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Patchwork defensive line playing well for Tampa Bay Bucs

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They are not exactly the Fearsome Foursome, but the Tampa Bay Bucs are getting production from an under-appreciated defensive line.

The Bucs have had to patch and spackle lately, but they’ve still won two games in a row. During that time, defensive ends William Gholston and Noah Spence and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy have played well.

“I think Gerald gets a bad rap sometimes,” said Bucs’ coach Dirk Koetter. “People don’t appreciate what he brings to the table. Having coached against him, you’ve got to double team him or your guards are going to struggle to block him. Your center definitely can’t block him single. He can beat a double-team and when he does get singled he’s going to get penetration. He had a sack, caused a fumble – we didn’t get that fumble.

“I said Gerald was going to be on a pitch count, he played 64 plays, I think he took himself out one time. A lot of the players that come back after a three-week absence, they look a little rusty out there and we had a couple guys that were in that category. Gerald did not look rusty, he looked like he was right back in Pro Bowl form. Gerald is one of those unique players that makes the other guys around him better and we were very happy to have him back.”

Gholston had a sack Sunday against the 49ers, continuing his solid play all season.

“I think we said in one of these meetings that Will all of a sudden when Gerald and (defensive end Robert) Ayers were out, he said, ‘Hey, I’m the elder statesman here.’” Koetter said. “He’s put together three really good games in a row. He’s playing so hard. Will’s big, he’s strong, he’s long and he’s playing really hard right now. Those are his best assets, he’s relentless in his effort, he’s got really good stamina, he’s versatile, he moved around, he can play both sides, he can play inside. But the main thing is just how hard he’s playing.”

Spence, a No. 2 draft pick for the Bucs, started the season as a pass-rush specialist. Injuries have made him broaden his game.

“Noah played 47 snaps, got a sack there at the end. I would still say Noah – we’re happy with him,” Koetter said. “He entered the season as kind of a specialist, more of a pass rush specialist, but he’s having to play more [as an] every down defensive end because of our injuries. I think he’d still fit in the ‘learning’ category. He still makes some mistakes that a young player is apt to make, but he likes to play ball and he gives really good effort. And as long as he keeps learning and keeps improving, the future’s bright for him.”

The Bucs play the Raiders at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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