Buying in the First Step of Fitting in for Ndamukong Suh

“Love the linebackers, the communication. I think the ability to get after the quarterback is huge, not only with multiple guys, but also with their front. I’m excited about that. Looking forward to being in a position to just go out there and play and wreak havoc.”

Hear that? Sounds like new Buccaneers defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh is all in on the Buccaneers already, using the team’s ‘Wreak Havoc’ tagline in his first off-the-field media availability following mini-camp last week. He was speaking on what he likes about the Bucs’ defense, so far. His exposure is limited to the three days of mandatory mini-camp last week, sure, but the overall concept and structure of the system is undoubtedly part of the reason he’s here. The reputation of the defense precedes itself.

Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles’ defenses are aggressive. They attack. And it’s immediately evident, both on tape and even more impressively, on a practice field in shorts. See, at this level, it’s not a matter of which team is better - it’s a matter of which team executes better. Which is why above all else, Bowles’ defenses are focused on making the offense uncomfortable and throwing them off. They do that by creating confusion, and a lot of it.

This confusion requires versatile and moldable players. You wouldn’t think that after nine years in the league, Suh would be moldable. In fact, he is. He’s got the range and versatility to do whatever is asked of him. More than that, he has the desire to do it, too.

“I think my best fit is wherever they need me to be,” Suh said. “It’s as simple as that. I’m excited to one just be able to play football at the same time just be able to be a force within the defense and like I said, the only way for me to do that is figure out the defense, understand it like the back of my hand and go from there.”

View the top photos from the Bucs offseason practices.

Suh is in a prime spot to be that force within the defense. He can create opportunities for so many of his teammates from the defensive interior. He can eat up blockers for guys like second-year defensive tackle Vita Vea, who should command his fair share of double teams himself. In a four-down front, for instance, if you have Suh and Vea taking up two blockers apiece, you’re then going to create mismatches on the outside for the incoming outside linebackers, like the 6-foot-7 Carl Nassib, for instance. Sorry, but a running back isn’t going to hold up in pass protection there.

Then there’s the guys Suh mentioned first: the linebackers. In a defense that uses its linebackers to get pressure on the quarterback, think of Suh as the defensive equivalent of a fullback – plowing a path for those linebackers to dart through the inside gaps.

More than how he’ll help his teammates on the field, there’s always what he brings off of it. When Suh signed, Bowles said the main things he brings with him are ‘attitude and toughness’ along with a track record to back that up. Like Bowles’ defenses, Suh’s reputation precedes him, too.

In the above, you can hear fellow interior lineman William Gholston tell Suh that they’re trying to learn all they can from him.

“All it is, is a mentality,” says Suh.

A guy that was in the Super Bowl less than six months ago will by default be looked to for advice, and therefore as a leader in a lot of ways. Though that’s never really been Suh’s calling card, he’s more than happy to share his knowledge as soon as he gets comfortable enough with his own understanding of his new team.

“I think first and foremost I need to get my bearings and then after that just talk about different ways to beat people, be creative, just tricks of the trade, veteran moves, things like that,” Suh said. “Understanding how to read offensive lineman, different things like that. Things that I’ve been taught by other vets as well as other great coaches.”

He’ll have a young supporting cast to pass that knowledge onto. No one on the Bucs’ defensive line is older than 27. Outside linebackers get even younger with Jason Pierre-Paul sidelined for the foreseeable future. But with youth comes speed and energy, which will pay dividends in this defense.

“Young energy,” Suh said of what has contributed to the energy on the defense. “Guys that are eager to play, move around and get after the ball, lots and lots of speed. I think it’ll come in handy, especially in September.”

Looking ahead is another big part of the mentality Suh brings. The focus has shifted to the 2019 season and therefore, the future. It’s an entirely new era of defense for the Buccaneers and Suh again, has bought in.

“I think the important thing is to forget about the past,” Suh said. “There’s new regime and new understanding of none of the past stuff matters. It’s all about the future and the present, and with that coach is big on having ownership – yes, he is a head coach, yes, he has to set the tone, but that doesn’t mean anything if we all don’t buy in, in addition to making our own.”

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