With the Buccaneers still being in a salary cap crunch, one of the names that keeps being floated around as expendable in an effort to free up some money is defensive end, William Gholston. With the addition of Ndamukong Suh and the performance of last season, Gholston is cited with not living up to expectations and an inability to be the stud many expected when he was drafted back in the 4th round of the 2013 draft.
If you’re simply looking at last year’s statistics and nothing else, and if you’re cherry picking what stats you want to look at, then it’s easy to see why some would say Gholston may not be a Buccaneer come week 1.
What many fail to take into consideration, is that Gholston while playing in 16 games last season, only started in 2 of those, and saw less than 40% of all defensive snaps in 2018. When you are playing backup in 14 games and sitting out more than 60% of all defensive plays, it’s impossible for one to expect the same numbers as he produced as a starter, especially given the fact that he was shifted to defensive tackle which carries completely different expectations and roles than when he played defensive end.
With the addition of Suh, we can expect at least some opponents if not a majority of opponents to double and even triple team Suh in an effort to minimize his impact.
The benefit of this strategy for the Bucs is it leaves players like Gholston with an opportunity to take advantage of the Suh patrol and find his openings to make his presence known in the opponent’s backfield. With Gholston listed as a defensive lineman, we can expect to see him as a down lineman, a role in which head coach Bruce Arians is quite confident Gholston can fill nicely.
Arians when talking about Gholston and his role with this new scheme stated,
“I think he dropped weight to fit in the 4-3 where, like I told him, he needs some rocks in his pocket to help us in the 3-4. I really like the way he’s moving around.”
With the switch to what we’ll call a 3-4 even though Bowles will surely convert it to more of a hybrid, we should see the base 3-4 packages provide more of a potential for Gholston to do what he was drafted to do.
Gholston can set the edge as an end in a 3-4 by using his strength and length which have more of an advantage than if he were to be used as an outside pass rusher. In what we’ll refer to as his off years, the Bucs have used him more inside on passing downs and moved him more towards the edge in early downs, at least when they allow him on the field. Normally his size would be a better fit in a 4-3 scheme, but he doesn’t have the speed that one ideally looks for when getting that jump the snap rush towards the opposing quarterback.
This mentality of using Gholston mainly as a pass rusher may ultimately be part of what has caused a decline in his numbers, as his best seasons were when he was used mainly to stop the run.
He has never been a sack monster and expecting that from him is only setting yourself up for a disappointment. Gholston is best when asked to hold the edge and stuff the run, and when allowed to do just that, he’s proven to be one of the best on the team at that task. Perhaps another part of his decline in numbers, was due to the previous coaching staff simply asking him to do more than he was ready and able to do. He was never given proper instruction and guidance, yet he was expected to be a defensive end with production like Houston’s JJ Watt, and that simply isn’t going to happen, because that’s not who William Gholston is.
Gholston has struggled with his weight in recent years, as he topped 300lbs due to an emphasis being put on making him bigger and stronger than the guy opposite of him.
Unfortunately, it made him slower than desired as he simply looked to add weight without working to improve his overall health and conditioning. Under instruction and guidance from the new coaching staff, Gholston has seen his weight drop some and his overall health improve a good bit, as he has been working to find that perfect balance between both size and speed. He is looking to put himself in the best shape to do what is expected of him by both Arians and Bowles, and he understands that the expectations could have him playing 2 or 3 different positions not only throughout the season but at times during the same game.
Whether he is named a starter for the Buccaneers in 2019 or is simply asked to be a high caliber rotation player, what is clear, is that Gholston expects to see his numbers improve with the new scheme.
We expect that under the new coaching staff, we’ll see that very thing. With Arians and Bowles implementing a new defense that will see a lot of rotation in an effort to keep players healthy and fresh, there is no reason to think Will won’t be a Buccaneer in 2019, and any talk to the contrary is just someone simply looking for an excuse to either cut a player they don’t personally like, or someone looking for an easy and lazy way to make money magically appear.
Gholston may have flown under the radar in 2018, but expect to see Gholston flying to the ball and stuffing the run as he aims to help bolster a Buccaneer defense that is determined to make teams take notice.