The Buccaneers selected former Ohio State defensive end Noah Spence in the second round of the NFL Draft last May primarily to bolster their pass rush.
Through three games, rushing the passer is just about all Spence has been asked to do.
Spence has seen his snaps diminish in each game so far, from 35 in Week 1, to 24 in Week 2, to 12 in Week 3 and it’s largely due to his lack of expertise as a run stopper.
Against the run-heavy Rams for example, Spence mostly watched as undrafted free agent DaVonte Lambert received the start and played 51 snaps in place of injured Robert Ayers. Why?
Because he’s “more stout’’ against the run than Spence, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. “He can hold the point better.’’
That’s not to say Spence hasn’t played well. He does have one of the team’s five sacks and he’d probably have more if the Bucs were playing better on the downs he doesn’t play.
“If we do a better job of winning on first and second down, Spence is going to show up more as a third-down player,’’ Koetter said. “I mean, last week we had four third-and-1 or third-and-2s and normally you might get one of those a game. When you have four you’re not having as many third-and-10s. So we need to get teams in third-and-6-plus more. That’s when Noah is going to have a chance to shine.’’
That chance may come as soon as Sunday. Based on what the Bucs are seeing of the Broncos, Spence should get a little more work this week and could actually be in for a big game.
“If (the Broncos) stay to what they’ve done the first three games, Noah Spence is going to have a bigger impact on the football game, simply because of what they do,’’ Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith said Thursday. “They’re still going to run the football, but they’re not going to have two or three tight ends in the ball game all the time (like the Rams did).”