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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs coach Arians knows rookie class must contribute

Florida Football Insiders



Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Buccaneers concluded their rookie minicamp this weekend and while most of the attention will be around first round pick, LSU linebacker Devin White, Tampa Bay is definitely got needs at the positions of several other players in this group to contribute.

New head coach Bruce Arians assessed how things went on Friday and Saturday and emphasized these young players could start making a difference this August / September:

White was the fifth overall pick and had a much-needed inside or linebacker position it’s obvious that he’s expected to jump in and be a key contributor in the new 3 – 4 defense that coordinator Todd Bowles is looking to run.

As we wrote at the time, GM Jason Licht along with the input of Bowles and Arians obviously felt the need to reload the Buccaneers secondary, again. That meant drafting corners Sean Bunting and Jamel Dean with the second and third selections for Tampa Bay and then, safety Mike Edwards rounded out picking four defensive picks in the first three rounds for the Bucs.

Bunting and Dean will be competing along with last year’s rookie second round defensive backs M.J. Stewart and Carlton Davis. Plus, Tampa Bay hopes that former first round pick in 2016, Vernon Hargreaves, will be back from a shoulder surgery and ready to make a big contribution.

Another player to keep an eye on for training camp and beyond, especially with the neck injury that is currently going to sideline Jason Pierre-Paul throughout the remainder of the offseason, is former Iowa defensive end, Anthony Nelson. Nelson, who is listed at  6’7, is a pass-rusher that had 7.5 sacks last year with Hawkeyes and whom the Bucs got in the fourth round on day three. They hope he could blossom similarly into a “hidden gem” like they got last September.

That’s what Tampa Bay found from former Cleveland Brown and former Penn State Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Carl Nassib, off the waiver wire. The Browns released the 6’6 Nassib and he was suddenly available to help the Bucs pass rush.

Will the “new Nassib” potentially be Nelson? He told the media Saturday that he knows his pass rush and his coverage skills will both be tested,

“They’ve said I’ll probably be doing both of those things. But how much of each or what I end up doing primarily is going to be determined in the next couple months. Nothing’s set. I’ve got to come out here and prove myself and then I’ll find a fit. Whatever way I can help the defense is where I’m going to end up.”

Even though Nelson played significantly at Iowa as a pass rushing end, he knows that in a 3-4 his role may have to adapt to how and where to line up and play in Tampa Bay,

“A lot of the same techniques, a lot of the same position, just different ways of getting into it. So, there will be adjustments with that, and then just terminology is going to be different. There may be some complex schemes, but other than that,  football’s football. I’m just going to learn and do my best to be a part of the defense.”

And then there’s the Bucs latest rookie kicker, Matt Gay, whom they drafted in the fifth round from Utah last month. Whether he realizes it or not, Gay is about to have the most scrutinized off-season and training camp that you could ever imagine for a guy who was a fifth-round pick.

The Bucs have a new special teams coach in Keith Armstrong, and have to try to find some long-term stability at the position. If and when Gay kicks in a regular-season game in September, he will be the sixth different Buccaneer kicker to have done so since the start of the 2016 season.

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