Notes: Bucs among NFL's lightest up front on defense
TAMPA -- The Bucs hope to make 2014 very different from 2013 in many ways, but one interesting change looks to be a smaller, faster front seven on defense.
Speed on defense is a Lovie Smith trademark, and depth-chart analysis by Philly.com had the Bucs with the second-lightest front seven in the NFL -- actually the lightest if you correctly move defensive tackle Clinton McDonald into the starting lineup.
Whether that correlates to success on the field remains to be seen, but the Super Bowl champion Seahawks have the sixth-lightest front seven in those same rankings, with the Colts and 49ers also in the league's eight lightest.
While the Bucs have 13 offensive linemen listed at 300 pounds or more, there is just one defensive player on roster weighing more than 300 -- second-year defensive tackle Akeem Spence, who is just 307. Compare that to the Ravens, who have three defensive tackles over 335, or the Jets, who have three over 345.
The Bucs' slimmer look comes at a time where the rest of the NFC South is investing in bulk. Carolina had first-rounder Star Lotulelei starting every game last year at 315 pounds, the Saints put a third-round pick last year into 359-pound John Jenkins, and the Falcons gave a $33-million free-agent deal to veteran Paul Soliai, who weighs 340 pounds.
Choosing speed over size appears to be the Bucs' preference -- one of the more intriguing names in this summer's supplemental draft is Lakendrick Ross, a mammoth defensive tackle who checks in at 6-foot-5, 360 pounds. He played at small-school Virginia-Lynchburg -- where the Bucs found undrafted rookie corner Keith Lewis -- and has a local agent in Brandon's Glen Lansky.
Just the same, as of Thursday, the Bucs were one of just four NFL teams that hadn't contacted Lansky about Ross, who will work out for scouts on Monday and is likely to go to a 3-4 defense as a huge run-stopper inside.
GOOD MODEL: It's no coincidence that Bucs rookie Mike Evans is working out this week in Miami with Bears WR Brandon Marshall. Evans (6-5, 231) is often compared to Marshall (6-4, 230), who played for Smith in his final season with the Bears and finished in the NFL's top five in catches, yards and touchdown catches.
Marshall worked with Bucs QB Josh McCown last season, combining with 6-3 Alshon Jeffery for one of the league's best 1-2 receiver combos, and Evans will seek the same "Twin Towers" magic with veteran Vincent Jackson this fall.
NEW LOOK: After Saints star Jimmy Graham lost an arbitration ruling to be franchise-tagged with tight end compensation rather than receiver pay, Bucs rookie Austin Seferian-Jenkins jokingly changed his Twitter bio to show him as a "WR" and not a "TE." Part of the arbitrator's decision was that Graham had identified himself as a tight end on his Twitter page. Browns star Cameron Jordan, in line for a new contract and similar issue as Graham, coyly changed his Twitter bio to "Pro Bowl pass catcher."