If Bucs defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is indeed out for the season, it’s difficult to understate the impact. He led the team in sacks in 2018 and is arguably Tampa Bay’s best player on defense. What does it mean if he’s sidelined for the year? We convene a roundtable to get answers.
No substitutions for sacks
Rick Stroud, Bucs beat writer @NFLStroud: It’s too early to know whether Jason Pierre-Paul will miss all of part of the 2019 season. But this injury is not going to help the Bucs. It’s pretty devastating. If he needs surgery on his neck fracture, he’s done for the year. If he can avoid surgery, there is a report that he may be ready for Week 1 of the regular season. Assuming is out for any length of time, the Bucs don’t have a suitable replacement. It took 13 years for a Bucs player to reach double digit sacks since Simeon Rice did it in 2005. JPP led the Bucs with 12.5. The Bucs have some edge rushers in Carl Nassib, Shaq Barrett and maybe a rejuvenated Noah Spence, who is best suited in a 3-4 as an outside linebacker. But they don’t have anyone like JPP left on the roster and the timing couldn’t be worse, coming after the draft. You can do some things to hide a bad offensive line. You can’t hide a bad defensive line. It leads to more plays when you can’t get off the field on third down. And teams can now roll protection toward Vita Vea and Nassib. No way to sugar coat this. It’s a potentially devastating injury the Bucs may not recover from unless they can work a trade for another pass rusher.
Would he have had another productive season?
Eduardo A. Encina, Bucs/pro sports enterprise writer, @EddieintheYard: Jason Pierre-Paul has often said he’s unstoppable, and he’s certainly overcome more than his share to remain a pass-rushing force, so you can never truly count him out. He had a great season last year, one of the few highlights on defense. If he is out for the season, replacing 12 1/2 sacks won’t be easy. It can be easy, however, to overlook that Pierre-Paul was beat up by a litany of injuries by the end of the season, and that showed on the field. The Bucs also put some major mileage on JPP, playing him for a team-high 90.1 percent of team’s the defensive snaps. Before this car accident, he already had a lot of wear and tear. There’s no guarantee he’d have the same impact as he did in 2018. Regardless, losing one of your top pass rushers is a huge hit to a Bucs defense in transition. This does make for an interesting side story, because despite fumbling in their attempt to part ways with fixture Gerald McCoy, the Bucs might need McCoy now more than ever if JPP is out. The Bucs have danced around the fact that they’ve moved on from McCoy and his $13-million salary all offseason. Talk about awkward? Imagine Jason Licht’s first phone call to McCoy trying to patch things up. “So Gerald, how’s your offseason been?”
No more cars
Thomas Bassinger, sports data reporter, @tometrics: The Bucs should ban players from getting into cars. From now until January, no driving. Actually, no passenger-ing either. Build an apartment complex next to One Buccaneer Place. Pitch tents and set up a few dozen cots at the indoor practice facility. Make sure everyone is within walking distance. If that’s not practical and players need transportation to and from campus, have them travel by air balloon. Better yet, are Devin White’s horses available?
Tank for Tua?
Ernest Hooper, assistant sports editor, @hoop4you: Outside of One Buc Place, the team most disappointed about Pierre Paul’s injury has to be the Miami Dolphins. Even with the acquisition of Josh Rosen, the Dolphins appear primed to finish with the league’s worst record and the top draft pick -- likely tabbing Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa or trading the chance to pick Tagovailoa for a boatload of selections. Now the Bucs threaten that plan because if Tampa Bay enters 2019 without Pierre-Paul and Gerald McCoy, they’ll be a candidate to go 2-14 or worse. I think the loss is that big. It’s two of their three best defensive players on a unit that didn’t play well. If Todd Bowles can salvage great performances on a defense rebuilt around Devin White, Lavonte David and a secondary I’d call Question Mark and Mysterians, he’ll be defensive coordinator of the year.
Contact Ernest Hooper at email@example.com. Follow @hoop4you.