Most of the attention directed at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has been focused on head coach Greg Schiano as well as their rookie quarterback Mike Glennon. The amount of press that those two individuals receive, in my opinion, overshadow the performances (positive or negative) of lesser-known players. Today, it’s time to take a look at one of those players: defensive tackle Akeem Spence.
Spence was drafted in the fourth round of this year’s NFL draft from the University of Illinois, and in my opinion, he was one of the best steals of the draft. The defensive tackle has already started 10 games opposite of Gerald McCoy. He has 20 tackles and one sack on the year. However, a lot Spence’s contributions have not shown up on the stat sheet.
What I like most about Spence is that he always seems to be around the ball. He doesn’t tire easily, and he doesn’t give up on a play — two things that are rare to find in a lineman. He has great size and strength, and it’s starting to translate on the field. Even if he doesn’t get a sack or a tackle, he does a good job helping McCoy provide interior pressure, which in turn sets things up for the rest of the Buccaneers’ defenders.
In addition, he shows an uncanny maturity for such a young player. The fact that he walked away from a strike to the face by Mike Pouncey earlier in the season proves that, and shows both class and intelligence.
Spence does have his weaknesses, however. He needs to improve his pass rushing abilities, as well as consistently disengage blocks. He also needs to be more explosive when the ball is snapped. Fortunately, many of his flaws are teachable, and with the right coaching, he can start to build on techniques that combat those issues.
Simply being able to learn from a guy like McCoy will only make Spence better. The veteran will help Spence get over any rookie humps he may face the rest of the season, and they have a chance to blossom into one of the best defensive tackle duos in the league.
My overall opinion of Spence is that he has a chance to be a top-notch NFL player, His size, motor, maturity, and the ability to learn from one of the best defensive linemen in the game will help him to blossom. He needs to work on being a better pass rusher and on shedding blocks, but I believe that those deficiencies won’t be an issue once he has more experience and coaching.
So keep your fingers crossed, Buc fans, because the team might just have another star in the making.