Sunday, December 10, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs defensive end Noah Spence coping with limited playing time

TAMPA — Noah Spence has been quiet in his first three NFL games. Even as other key Bucs defensive ends are sidelined, the rookie's playing time has dropped.

The second-round draft pick from Eastern Kentucky has a single tackle in three games — a sack in a 40-7 loss at Arizona in Week 2. But coaches and teammates made it clear they still expect big things from Spence.

"I think Noah is doing a great job," defensive coordinator Mike Smith said Thursday. "Noah's wanting to do anything and everything that he can to help us win, and he's going to get an opportunity."

The Bucs lost pass-rusher Jacquies Smith to a season-ending knee injury in the opener. Starter Robert Ayers went out with an ankle injury in the next game at Arizona. Ayers likely will miss his second straight game Sunday against Denver.

And yet Spence has gone from 35 snaps in the season opener to 24 against Arizona to 12 Sunday against the Rams. Undrafted rookie DaVonte Lambert started at end against the Rams and played 51 of 65 snaps. Another undrafted rookie, Channing Ward, made his NFL debut and played 14 snaps.

Coach Dirk Koetter said the other rookie ends are "stouter" than Spence against an opponent's running game, and Los Angeles has one of the NFL's best young backs, Todd Gurley.

Spence, 22, is still being used in obvious passing downs. When those situations don't come up, Spence has been used sparingly.

"It's no surprise to me," Spence said. "I'm still learning, trying to get better and everything, trying to learn more about the run game, trying to develop that aspect of my game."

Spence's production is comparable to other rookie pass-rushers drafted near him at No. 39 overall. Kevin Dodd, drafted six spots earlier by the Titans, has one sack and three total tackles. Kamalei Correa, taken three spots later at No. 42 by the Ravens, has one tackle and no sacks.

When the Bucs drafted Spence, general manager Jason Licht said he thought Spence could be a three-down defensive end, able to rusher the passer and stop the run.

"I'm happy with where he's at," defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "He's growing every week. He can do both. He's more established as a pass-rusher. He's getting better at stopping the run. He's so used to just flying up the field and running (around) whatever gets in his way.

"People get a lot of glory for rushing the passer, but if you've got a guy who can actually play the run as well, it makes you that much better."

Spence could have an increased role against Denver, especially if the Bucs' defense sets up third-and-long scenarios in which he can make his biggest impact.

If he can get to quarterback Trevor Siemian, it wouldn't be the first time. Spence shared a sack of Siemian when he was at Ohio State and Siemian at Northwestern in 2013.

Siemian is eager to show what he can do against the defending Super Bowl champions.

"I'm excited every week," Spence said. "You're playing in the NFL. It's good every day."

Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.

Comments
NFL Week 14: What we learned

NFL Week 14: What we learned

Aaron Rodgers is ready to return, but is he needed in Green Bay? Backup QB Brett Hundley is 2-0 in OT; Rodgers is 1-7. The Pack has its Mr. Clutch, right? Yeah, right. Its 27-21 OT win at Cleveland keeps it alive for a wild-card spot. Mr. Rodgers, yo...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
Bucs-Lions journal: Backup lineman was most unlikely of targets

Bucs-Lions journal: Backup lineman was most unlikely of targets

TAMPA — The Bucs’ unlikely comeback to erase a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter was capped by the most unlikely of targets. Tampa Bay tied the game when Jameis Winston threw a 2-yard pass to 305-pound Leonard Wester, a backup lineman who lined ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Gerald McCoy leaves game with shoulder/bicep injury

Gerald McCoy leaves game with shoulder/bicep injury

Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy left Sunday's  game against the Lions in the second quarter with an injury to his shoulder/biceps muscle. The team says his return is doubtful.The Bucs were tied 7-7 with the Lions when McCoy was sidelined. He'...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Fennelly: Gerald McCoy’s lost season may be over

Fennelly: Gerald McCoy’s lost season may be over

TAMPA — It was the face of a losing season.Gerald McCoy’s tearful, contorted face.Up there on the video boards at Raymond James Stadium. On your TV screen. Everywhere."I’m not a quitter," McCoy said. "I don’t play to lose."The Bucs lost their ninth g...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Bucs-Lions: Grading Tampa Bay’s 24-21 loss to Detroit

Bucs-Lions: Grading Tampa Bay’s 24-21 loss to Detroit

TAMPA — It was football weather, cool, crisp, a day for the Bucs and their fans. That explains the crowd. Stow the zinc oxide. Where’s my muff?Oh, and break out the record book.For the 28th time in their 42-year history, the Bucs are losers. They sec...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Buc-Lions: The end could be near for Doug Martin

Buc-Lions: The end could be near for Doug Martin

TAMPA — One costly fumble Sunday did what two seasons with the worst average per carry in the NFL couldn’t do: Put Doug Martin on the bench.Bucs coach Dirk Koetter had stuck with Martin, starting him Sunday even after Peyton Barber rushed for 102 yar...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Jones: Why Bucs coach Dirk Koetter won’t survive this

Jones: Why Bucs coach Dirk Koetter won’t survive this

TAMPA — Dirk Koetter isn’t going to return as coach of the Bucs next season.That’s not official. No announcement has been made. No press conference is scheduled. It’s not an absolute fact. Not yet.And this isn’t a call for his job.It’s a prediction. ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Lions-Buccaneers: A by-the-numbers look at Tampa Bay’s 24-21 loss

Lions-Buccaneers: A by-the-numbers look at Tampa Bay’s 24-21 loss

Here’s a by-the-numbers look at the Bucs’ 24-21 loss to the Lions on Sunday:28Seasons, out of 42, in which the Bucs have lost more games than they’ve won.81.8Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford’s completion percentage Sunday. He completed 36 of 44 pas...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Bucs-Lions: Social media reaction from Tampa Bay’s 24-21 loss

Bucs-Lions: Social media reaction from Tampa Bay’s 24-21 loss

Matthew Stafford playing with a bad throwing hand completed 36 of 44 passes. The Bucs committed five turnovers. And yet..... Tampa Bay tied it late in the fourth quarter Sunday before Detroit drove for Matt Prater’s 46-yard field goal and a 24-21 vic...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Bucs-Lions: Instant analysis from the Bucs’ 24-21 loss to Detroit

Bucs-Lions: Instant analysis from the Bucs’ 24-21 loss to Detroit

Too many mistakes on offense, too many long pass plays on defense, and Bucs are 4-9.
Updated: 6 hours ago