Saturday, November 17, 2018

Bucs agree to terms with Brentson Buckner to be their defensive line coach

Brentson Buckner didn't need to bring his resume when he interviewed for the Bucs' job as defensive line coach. No references were needed, either.

All the Bucs had to do was ask quarterback Jameis Winston whether the Arizona Cardinals defensive line was any good under Buckner.

Winston was sacked three times, lost a fumble and threw four interceptions in the Bucs' 40-7 loss at Arizona in Week 2 of the 2016 season. Then last year, it was a hit by Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones that knocked Winston out of the game with a right shoulder sprain that would bother him all season.

In an effort to improve the NFL's worst pass rush, the Bucs agreed to terms Monday night with Buckner to become their defensive line coach.

Buckner, 46, who coached the Cardinals defensive line the past five seasons, guided a unit that helped Arizona lead the league in sacks with 48 in 2016. He replaces Jay Hayes, who was fired Feb. 9 after the Bucs finished last in the NFL with 22 sacks in 2017.

Buckner played 12 seasons in the NFL with the Steelers, Bengals, 49ers and Panthers. In 2001, he joined Julius Peppers, Mike Rucker and Kris Jenkins to form what many believed was one of the most dominating defensive fronts in football which led the Panthers to Super Bowl XXXVIII against the New England Patriots.

Terms of the deal were not released but Buckner is expected to officially sign with the team on Wednesday.

Buckner was among several strong candidates to interview for the Bucs' defensive line coaching job, a list that included former Colts defensive coordinator Ted Monachino and University of Miami defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski.

Bucs general manager Jason Licht was the Cardinals vice president of player personnel when Buckner was hired as their defensive line coach in 2013.  Described by many as a "hands on" teacher, Buckner led the Cardinals defensive line to at least 35 sacks in each of his five seasons there.

Last season under Buckner, Jones led the NFL in sacks with 17.  Defensive end Calais Campbell had eight sacks with the Cardinals in 2016.

Contrast that with the Bucs, who have not had a player reach double digit sacks in a season since Simeon Rice in 2005.

It wasn't an easy decision for Bucs coach Dirk Koetter to fire Hayes six weeks after the season. The team had picked up Hayes' one-year option and he goes back more than three decades with Koetter.

But after further evaluation, Koetter and Licht decided they needed to make a change and it would appear they found that in Buckner, who inherits a defensive line that will undergo some changes this offseason.

Defensive tackle Chris Baker is expected to be released while defensive tackles Clinton McDonald and Sealver Siliga could become unrestricted free agents. Defensive end Noah Spence is recovering from shoulder surgery that  limited him to playing in only three games last season.

The best hope for a pass rush continues to be six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.

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