The Buccaneers were well-represented when the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) announced its 2019 All-Rookie Team on Tuesday, with linebacker Devin White and cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting both earning spots on the defense.
White, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, got out to a slow start in the first half of the year due in large part to an illness and then an injury that kept him on the sideline. But once he got back to full strength, he certainly burst onto the scene from his middle linebacker position. He finished the season with 91 tackles (58 solo), 2.5 sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss, an interception, three forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and two defensive touchdowns in 13 games. The former LSU Tiger took home NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month honors in November and December, becoming the first player to win in back-to-back months since Brian Cushing did it in 2009.
FUN THINGS ARE HAPPENING— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) December 29, 2019
JPP with the strip sack. Devin recovers and takes it 91 yards to the house. pic.twitter.com/BkoJgP1ePr
Murphy-Bunting, who the team selected with the No. 39 overall pick last April, had an even later emergence than White did. He didn’t see the field all that much early on in the season, but he later got his chance to shine and paid it off beautifully. He ended up leading the team in interceptions with three, taking one back 70 yards for a touchdown to put away a victory for the Bucs in Detroit. In addition to his three picks, he added 44 tackles (37 solo), one sack, three tackles for loss, eight passes defensed and a forced fumble. The Central Michigan product spent time at both nickel and outside corner, showing off plenty of his potential and cementing himself as a key part of Tampa Bay’s young secondary going forward.
Speaking of key parts of the team’s young secondary, Jamel Dean was a pretty tough snub here, as he missed out on the all-rookie team. His second half of the season was electric, as he overcame a tough game in Seattle on Nov. 3 to put up an excellent final two months. By the time his rookie year was over, Dean had totaled 21 tackles (16 solo), one tackle for loss, 17 passes defensed and two interceptions. He developed into one of the Bucs’ biggest bright spots as the season went on, and he should be a major part of the defense in 2020 and beyond.
Nonetheless, the Bucs’ 2019 draft class had a pretty strong debut season. While White, Murphy-Bunting and Dean were the stars, Mike Edwards, Scotty Miller and Matt Gay had their moments as well. Plus, it’ll be nice to see how Anthony Nelson develops in this defense going forward.
Before we can look ahead to what the 2019 class can do in year two, we’ll have to see if the Buccaneers can bring in another successful haul in the 2020 draft this April.