Bucs Training Camp Battle: Defensive Line

Where will the battles happen in the defensive trenches for Tampa Bay?

"Big" may not be a sufficient word to describe the Buccaneers defensive line. The starting defensive tackles and ends will be hard to move, both off the line and out of their starting spots.

The centerpiece of the defensive line is former first-round pick Vita Vea. At 347 pounds, Vea dictates a lot of attention up front, but add his strength and speed, and he becomes a nightmare for offensive linemen. Pro Football Focus ranked him sixth among all defensive tackles at pressuring the quarterback last year:

Next to him is one of the best, most consistent defensive linemen of the last decade, Ndamukong Suh. The former Ram gives the Bucs a high degree of flexibility as he can play across the entire defensive line, becoming the perfect compliment to Vea's size.

Aside from Suh and Vea, defensive end William Gholston should see the most action on the line. One of the longest tenured defensive players in Tampa Bay, Gholston is an excellent run defender and overall pretty versatile, contributing on over a third of the Bucs' special teams snaps.

The last major component of the line should be defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches. One of the larger players on the line, Nunez-Roches is a rotational space-eater who could assume many of the duties once held by departed DT Beau Allen.

Vea and Suh should continue seeing the majority of defensive line snaps with Gholston and Nunez-Roches comprising a significant share of the rotational duties. That leaves two spots up for grabs on the line.

The player first in line for more snaps is Patrick O'Connor, who was on the Bucs' Week 1 roster last season. However, his advantage is minor given he played just 2.3 percent of the Bucs' defensive snaps last year. He did play 28.4 percent of the Bucs' special teams snaps, which will certainly help him keep a spot after training camp.

Tampa drafted Khalil Davis in the sixth round in the 2020 draft so there is some investment in his success. Davis is somewhat raw and was not a particularly successful player in college despite his freakish athleticism. 

At 308 pounds, Davis ran a 4.75 40, which is faster than some linebackers. If he can harness his athleticism into technique, he is a lock to make the final roster.

Bringing up the rear are Jeremiah Ledbetter and Benning Potoa'e. Ledbetter was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 2017 but has not seen the field much since. Potoa'e is an undrafted free agent from Washington. His versatility could make him a dark horse to make the final roster.