TAMPA — William Gholston stands at 6-foot-6 and says he weighs around 317 pounds, but next to the rest of the Bucs’ defensive line, the 10th-year veteran feels “like a regular-sized dude.”
The Bucs signed Akiem Hicks (6-4, 352) during the offseason to replace Ndamukong Suh, pairing him with Gholston and Vita Vea (6-4, 347) at the front of their defense. Assistant head coach and run game coordinator Harold Goodwin has compared stopping the Bucs’ pass rush to trying to halt “a large motorhome in motion,” and Gholston said the trio plans to “make some magic out there.”
“It helps you bring a bit of tenaciousness to your game, add a little bit because you see how physically dominating those guys are,” Gholston said during training camp Tuesday. “So you want to do the same thing.”
That tenacity has reverberated throughout their entire room, Gholston said. His sack numbers have steadily increased the last three seasons — from 1.0 in 2019 to 3.0 in 2020 to 4.5 in 2021 — while Hicks and Vea have recorded 40.5 and 11.5 regular-season sacks, respectively, across their NFL careers.
Gholston said offenses need to double team Hicks and Vea, but if they don’t, “it’s gonna be crazy.”
The Bucs’ defensive goal — like every year, Gholston said — is to be a “record-breaking sack team” while also becoming the best unit against the run and in other categories. Their combined weight presents a challenge for offensive lines to defend, Goodwin said Sunday, and sometimes “you just gotta hold on for dear life.”
“They make me feel like a regular (guy),” Gholston said. “I like it. I feel like a skill position.”
Gholston said he doesn’t remember much from his first preseason game — a 44-16 loss to the defending champion Ravens in 2013 — except for the different speed.
“It’s a beautiful thing, fourth quarter, when the clock hits zero,” Gholston said.
Organized team activities seem fast to a rookie, Gholston said. Then, training camp seems faster. But neither of those compare to “when game speed hits you,” he said.
The Bucs have 24 rookies on their roster who could make preseason debuts as soon as Saturday, when Tampa Bay hosts the Dolphins (7:30 p.m., NBC). Head coach Todd Bowles previously said he doesn’t expect the starters to play much.
For tight end Cade Otton, appearing in his first preseason game makes a “dream come true.” He said these games are what rookies look forward to — their first opportunity to impress coaches and other players against another team — and this week is a “super valuable time,” with a pair of joint practices followed by the game.
Odds and ends
With tackles Josh Wells and Donovan Smith not practicing Tuesday, the Bucs used Brandon Walton at left tackle and Nick Leverett at left guard. John Molchon slotted in at center with the second-team unit. … Receivers Mike Evans (hamstring) and Breshad Perriman didn’t practice again, along with Hicks, outside linebacker JoJo Ozougwu and safety Troy Warner. … Bowles said there’s “not a fast way” to get receiver Chris Godwin (torn ACL/MCL) ready for Week 1, adding he doesn’t have to be ready for Sept. 11 because the Bucs want him for the “long haul.” But if Godwin keeps feeling good after individual work and lifts, he’ll keep progressing toward that point. … Bowles reiterated what Goodwin said Sunday: he anticipates the left guard competition to be decided somewhere around the Bucs’ final preseason game against the Colts.
• • •
Sign up for the Bucs RedZone newsletter to get updates and analysis on the latest team and NFL news from Bucs beat writer Joey Knight.