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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2024 State of the Bucs: Post-Draft Edition, Defense

Following the 2024 NFL Draft, a look at how the roster shakes out on the defensive side of the ball


The Buccaneers newly-cemented 2024 draft class includes Alabama outside linebacker Chris Braswell and safety Tykee Smith. The team's 2024 player-acquisition process featured mostly players on the offensive side of the ball at positions of need, but the club bolstered the defensive line following the departure of Shaq Barrett and the secondary, adding depth at strong safety/slot corner with Smith.

In 2023, Tampa Bay ranked seventh in the league with 325 total points allowed and tied for sixth with an average of 19.1 points allowed per game. The unit held opponents to 1,620 rushing yards in total for an average of 95.3 rushing yards per game, ranking fifth behind the Bears, Lions, 49ers, and Patriots. The defense compiled 13 interceptions and 48 sacks, collectively.

In the second round with the 57th pick, the Bucs snagged Braswell to add to the pass rush rotation. The Alabama product became a two-time member of Bruce Feldman's esteemed "Freak's List," where he was clocked at 21.9 miles per hour and squatted 705 pounds. After playing in the Tide's packages primarily on passing downs in 2022 behind Will Anderson Jr. and Dallas Turner, he assumed Anderson's role in 2023. As a starting outside linebacker in Nick Saban's hybrid 3-4 scheme, Braswell led the SEC in pressures with 56. He lined up from both a two and three-point stance. His penetrating upfield charge and lethal get-off will fit the mold of Bowles' pressure-centric system. Braswell is effective on twists/stunts, maximizing his lateral agility. The high-motor athlete plays with active hands and accumulated 10.5 tackles for loss, 8.0 sacks and three forced fumbles last season. He will join Yaya Diaby (2023 sack leader, 7.5), Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Anthony Nelson and offseason acquisition Randy Gregory in the outside linebacker room.

"He is a young man that when we looked at him on tape, he displayed the skillset of everything we were going to ask him to do," said Outside Linebacker Coach, George Edwards. "We had a clear vision for what we were getting with him coming in…Anytime you can add somebody who can rush, can drop, can set the edge in the run and get on-and off-blocks and set plays – anytime you get a playmaker like that, that is going to be a good addition."

With the first pick in the third round (89), the Buccaneers snagged Georgia product Tykee Smith. He is projected to compete for the Bucs' slot corner role along with Christian Izien and Joshua Hayes. Smith, a one-year starter for the Bulldogs, played the nickel position in Kirby Smart's 4-2-5 base system. After playing safety at West Virginia for two seasons, he switched to the slot and overcame injuries to produce his best season in 2023. Smith posted 70 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and four interceptions last season. He strikes with intensity as a tackler and possesses an understanding of leverage and angles in pursuit. With a quick downhill trigger, physicality, instinctual play and urgency as a blitzer/ run defender, Smith will help fortify the Bucs' secondary.

"We would expect him to come in here and compete right away," said Assistant General Manager John Spytek. "Tykee is way ahead of a lot of kids that would enter the NFL, and in a defense where we ask a lot of our secondary – they have to know a lot of things, they have to be versatile, they have to think really fast, think on the fly – to me that's always the biggest hurdle. These guys that you pick on Day One and Day Two, they're usually really good athletes. It's really the mental stuff that will slow them down."

The stellar competition in the SEC and the high-level defensive preparation at both Alabama and Georgia were draws for the Bucs' brass, and now both Braswell and Smith will strive to make an impact for the Buccaneers on the grandest stage.

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