There are plenty more reasons than Tom Brady to be excited about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020.
The defense is one of them.
After years of flat-out nightmarish play, the Bucs appeared to have turned a corner about midway through the 2019 season. Another year under Todd Bowles should bode well for a stout run defense mixed with a young, improving secondary.
But in a division that boasts quarterbacks like Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Teddy Bridgewater - you need all the help on defense you can get.
A guy like Darrell Taylor could certainly help in that regard. Let’s dive in and find out what he can do.
Darrell Taylor’s College Career
Taylor was recruited by Butch Jones in 2015. He sat out his entire freshman year after redshirting, but was able to play in eight games during his redshirt freshman year in 2016. A strong offseason allowed Taylor to start seven games and finish second on the team with three sacks in 2017.
But 2017 wasn’t without drama. A tense moment occurred when Taylor was suspended indefinitely for kicking teammate Trey Smith in the face. Taylor was already suspended for the first half of the upcoming game after being ejected for fighting in the previous game against Georgia, so Jones had to do something to send a message. Taylor was reinstated after missing two games.
It was clear that Taylor’s career had been a disappointment up until this point, but he still had two more years of eligibility left.
Taylor’s 2018 season was vastly different from his first two years. For starters, the Vols hired Jeremy Pruitt, who was able to tap into Taylor’s potential. The end result was a team-leading (and career-high at the time) eight sacks. That number was good enough for second-best in the SEC, just behind Josh Allen, who had 10. He became the fourth Vol in Tennessee history to record four sacks in a game and his two games with 3+ sacks tied for the most in the nation. Oh, and he was voted team MVP, as well.
He proved 2018 was no flash in the pan by recording 8.5 sacks during his senior year. That figure was good for first on the team and second in the SEC, again. Taylor came up with crucial plays throughout the season, including a huge sack in the team’s bowl victory over Indiana.
Taylor’s 19.5 career sacks are tied for the 10th-most in team history.
Not a bad way to finish after a rough start, right?
This dude is gifted. He has the perfect blend of size, strength, speed, and athleticism needed for the position. The explosion and the bend is there, as well. When Taylor was able to put it all together, he was one of the best pass rushers in the SEC.
But don’t get it twisted. He can also play the run and knows how to disrupt a backfield, evidenced by his team-leading 11 tackles for loss in 2018.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein compared him to Junior Gallette in his combine review of Taylor:
(Taylor is a) powerful edge defender for 3-4 or 4-3 fronts with five-star traits, but three-star skill level at this point. He has the strength and leverage to anchor and stand his ground at the point of attack, but he needs to transform from a set-it-and-forget-it roadblock into a shed-and-tackle playmaker. His rush lacks instincts and counters, but he has shown the ability to explode and bend the edge sharply, which will get the attention of NFL evaluators. The toolbox has plenty in it, but additional development as a pass rusher might be the difference between functional backup or dangerous starter.
Darrell Taylor - Tennessee— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) March 12, 2020
High Side Rushes
Last 2yrs: 21 TFL, 16.5 sacks
Great get-off, flexibility to turn corner, burst to close. Starts w/ speed rushes, then works in speed-to-power & inside moves. Highly touted recruit
Vols ended ‘19 on 6 game win streak! pic.twitter.com/Px5otlkD8u
Taylor has it all. He just needs to continue to work on becoming a complete pass rusher. If he can do that, he could be a major steal in the draft.
You read what Zierlein had to say. I’ve noticed over the years that he has some issues with timing the snap and utilizing his hands in an efficient/effective manner. There was also the suspension in 2017, however, Taylor has shown that he learned from that ordeal.
I’d also point out that Taylor was inconsistent during his time in Knoxville. Remember his eight sacks in 2018? Well, seven of those came in two games. He recorded just one sack over the remaining 10 games of that season and that was in the season finale against Vanderbilt. Nine of his team-leading 11 TFLs in 2018 were in three games, too.
2019 was a different story. Taylor was much more consistent, but now he needs to show that he can be “consistently consistent” before it’s safe to say he’s moved to the next level.
Why The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Need Darrell Taylor
The Bucs were able to franchise Shaquil Barrett and re-sign Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh, but the defense still needs someone to come in and take over when those two need a breather. JPP is also in the latter stages of his career, so an eventual replacement will be needed, anyway.
Taylor should be available in the 3rd-4th round, which would be a perfect landing spot for the Bucs. The outside linebacker position isn’t a current priority like the offensive line, but like they say, you can never have too many pass rushers. If Taylor is available in the mid-rounds of the draft, then it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Bucs decided to make him one of their own.
Should It Happen?
I mean, if you know me, you know that I cover the Vols and I’m also a fan of the Big Orange. So, naturally, I wouldn’t mind if Taylor came to Tampa Bay. He has enough raw talent to find his way on to the field early and could learn from both Barrett and Pierre-Paul. Those guys could groom him until he’s ready to take the starting gig and hopefully, he could step right in and man the position for the next 5-7 years.
But it doesn’t matter what I think. What do YOU think? Should the Bucs draft Darrell Taylor?
Let us know in the poll/comments below!
How Do You Feel About Darrell Taylor For The Bucs In The 2020 NFL Draft?
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