It’s undeniable that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have one of the best rosters in the NFL. General manager Jason Licht has done an excellent job finding talent for this team, particularly through the draft. This was one of the biggest factors in their 2020 Super Bowl championship.
If the Bucs are to go back to the mountain top in 2022 they will be relying heavily on one of their most recent draft classes. The rookies of 2021 will have a pivotal role this season. In fact, the season may depend on the way they’ve grown and developed from last year.
Each player has a role to play. Each will have to take a step forward this season. Here’s what I am hopeful to see from each of the Buccaneers second year players.
After spending most of his rookie season as a rotational player, Tryon-Shoyinka is poised to make a big leap this year. He consistently flashed while on the field and many questioned if he should have been starting over Jason Pierre-Paul. With Pierre-Paul now a free agent, Tryon-Shoyinka will get his chance to prove those people right.
The Bucs need Tryon-Shoyinka to have a big year. He will be starting opposite of Shaq Barrett and will need to help take pressure off of him. It also means that opposing offenses will be paying closer attention to the more established Barrett, leaving Tryon-Shoyinka with more favorable matchups.
I am expecting a big jump from this second year star in the making. He had just 4.0 sacks last season, but I believe he has a legitimate chance to triple that number this season. It feels like all the makings of a breakout season for Tryon-Shoyinka with the Buccaneers.
When you’re Tom Brady’s backup, it’s hard to have too much expected of you. Afterall, in a perfect world you never see the field with the exception of maybe holding the ball on field goals.8
However, we have seen how an injury can shake things up. All it takes is one hit and a backup becomes the starter. This is why Trask has to be ready.
He is said to be in a battle with incumbent Blaine Gabbert for this job, but it’s unclear how serious that competition is. If Trask is able to win this job over the experienced and trusted Gabbert then it will be very telling of the improvement he made as a rookie. I don’t expect that to happen, but it would be very good for the Buccaneers future if this was the case.
Ryan Jensen is out for the foreseeable future. Now is Hainsey’s time to step in and prove that he belongs. And this team needs him to belong.
Hainsey was a third round pick out of Notre Dame. He played right tackle there and was projected to be a center in the NFL. Now that he’s had a red shirt year he looks to be the starting center this season.
No one expects Hainsey to replace Jensen. After all, Jensen might be the best center in the league. However, it is fair to expect that Hainsey will come in and be serviceable. The Bucs invested high draft capital in him and have given him time to develop.
Darden struggled as a rookie, both as a return man and a pass catcher. He looked indecisive and even lost at times. Frankly, he looked like a rookie who was overwhelmed by the league.
Now entering his second year, Darden knows what it’s like to play in this league. There should be less thinking and more reacting in year two. In theory, this will lead to a better season on the field.
I still believe that Darden has the talent to make his mark with the Buccaneers. For him to be a quality return specialist and make plays when called upon as a depth receiver is more than a fair expectation. If he fails to meet that this year then there may not be a year three in his future.
Britt is in line to be the primary backup at middle linebacker. He could see time whenever Lavonte David or Devin White needs a break. This could be a big job for a fifth round pick in his second year.
Britt is very much in the mold of previous backup middle linebacker Kevin Minter. Both are big physical thumpers who are enforcers in the box. As long as he isn’t expected to do more than that then he won’t disappoint.
When you’re a niche player like Stuard then expectations are pretty clear. You have to come in, do your job and do it well. If you can’t do that then there’s really just no place for you.
Stuard is an ace special teams player. Getting down the field on kick coverage and making tackles is what he does. Expect that to continue in 2022.
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