When ESPN took a poll of NFL executives, scouts, players, and coaches they were able to begin compiling a list of the top ten players at different positions. So far, they’ve covered the defensive side of the ball and just began the offense.
The Buccaneers are pretty well represented in terms of defense with four players making top ten lists and two others being “honorable mentions.” The Bucs even had two players at the same position rank in the top ten - which should come as no surprise to Bucs fans.
Devin White (fourth) and Lavonte David (ninth) both ranked in the off-ball linebacker category while Antoine Winfield Jr. (ninth) and Vita Vea (seventh) ranked for safety and defensive tackle respectively.
White had a bit of a fall after ranking first in 2021, but still received first place votes. Winfield and Vea received as high as third place votes while David peaked at fourth.
Carlton Davis and Shaquil Barrett both received honorable mentions in the cornerback and edge-rusher categories - which were arguably the toughest of the defensive categories to crack the list of ten.
Davis is returning to the Buccaneers on a three-year deal after being projected to become one of the most sought-after corners on the free agent market. While the honorable mention here is encouraging, many want to see more consistency from him before he’s able to crack the top ten with players like Marshon Littmore, Jaire Alexander, and Jalen Ramsey.
The Buccaneers have plenty of talent on the defensive side of the ball and need to put together a run in 2022 the way we saw them play in the 2020 postseason. With some losses - as well as some key additions - the belief is they can be one of the better defenses in the NFL en route to a Super Bowl run. Some still have a bitter taste in their mouth from the way the season ended and watching the Bucs battle back to tie the Los Angeles Rams just to then witness Cooper Kupp beat Winfield deep on their way to the NFC Championship.
With Tom Brady back in the fold and most of the core returning, the defense needs to take another step forward in 2022 - starting with Devin White putting all the pieces together to become a dominant, complete linebacker - if they are going to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl for the second time in three years.