if his sack total isn’t quite record-setting!

Cecil

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