With the Buccaneers expecting to be contenders for this upcoming season, they do not have many question marks as many of their key contributors are proven players who have been there and done that. However, in order to win the Super Bowl, a lot of the times teams will have to have players step up their games and play better than they ever have before.
In 2020, yes, the Bucs won the Super Bowl with the help of Tom Brady and the offensive firepower as well as a ferocious defense, but they might not win the championship if players like Donovan Smith on offense and Carlton Davis on defense do not step up. Both players broke out in 2020 and the Bucs may need a few more breakout pieces to be crowned champs once again. Here are a few players that could step up and help the team in a major way this season.
Outside Linebacker, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka
One of the more obvious ones and a name fans will likely hear a lot about when it comes to players breaking out and for good reason. In order for this team to be successful and reach the heights they want to, JTS will have to produce. Tryon-Shoyinka was Tampa Bay’s first round pick in the 2021 draft, taken 32nd overall. He flashed at times in his rookie campaign, racking up 29 total tackles along with 4 sacks. When watching the tape though, it is clear that Tryon-Shoyinka was much more explosive on the edge than the stats will show. There were many times this season where JTS almost had the QB, only for him to be able to escape the tackle attempt and get rid of the ball. In order to improve, Tryon-Shoyinka must be able to finish his tackles and also be able to not over commit against the run, which he did at times during the 2021 season.
With veteran pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul still unsigned, it seems likely that the Bucs will turn over the starting job to JTS alongside Shaq Barrett. That is a good duo on paper and Barrett has proven he is a productive pass rusher, but he cannot do it alone. JTS will have to build off of the good start to his career and he has all the physical tools to do it. All about putting it together and creating a fierce pass rush for opposing offenses.
Cornerback, Jamel Dean
Dean is a player that many may argue has already broken out, but I think he still has another gear in him. When talking about physical tools for a corner, Dean checks all of the boxes. He has the size, speed and instincts to become one of the NFL’s top corners. The issue for Dean early on in his career has been consistency and injuries. Too many times will Dean look like a number one corner for a game then the very next game be targeted and picked on by the opposing offense.
With the Bucs seemingly having found their number one corner in Carlton Davis, it would do wonders for the secondary if Dean was able to stay on the football field and develop more consistency with his game. As it stands right now, Jamel Dean is a solid NFL cornerback, but with a bit more development, his tools could allow him to become an even better one and form quite the corner duo in Tampa Bay.
Safety, Mike Edwards
Another player in the secondary with a lot of tools that has not put them all together yet is Mike Edwards. Now in Edwards’ case, a lot of it is because of the lack of opportunities he has been given. Since being drafted by Tampa Bay back in 2019 in the 3rd round, Edwards has become a solid rotational player for the team and is one of the only true ball hawks the team has in it’s secondary.
With Jordan Whitehead departing in free agency, this season may finally see Edwards get his opportunity to start. Edwards is a player I am really curious to see as to how Todd Bowles will use him. The Bucs added two safeties in Logan Ryan and Keanu Neal this offseason and while they could cut into his snaps a bit, the strong safety job opposite Antoine Winfield Jr should be Edwards’ to lose. A lot of Edwards’ career thus far has been at the free safety or nickel spot, so it will be interesting to see just how much he plays in a true strong safety position and what that may look like in Bowles’ scheme. Either way, Edwards being able to fill in some pretty big shoes left by Jordan Whitehead would be massive for the Bucs and their secondary.
All three players listed are on the defensive side of the ball and for good reason. That side of the ball is still fairly young and has a lot of players with the potential to turn into key contributors as the Bucs look to get back to the Super Bowl. If all three of these players are able to take that next step and live up to their potential, we could be seeing a second Super Bowl championship in three years for the Buccaneers.