Heading into the offseason, the Buccaneers had a goal of getting bigger along the defensive line. With the addition of Chris Baker through free agency and Stevie Tu'ikolovatu in the draft, Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith feels that the team's goal has been reached.
"We feel that we have to get bigger to be able to defend the run," Smith said. "The first thing that you have to do is get people in passing situations. This is a passing league, but when people can line up and run the ball on you you're never going to get in the favorable third-down situations.
"I think at the end of the season we did not defend the run, especially in one of our division games. We did not defend the run the way that we needed to. We feel like we've got to get bigger and have more girth up front. That plays into two things. That plays into us winning the line of scrimmage, and also creating opportunities for us to have linebackers running free."
Both Baker and Tu'ikolovatu are well over 300 pounds. Baker is listed at 335 pounds while Tu'ikolovatu is 320 pounds. But despite their size, Smith believes both players can be every-down players.
"We don't think that they're guys that are only going to play on first and second-down even though they're 300-plus pounds," Smith said. "I think Stevie could move out and play some five technique. We know that Baker can, he did it in Washington. Again, we're trying to get into a situation where we have as much flexibility as we possibly can with the guys that are dressed out on defense."
The Buccaneers have a handful of versatile defensive linemen, including Baker, who was a 3-4 defensive end in Washington, and Robert Ayers, who lines up at both end and tackle. Baker is expected to "start" alongside Gerald McCoy on the inside, but Smith expects more than a dozen Buccaneers to contribute this season.