While the Tampa Bay Bucs do have talent at numerous positions, they, like most teams, have certain needs headed to the upcoming NFL Draft. And they’re in an ideal position, currently with the 5th overall pick, to get an immediate impact player at one of those need positions.
And a very common question (specially for teams that are picking near the top of the draft) is: how much do you “zero-in” on helping yourself at a need position versus taking the “best available overall player,” if he’s available when it’s your turn?
The Bucs may very well be in that position, while sitting on the clock with Houston Cougar defensive tackle Ed Oliver potentially right in front of them.
On Wednesday, Tampa Bay and their new coaching staff including new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles got an opportunity to meet with Oliver at the team facility. And it will be interesting to see you over the next 3 weeks what kind of impression he has made in the draft process.
Oliver is one of the most decorated defensive interior lineman in the last decade, as a three-time All American Athletic Conference first team player and 2017 Defensive Player of the year. He’s also a consensus All-American three years in a row for the Cougars.
Of some concern last year was an ankle injury at the end of his junior season and it curtailed his stats. However, in 2017 he won the prestigious Outland Trophy with had 16 and 1/2 tackles-for-loss with 5.5 quarterback sacks and 73 overall tackles, which are huge numbers, as a defensive tackle.
And, they’re all comparisons being drawn in terms of his size position and potential with Rams All Pro Aaron Donald. And while that is a lofty expectation, there are definitely some similarities in their stature and their on-field accomplishments, including their ability to shed double teams to make plays.
Further, a bigger question becomes: what is the Buccaneers thinking as it relates to veteran Gerald McCoy? McCoy has been a no-show at the team’s voluntary workouts this week leading many to speculate that Tampa Bay is either trying to trade the former six time Pro Bowler or will demand he take a pay cut to remain for a 10th season.
Logically, Oliver would be a potential immediate less expensive impact replacement, if McCoy is gone.
Then again, an argument could be made to bolster the Tampa Bay defensive line even more by pairing Oliver with McCoy and also, last year’s number one pick and also a defensive tackle, Vita Vea.
Now, from a straight draft strategy standpoint, would Tampa Bay be willing to spend the fifth overall pick on the same position in which they just drafted a player a year ago at 12th overall?
Again, Tampa Bay is doing their diligence and this includes having former Mississippi State defensive lineman Montez Sweat in for an interview on Monday as well.
And maybe GM Jason Licht and Coach Bruce Arians are simply putting out a smokescreen intending to draft an entirely different position like linebacker, offensive tackle or safety, instead.
Still, Buccaneers fans have to be excited, that there’s a legitimate chance that an impact player of some kind is coming their way. And maybe, it will be the decorated defensive tackle from Houston.
Injury concerns for Bucs RB Jones and WR Evans
The start of fourth week of training camp has a couple of concerns for Buccaneers offensive stars, receiver Mike Evans and running back, Ronald Jones.
Neither player participated in the Bucs latest workout Monday, and now there’s some doubt as to whether either will play in Friday night’s third preseason game with the Cleveland Browns at Raymond James Stadium?
The Bucs are not required by the NFL to give any update on injuries at this point, unless they choose to, but head coach Bruce Arians provided a brief one after practice.
“Ronald’s knee swelled up a little bit and just trying to take it day to day with him. Mike tweaked yesterday…it’s nothing serious.”
Traditionally, the third preseason game is the final time where starters for the regular season play significantly.
When asked if both would be held out Friday night, Arians briefly said:
“We’ll see how it is. We still got a few more days. I think Ronald’s gonna be ok. I’m not sure about Mike.”
First, on Evans, the Pro Bowl wide receiver from a year ago pulled up on a pass drill Sunday during practice and although the Bucs aren’t saying anything, there’s concern that he may have sustained a hamstring injury of some type. Tampa Bay is heavily counting on Evans to be their go-to weapon, especially on third down. A year ago he caught for 1,524 yards and a career high 17.7 avg with 8 TDs.
Evans previously dealt with a hamstring injury in the 2015 preseason and missed the season opener with Tennessee but returned the following week.
As for Jones, he appeared to have suffered some kind of left knee hyper-extension returning the opening kickoff on a rain-slicked turf against the Dolphins Friday night. That’s what can be seen this photo on social media from Tampa Bay sports reporter Kevin O’Donnell showing Jones knee clearly in an awkward spot when he planted.
Wondering why #Bucs runningback Ronald Jones knee is sore? This is the opening kickoff Friday night against the Dolphins. Rojo didn’t practice yesterday. Looks like a hyperextension to me. pic.twitter.com/mVmW86E96x
— Kevin ODonnell Fox13 (@ODonnellFox13) August 19, 2019
Jones did carry the ball twice for 7 yards leader in the first quarter of the game before being shut down for the night.
Jones has been one of the standouts of the Bucs offseason and training camp with glowing updates repeatedly from Arians about his progress and his chances of seeing significant playing time. Jones missed three games with a hamstring injury in a disappointing rookie year.
Now, we wait to see how long he and Evans will be out.
Positive injury update news for Bucs DT Vita Vea
Bucs coach Bruce Arians gave another positive update Sunday on one of his star defensive players he’s counting on to come back from injury. It looks like hulking defensive tackle Vita Vea is still on track to potentially play in the season opener September 8th.
After the Buccaneers Sunday morning training camp workout, Arians was asked, if there was any new news on Via resting and rehabbing the sprained ligament in his left knee? He told the media:
"Obviously, when you’re put in game-winning situations and your young players perform, you’re proud of them, and they did exactly that."
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) August 18, 2019
“He’s getting better and better everyday. No pain (in the knee). So, I’ve got my fingers crossed that he’s gonna be ready (opening day),” Arians said plainly.
The former first-round pick a year ago out of the University of Washington was injured almost two weeks ago in a one-on-one pass blocking drill, crumbling to the ground with the Bucs and their fans holding their breath. However it turns out it was only a sprain ligament that did not require surgery and Vea could still possibly play at the beginning of the regular season, including the opener with the 49ers.
Vea was seen walking on the sideline Friday night during the Bucs preseason game with the Dolphins with the aid of a heavily braced left knee.
This is the second straight training camp that Vea has been sidelined with a significant injury. Last year, he suffered a torn calf muscle on the second day of workouts and missed all of the preseason and the first three games of the regular season recovering from the injury and getting into playing shape.
When he did comeback, Vea came on strong in the second half of the season and began to show signs of promise, as to why the Bucs had picked him in the top 15 of the draft. He had a career high nine tackles in a December game in Baltimore and was all over the line of scrimmage and the backfield causing disruptions.
Then, in Dallas the following week, he was once again making plays early in the game. Although, he had a first-half sack Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott nullified by a face mask penalty, he got another one that counted by blindsiding Prescott on the final play of the first half.
Vea finished with three tackles, the sack and one tackle for loss in that game. And, in the second half of the season, he ended up with 28 tackles with three sacks and five tackles for loss in eight games.
Vea is being heavily counted on to help the interior of the Bucs defensive line in new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ 3 – 4 defense. He along with new free agent pro bowl veteran Ndamukong Suh are going to be the guys relied upon to get pressure up the middle for the defense.