The Buccaneers and veteran defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh agreed to terms on a one-year deal Thursday. It comes as the defensive line finds itself in a state of flux with the departure of long-time Buccaneer Gerald McCoy and the news that Jason Pierre-Paul has a fractured neck, suffered in a car accident this offseason.
Enter Ndamukong Suh: one of the league’s most feared defensive linemen. A nine-year vet, Suh is a household name across the NFL, known as much for his reliability as his ruthlessness. He’s missed just two starts in his career and both of them came back in 2011.
“Just watching him play over the years, he plays with a lot of fire, a lot of attitude and a lot of toughness,” Suh’s new Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles said.
Suh’s career started with a Defensive Rookie of the Year award after recording 10.0 sacks in 2010. This was after winning pretty much every award available to a defensive player in college and finishing fourth in Heisman Trophy voting in 2009. He entered the NFL with a vengeance and nine years later, is now just six months removed from an appearance in the Super Bowl while with the Los Angeles Rams last season.
View photos of DT Ndamukong Suh from his career so far.
He comes into a similar system in Tampa Bay, at least on paper, as both the Rams and the Bucs now have defenses that are classified as a 3-4 base. However, knowing Bowles, you won’t be able to tell given that the front seems to change by the play. Versatility is key in a defense that thrives on confusing its opponent and imposing its own will on them through said confusion.
And would you look at that?
Suh is one of the most versatile interior defenders you’re going to find. Last year, he played a little out of his natural position and was moved around the line for the Rams, getting a majority of his snaps at nose tackle rather than at interior end in a three-down front or on the interior of a four-down front. As for what’s in store for him here in Tampa, Bowles shed a little bit of light on that, too.
“He will probably play a bunch of different places on the line,” the Bucs’ defensive coordinator said. “He can move across the line and play all three inside positions so he should have no problem with that.”
Suh has created problems in the pass rush for nine seasons. He has 396 total pressures in his career, which include sacks, quarterback hurries and knockdowns. His power from the middle is multi-faceted, though. An underrated part of Suh’s game, if there can be such a thing, is actually how effective he is against the ground game.
“That’s important,” Bowles said about the ability to stop the run. “Any time you have someone that’s disruptive, he’s good against the pass as well. He may not get all the sacks, but he will cause other people to have favorable matchups and get sacks, so he brings that to the table, as well. He brings a lot.”
The Buccaneers allowed the third-most rushing touchdowns in 2018 and finished the season 23rd in overall rushing defense, leaving room for improvement. While smashmouth, just run-it-up-the-gut football has all but faded into the lore of NFL history, modern offensive schemes with their run-pass options, pass-happy tendencies and hybrid running backs and tight ends with great hands still rely on the threat of the run. And lest we forget, the Super Bowl Suh just played in was won on that concept. Essentially, the Rams' collapse could be, in part, attributed to the fact they couldn’t get anything going on the ground, even with one of the best running backs in the game in Todd Gurley in the backfield. It made them one-dimensional and therefore, predictable, to a stifling Patriots’ defense. Stopping the run is becoming a lost art, but Suh’s nine years in the league ensure he’s not among those it’s lost on.
“It’s always great to add another piece,” Bowles said. “If you can’t stop the run on the inside, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing in the passing game. It gives us another big body inside to go along with Vita [Vea] and Beau [Allen] and [Will] Gholston and the rest of the guys and put in the rotation so we can keep people fresh.”
Bowles is vaguely familiar with Suh, too, which makes Suh vaguely familiar with Bowles. The football world is entirely too small for a long-time coach like Bowles and a long-time player like Suh to not have at least a surface relationship. How much that relationship factored into Suh’s decision to sign with Tampa is anyone’s guess, but make no mistake, this past week wasn’t the first time Bowles had spoken to Suh.
“We spoke for the first time last year when I was with the Jets and we talked about him as a free agent coming in,” Bowles said. “So we had a few conversations last year, maybe about three conversations last year [laughs]. But we do have a pretty good relationship and feel for each other.”
That feel also undoubtedly helped in convincing Suh to come to Tampa in the first place and it should translate on the field as Suh fits right in to what Bowles has planned for him.