In the 2021 NFL Draft, the Buccaneers had the least amount of pressure to pick up game changing talent, and instead were able to address some much needed depth. This is primarily due to the Mike Greenberg cap magic and maneuvering that allowed the Super Bowl champions to return all 22 starters from that glorious Sunday.
While it was very much a mystery as to who the Bucs would be selecting with the 32nd overall pick, it was likely that they would be selecting a depth piece somewhere in the trenches; whether that be on the offensive or defensive side was yet to be seen.
It turns out that this expectation was right on the money as the University of Washington’s edge, Joe Tryon, was taken at the end of the first round. A lengthy, athletic, speedy, yet quite inexperienced prospect landed himself in the one of the few places where he wouldn’t have to make an impact right away.
Based on this inexperience and lack of production at the collegiate level, Tryon will benefit immensely from getting to sit behind Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul, while also working in as a designated pass rusher on passing downs.
The way I look at Tryon is as a true project edge prospect, meaning that he has all the physical tools in the world and a few moves in his back pocket, but he just needs to be taught how to put everything together.
That’s why I’m going to be taking you through a few areas where he excels, and a few areas that he could use some improvement. Based on the amount of nuance that is required to play edge at the NFL level, it’s impossible to break down all strengths and weaknesses with just a few clips, but these are what stood out to me the most.
He excels greatly at rounding the edge and using his pure speed and athleticism to break on a quarterback, he’s always strong at the point of attack against the run, and he’s got a few good moves on his toolbelt. However, he doesn’t always come with a plan to set up tackles, he can often become reliant on his athleticism, and double teams seem to be an issue for him.
Let’s take a look at this pretty fantastic rush from Tryon during UW’s 2019 matchup against Oregon. On this play, Tryon does a great job of simply speeding past this tackle with his athleticism and then shows the quickness to close on the quarterback once he’s beat his man.
While this play doesn’t result in a sack, we can see his speed, swat technique, bend, and eventual hit that came just half a second too late. If it weren’t for Justin Herbert (10) getting the ball out quickly, this could’ve easily been a sack, or a sack fumble.
At the NFL level, this will be more difficult to accomplish as tackles face this sort of rush game in and game out; however, this is demonstrative of Tryon’s physical attributes and intangibles that aren’t typically coachable.
One area that stood out on tape was Tryon’s ability to use a counter move when rushing from the inside. On this play, he sees that he might get double teamed so he attacks the outside shoulder of the Washington State tackle, and then rips inside and gets upfield for the sack.
While I don’t think we’ll see a lot of his rushes come from the 4i technique in the NFL, Todd Bowles likes to line up his rushers all over the place, so seeing this shows us that he has what it takes to win on the inside when called upon to do so.
Another thing that this play shows us us his ability to get off of blocks by using his long arms to maintain separation from opposing lineman. Because of these active hands and this separation, this tackle was never able to latch on to Tryon’s chest which allowed him free rein to beat this block and get the sack.
Strong at point of attack
While a lot of the hype coming from Tryon is his ability to rush the passer, he also brings quite a bit against the run as well. Though he sometimes struggles with reading the run correctly and can run straight upfield to leave open lanes; when he knows a run is coming, he’s always strong at the point of attack.
On this play, Penei Sewell, the 2021 draft’s top selected tackle, attempts to drive block Tryon out of the play. Unfortunately for him, Tryon meets him head on, stays low, holds his ground, extends his arms, and rips inside to make the tackle for a minimal gain.
Even with his 6’5” frame, he is able to get underneath Sewell’s pads and show the world that yes, the low man usually wins. He also never allows Sewell to gain inside leverage or latch onto his pads to drive him out of the play, which seems to be a recurring theme and an overall positive for Tryon.
Stifled by double teams
Despite Tryon attempting to maintain leverage here by staying low and trying to fight through this double team, he is taken out of this play pretty easily. Not only does he not really arrive with a plan of attack, he also didn’t bring any secondary moves to try to break free from this stranglehold.
When I say that he doesn’t really arrive with a plan of attack here, this is based on him simply running head first into the middle of these two blockers. He doesn’t attempt to get skinny to fight through the middle, and he doesn’t try to turn this into a one on one matchup as we saw earlier with his inside counter move.
While I love to see the continued fight and pumping of his legs, his hands and arms stay pretty static. Throughout his career at UW, double teams seemed to get the best of him because of this lack of awareness of what to do next once he was engaged with two blockers.
Lack of secondary moves
As we saw with the last play, Tryon’s plan of attack is often lacking. He has a tendency to engage with a blocker but then not really know what to do next. On this play, he does a good job of getting around his man by using a swat arm technique, but when his blocker washes him out of the play, he doesn’t really try anything else.
Instead of trying to rip underneath after the tackle takes him upfield, he tries to swat his arms about three or four times to no avail. While I like to see the active hands and consistent motor, he struggles with stringing multiple moves together and that is pretty evident here.
Pass rushing is as physical as it is cerebral, and while we see the high level of physicality on display here, there’s no real indicator that he thought through what he was going to do next if his initial swat didn’t work. What’s promising about this though, is that the cerebral nature of pass-rushing is something that is highly coachable.
Can be too reliant on athleticism
On this play we can see that there is a similar theme with the issues that Tryon had throughout his collegiate career. His reliance on pure athleticism has led to some highlight reel sacks, but it has also slowed him down and hampered his production.
After the snap, Tryon attempts to bend the edge over the outside shoulder of the Washington State tackle, as we saw with his near sack against Oregon from a few clips ago. However, the tackle is able to wash him upfield and keep up with the speed that he utilized on the outside.
Tryon doesn’t doesn’t set up a plan of attack and instead just steps into the rush and attempts to get past his man with speed and an arm swat. Even though the arm swat didn’t work, he continued to try to bend the edge without a counter spin move until he was already five yards upfield.
What the Buccaneers saw in Joe Tryon is obvious. He’s a very lengthy, quick, and incredibly athletic edge player who has a highly consistent motor. However, he isn’t a finished product, which is completely okay.
Despite being a first-round draft pick, the Bucs don’t need him to be a star pass rusher from day one based on the starting talent that they are bringing back on their quest to go for two.
A lot of the issues that were outlined above are coachable, much like with the Trask breakdown that I wrote about a few weeks ago. However, what Tryon brings that Trask doesn’t, is elite athleticism.
While Tryon was not as pro-ready as some of the other edge players taken earlier like Kwity Paye or Jaelan Phillips, he has immense upside and a number of intangibles that outweigh his lack of readiness right out from the gate.
So don’t expect a 10 sack season from the Bucs first round pick in 2021, and be sure to temper any other exceedingly high expectations. But, in time we may be talking about a very solid edge player who can bring consistent sack numbers year in and year out.