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Bucs X-Factor: Joe Tryon-Shoyinka gets a chance to shine against Rams

Tampa Bay’s high-ceiling first-round pick will need to step up Sunday.

The Buccaneers’ history with high-profile edge rushers, until very recently, is dubious at best and catastrophic at worst.

Outside the occasional gems like Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon or potential Hall of Famer Simeon Rice, the Bucs have suffered through the likes of Dewayne White, Gaines Adams, Adrian Clayborn, Da’Quan Bowers, Michael Johnson, and Noah Spence. The effort has always been there, but the results never matched the hype.

For more than 13 years, the Buccaneers went without a double-digit sack getter, and the lack of a consistent pass rushing presence played a massive role in what was arguably the worst defensive stretch for this franchise since the 1980s.

But fortunes slowly shifted as general manager Jason Licht finally started piecing the puzzle together. It started with a smart trade for Jason Pierre-Paul in 2018, as he responded by ending said drought with 12.5 sacks that year and collecting 30.5 total in 3 years with the team.

The following season, Licht took a flier on a talented rotational player in Shaq Barrett, who started just 15 of 61 games for the Denver Broncos. He broke out for a league-leading 19.5 sacks and forcing 6 fumbles, then parlayed another impressive season in 2020 into a long-term contract.

As great as that duo has been the last two years, it’s clear that the team needed a young third wheel to keep this pass rush revival going for the foreseeable future. Enter Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, who Licht selected with the 32nd overall pick in the 2021 draft.

The chiseled rookie out of Washington has produced some highlight plays already on just 40 total defensive snaps, and Pro Football Focus and other outlets are already liking what they see. Tryon-Shoyinka’s pass rush grade of 73.9 is second highest on the team according to PFF, and it’s third highest among all rookies in the NFL.

Tryon-Shoyinka will get a chance to provide a glimpse of his massive potential Sunday when he likely fills in as starter for Pierre-Paul, who’s expected to be inactive to rest an injured shoulder. It comes against the Los Angeles Rams, who might be the toughest test on Tampa’s schedule.

It’s important to note the Rams have a stout pair of bookends on the offensive line, with the immortal Andrew Whitworth and the colossal Rob Havenstein guarding Matthew Stafford. As a whole, their offensive line as allowed Stafford to be sacked only twice in two games this year.

Facing Whitworth primarily will be a huge learning experience and challenge for Tryon-Shoyinka, as the 39-year-old veteran has seen just about every pass rushing move in the history of pass rushing moves. He’ll demand a developed plan and constant effort.

So while the odds aren’t statistically in Tryon-Shoyinka’s favor for getting his first NFL sack, that doesn’t mean he can’t use his freaky athleticism and violent demeanor to apply some much-needed pressure.

Just as vital as rushing, Tryon-Shoyinka will need to fulfill his other assignments in run support, on blitzes, and in coverage, and being a nuisance on one side of the line will keep Barrett from being double teamed and require fewer blitzes. Anthony Nelson will likely help out with this as well, but it’s clear that this will be Tryon-Shoyinka’s moment to seize if JPP can’t go as expected.

One big game against a likely Hall of Fame tackle on a fellow NFC contender would be the perfect way to introduce himself to the world.

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