It’s not often that a team wins the Super Bowl and comes back stronger the next year. However, that certainly seems to be the case for the Buccaneers. Of course the main part of that is retaining all of their starters and coaching staff. On top of that, they added a new face that could really keep them as the team to beat.
The Bucs selected Joe Tryon with the 32nd overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft. The University of Washington pass rusher wowed the front office with his athleticism and effort and is projected to play a key role this season. But what is a fair expectation for a rookie who is joining perhaps the best front seven in the NFL?
Tryon will contribute as the third pass rusher behind Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul. This means he’ll be taking Anthony Nelson’s job, who was the Bucs top pass rusher off the bench last year. Assuming Tryon completely phases Nelson out of the rotation, that approximately 322 snaps that Nelson took last year.
By the same logic, a lot of the other depth pass rushers and defensive ends will also lose playing time as a result of Tryon’s arrival. Guys like Cam Gill (22), Patrick O’Connor (62), Jeremiah Ledbetter (54), and Benning Potoa’e (17) will likely lose most, if not all, of their snaps. In total that gives about 450 snaps to work with, give or take.
Tryon will have to be effective with the snaps he gets as a backup. Thus it will be more important to judge him on the percentage of plays he makes more than the actual total because he’ll be on the field less than his peers. How often he makes things happen while on the field.
For example, last year’s second overall pick Chase Young finished his rookie year with 7.5 sacks. He played 770 snaps on defense and pressured the quarterback 24 times. Fast math tells us that Young had a sack in nearly 1 out of 100 plays. Of course many of these were running plays where he had no opportunity for a sack, but it gives a rough point of reference.
Is it fair to expect the same type of numbers from Tryon as Young had as the second overall pick? There are a lot of factors that go into that, but when considering how often Tryon will be rushing quarterback when the Bucs have the lead and passes are more predictable then it seems like the opportunity will be there for Tryon.
Of his expected 450 snaps in 2021, Tryon will be rushing the passer often. Many times will likely come in favorable situations as the Bucs try to protect a lead. So I would expect his rookie year to be successful, although not especially impressive in terms of raw numbers.
If I’m making predictions, I project Tryon to finish the year with 4.5 sacks. That would put him at the same sack rate as Young from last year. Obviously there is some give and take here, balancing talent vs situation. With Tryon entering perhaps the best situation in the NFL for a young pass rusher, it’s fair to expect top end results from the rookie.