Spence sees landing with Lions as career renaissance

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — It’s unclear whether the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had any interest in retaining Akeem Spence, but the defensive tackle is ready for a fresh start with the Detroit Lions.

“I needed a fresh start, I needed something new and Detroit offered that and they offered a style I like to play, I’ve been in before and suits me,” Spence said. “What I did last year, I just did my job. I did what was supposed to do. I did what the team asked me.

“Granted, my numbers weren’t what I wanted them to be, but now I’m here in Detroit, got another opportunity and I’m here to make the best of it.”

A fourth-round draft pick in 2013, Spence appeared in 56 games for the Bucs, but had seen his production dip the past two years. His playing time was reduced down the stretch in 2016 and he finished with 19 tackles and a half sack.

The scheme played by Detroit, an attacking front which asks its lineman to attack a single gap and penetrate into the backfield, playing the run on the way to the quarterback, appeals to Spence. He said it’s similar to what he was doing early in his career, when Lovie Smith coached in Tampa Bay.

“When you look at them on film, inside guys are jumping out of their stance,” Spence said. “They’re two, three yards in the backfield making plays. That’s exciting, man. That’s something you want to be a part of.”

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Before making the jump to Detroit, Spence sought counsel from Lions safety Tavon Wilson. The two were teammates at Illinois. With Wilson’s stamp of approval, Spence was eager to sign the three-year deal.

In Tampa Bay, Spence was mentored by All-Pro Gerald McCoy, who would lead the defensive linemen out on to the field before practices and teach some of his pass-rushing moves to the younger players. Spence said he’s tried to incorporate many of McCoy’s lessons into his playing style and now looks forward to learning from another decorated veteran, Haloti Ngata.

“I’m happy to have the chance to be working with him,” Spence said. “This season, I’m going to be picking his brain, trying to learn everything I can from him because he’s an encyclopedia of knowledge. You’ve been on different teams, you’ve been in the league this long, it means you’re doing something right. He knows a whole hell of a lot of football.”

Twitter: @justin_rogers

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