-One thing I feel like is going a little bit under the radar is the impact that Jack Cichy’s injury has. Obviously a defensive captain in Kwon Alexander going down is a huge blow, especially with how Kwon was playing this year, but the rookie was quietly doing some good things on special teams and will leave a void there. The Bucs now have Devante Bond, Riley Bullough and Kevin Minter as part of the linebacker room and most, if not all, of those players will have to contribute on special teams. Bond is one that returned to the team a couple weeks ago following an injury, before the other two injuries necessitated a shuffle. He was brought back due in major part to his special teams play and familiarity with the team already, having been in the Bucs locker room for the past couple years.
Luckily, on Sunday, the Buccaneers had six linebackers up (instead of their usual five), including Bond so that when both Alexander and Cichy went down, they weren’t hurting on depth. Lo and behold, it was Bond credited on that goal-line stand in Sunday’s game against Cleveland and Head Coach Dirk Koetter said he will be moved into the starting strongside linebacker spot while Adarius Taylor moves into the middle. Coach also said Bond will continue to be a ‘mainstay’ on special teams, so it looks like he’s going to be pulling double duty. Bullough is another one familiar with the Bucs system already. He was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2017 out of Michigan State. Minter, who comes with 44 NFL starts under his belt, is a seasoned pro, allowing him to catch up quickly.
-Rookie defensive tackle Vita Vea played 54 percent of the team’s defensive snaps on Sunday – by far and away the most he’s played since being activated in Week Four against Chicago. You saw flashes of what he can do, I even saw him move a guy to squeeze the running back’s lane while engaged with another offensive lineman on Sunday. There were also instances of the Browns double-teaming him, which is exactly what you need from the young interior lineman. Still, his play isn’t up to what it could be, which is something Coach Koetter just attributes to lack of playing time. He and Coach Buckner put it in perspective below:
“Vita looks like a guy that is still getting his legs under him,” Koetter said. “I think Coach Buckner said it best, that Vita’s basically played his third preseason game or maybe he’s around his first game where everybody else is six games into the season. I mean he looks like a guy that’s still finding his way with his pad level a little bit, with his conditioning. We’ve talked about this before – riding the bike and losing 20 pounds is one thing but playing football against offensive linemen is another. We’re encouraged by the way Vita’s working at it, but I don’t think he’s where he’s going to end up being when it’s all said and done.”
Sounds like we’ve only scratched the surface with what Vea is capable of, according to Coach Koetter. There is much more to come.
-Speaking of the defense, it was defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Carl Nassib were Co-Defensive Players of the Week, Defensive Coordinator Mark Duffner revealed on Wednesday. This should come as no surprise to anyone. Pierre-Paul notched his seventh sack on the season, the first of the Bucs’ five during the game. He continues to be consistently disruptive no matter the team or situation.
“Jason was one of our co-players of the week on defense and his energy and effort is terrific – I love the guy,” Duffner said. “I just can’t say enough about how hard he plays. He comes out and he does it the right way. Think he’s got certainly great talent. A lot of people have talent, but he’s been able to turn that talent into production largely because of his attitude and his desire to make plays – to be a playmaker. We’re real excited about Jason and what he’s contributed and what we expect him to further contribute to the defense.”
As far as Nassib’s game on Sunday, call it the Carl Nassib Revenge Game, which yes, is a gross exaggeration but it kinda has a nice ring to it. Especially for a guy that recorded his first multi-sack game against a team that cut him after this preseason. Nassib did so many good things against his former team, including playing corner and recording a pass defensed. Yes, as a defensive end, Nassib followed running back Nick Chubb out to the flat and batted a ball down as he towered over the 5-foot-11 rookie. Point is, Nassib was everywhere and Duffner couldn’t have been happier for the first-year Bucs player to have arguably the best game of his career against his former team.
-Everyone loves linebacker Lavonte David. At least you should. If you don’t, I question everything you stand for as a person. Despite all the love he gets, it’s recognition that he lacks, unfortunately. It’s again, due in part to his role as an outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense, in which linebackers don’t notch as many sacks due to scheme. But tackles for loss is another story. As Scott Smith pointed out on this week’s Salty Dogs podcast, David has the most tackles for loss since he entered the league except for some guy named J.J. Watt. And he’s the only non-defensive end or pass-rushing linebacker on the list. That’s INCREDIBLE. In the 4-3 scheme, linebackers are usually asked to play the underneath zones, which would mean once a player already gets past the line of scrimmage. And make no mistake, Lavonte does a great job of that too, but the fact that he can penetrate the backfield and drop a player ,such as a running back more often than not, for negative yards is just stupid.
David has also been with the Bucs his entire career and has morphed into one of the most influential figures on the team. He’s the total package and his coaches are the first to say it.
“Lavonte David’s been a staple here and a stable, if you will – strong, if you will – person and contributed this program for a long time,” Coach Duffner said. “Yes, we are very blessed to have him in that capacity versus a person certainly who’s a ball player. Being a captain of the team and one before – his leadership, his example, his knowledge is going to be counted on heavily and it is every week. At this point, we’ve got some new roles being determined during the course of the week and his contribution as a leader and as a player is just as strong as ever.”
This isn’t the first time I or Scott or anybody around AdventHealth Training Center has ranted about how much more notoriety David deserves. And it clearly won’t be the last.
-It’s no secret coaching circles are more like Venn Diagrams in that they all overlap at some point or another. This guy belongs to this tree, but coached with this guy for this team, etc etc. This week’s matchup between the Bengals and Bucs is no different because of the team’s two head coaches, specifically. But just how intertwined these two are might surprise you. Coach Koetter and Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis go way, way back. Lewis was the scout team quarterback at Idaho State when Koetter was in high school. His high school practices were held in the same facility as Idaho State and he would sit around as a senior and watch Idaho State’s practices following his own. It’s where Koetter ended up going to college and almost competing with Lewis for the backup quarterback job until Lewis was moved to defense. It was Lewis who introduced Koetter to his wife, while Lewis’s wife went to school with the two as well. Lewis and Koetter were in each other’s weddings, with Lewis’s daughter even being the flower girl in Koetter’s. They’ve remained close throughout their coaching careers and this will now be the first time they will meet as NFL head coaches. Which is neat.
Don’t worry though, come Sunday, they both know they’re on opposite sides.
View photos from the Buccaneers' practice Wednesday at AdventHealth Training Center.