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Tampa Bay Bucs looking for an improved pass rush in 2016

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The defensive line for the Tampa Bay Bucs should be better.

But dare you hope it will be good?

The Bucs, whose lack of a pass rush was a major problem a year ago, have imported free agent Robert Ayers and draft pick Noah Spence to go with Gerald McCoy, Clinton McDonald, Jacquies Smith and William Gholston.

Ayers stopped short of calling Spence his protege, however.

“I wouldn’t call him my protégé because I’m learning from him,” Ayers said. “He has a lot of natural things that you just can’t teach and I’m trying to study him and learn from him too. That kid has a lot of ability and he’s willing to learn. He’s making the mistakes just like all of us are, but he has the one-two, he has the abilities, so I personally feel like the sky is the limit, but we’re going to take it one day at a time. Not only him, but there are a lot of other guys that have a lot of ability too. You know, Howard (Jones) and William – who I personally feel like has had the best OTAs of us all – he’s done really good, so there’s a lot of competition, a lot of good players on this line.

“You have to stop the run; you have to be able to pressure the quarterback. With that being said, it’s a full thing. D-linemen, you want to be able to stop the run, you want to be physical and rugged and be able to beat offensive lineman, but you need guys – simple things like being in the right place. It’s not all about physical guys. You have to be in the right place, your gap, your technique, everybody has to work together, so times like this is where we come together, work on our chemistry, get a feel for each other, so hopefully what we do now progress and then training camp, it carries over to being a good unit that stops the run and rushes the passer.”

McDonald likes the additions of both Ayers and Spence to the mix.

“(Ayers) is going to bring excitement. All of the teams he’s been a part of so far – the Broncos and New York (Giants) – he brings a type of rush to himself,” McDonald said. “He doesn’t limit himself to a defensive end position. He comes inside and rushes as well. Spence, he brings an excitement, he brings a talent – a rare talent level, that in these days younger guys don’t really possess. But he’s the type of guy – he’s fast, he’s agile, he plays multiple positions, so he brings an ‘X-factor’ to what we have going on.”

McDonald wouldn’t refer to Spence as “undersized.”

“You look at it – you look around the league and you go to Denver and their prized defensive end they have (Von Miller) doesn’t look like a defensive end,” McDonald said. “He can cover down field, any tight end or any wide receiver and he can pass rush just as good as anybody else out there and I mean, I think that’s what they see in Noah Spence in a sense. I think Coach Hayes is the exact coach to coach him. You look at his track record. You go back to Cincinnati when they had [defensive end]  Carlos Dunlap – a guy that a lot of people said was going to be trouble coming out of the league, he’s not going to last long, these things and Dunlap has made a great career out of himself and I think it’s a lot to do with Coach Jay Hayes.”

The Bucs didn’t have a double-digit sack artist a year ago. Again. Could this year be different?

If the Bucs are going to be better, it might have to be.

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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