Age is starting to set in on the Tampa Bay defense. Among the starters, OLB Derrick Brooks is 34, DE Simeon Rice is 33, CB Ronde Barber is 32, CB Brian Kelly is 31, DE Greg Spires will turn 33 in August and DT Kevin Carter will be 34 in September. In an effort to keep their over-30 unit fresh, look for the Bucs to limit those players to one practice during training camp two-a-days.
With another repeat, lackluster four-win season ahead for Tampa and signal caller Jon Gruden, the Bucs might need to look at replacements this year for a defense that is just plain old like a â€˜Fresh Prince’ re-run. As the core of this defense continues to get older, it will crack like old cement and fall apart like â€˜jenga.’ It could be one more final hurrah for Monte Kiffin’s age-old wonders, that look the part and play the part of a dismantled defense. While this defense gets older by the minute, you do have to applaud the front office for bringing in some young, new players like: LB’s Quincy Black, Cato June, and Barrett Rudd, CB’s Sammy Davis and Phillip Buchanon, DT Ryan Sims, S Will Allen and Jermaine Phillips, and most notably fresh, DE Gaines Adams out of Clemson (4th overall).
In the last couple of years this team has re-loaded the depth chart. They have found some younger grandkids to replace the grandparents when they’re tired. These back-ups and soon to be starters might be able to keep Jon Gruden and the coaching staff content.
Tampa Bay’s second stringers and new starters have a lot of growing up to do, especially if they want to hang with the Saints, Falcons, and Panthers in the NFC South in 2007. With Simeon Rice and Brian Kelly missing a combined total of 22 games last year, the Bucs will need Adams and Buchanon to be ready.
Adams will be called on the most from this group of young players, as linemen Spires and Carter are dropping off in their play. If these older starter on defense don’t get the job done, they can at least help mentor the young guns. Derrick Brooks as a veteran leader by example, can show Black, June, and Rudd the ropes. Ronde Barber will be leading the secondary for his 10th year with Tampa, tutoring Allen and Phillips among others in the defensive backfield.
Tampa Bay is hoping to mix and match this plethora of players on the team roster. While they will hit bumps along the road, you know that Gruden will make sure this Buccaneer unit will be fired up to force turnovers, giving the offense a chance with good field position and an opportunity to win. Effort and aggressiveness will not be a problem for this defense, but stopping the run and deep play action passes will pose problems. This defense will be on the field for a long time (offense is lethargic), and the pressure will insurmountable if the big plays are not limited, for a 4-12 franchise that is at the bottom of its division.