Defensive line issues deepen with Okoye release
With the Amobi Okoye experiment ending with his reported release today, the Bucs are going to have to figure some things out on their defensive line.
And it won’t be easy.
Unlike positions like cornerback or receiver, where teams often have a surplus of talent, it’s harder find solutions at defensive tackle, where the Bucs are dangerously thin. General manager Mark Dominik said he’ll be combing transactions league-wide all day today, hoping to find players he likes who suddenly become available.
But if the Bucs can’t find impact players on the waiver wire or among whatever free agents are available, look for them to continue to use the variety of personnel combinations they’ve been trying out during the preseason.
In the base defense, the defensive line will be Michael Bennett and Adrian Clayborn at the ends, and Gerald McCoy and Roy Miller as defensive tackles. But on passing downs, when the team wants to intensify the pass rush, coaches are going to have to use different players in the interior in place of Miller (this was supposed to be Okoye’s role).
Bennett is a realistic option to play tackle in nickel packages. The Bucs have also used E.J. Wilson as an interior rusher, though it remains to be seen whether he makes the cut. And, as you probably know, the Bucs often use linebacker Dekoda Watson as a rushing end. That allows them to account for that position when any of the ends move inside.
The point is, the Bucs are going to have to be creative if they can’t find an ideal tackle for rushing downs. And given the demand for good interior linemen, the odds of that happening are probably slim.
This problem in and of itself won’t sink the Bucs’ season. But that’s only true if the Bucs don’t suffer another key injury on the defensive line. That changes everything and that’s when the depth issues would really become problematic.