Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ outside linebacker Anthony Nelson is poised for a breakout season in 2022. The 6’7 linebacker out of Iowa has been impressive in training camp this year. Via the Tampa Bay Times, head coach Todd Bowles talked about Nelson and how he doesn’t fall for misdirection plays.
“He’s the only player that I’ve seen coming out of college and watching his tape in college and as a pro that’s never fell for a bootleg, and that says a lot about the guy,” Buccaneers’ coach Todd Bowles stated. “He has great vision, great intelligence. He doesn’t look muscular and everything, but he’s very strong.”
Nelson’s NFL career started with an injury riddled rookie season. He spent most of his playing time on special teams. Then last season, Jason Pierre-Paul went out with an injury, Nelson stepped in and thrived. Nelson posted five sacks in eight games.
An Improving Buccaneer
Nelson talked with the Tampa Bay Times about his Improving play,
“It was a lot of things. Obviously, we’ve got a great defense. We were holding up on the back end and that kind of stuff. It’s just doing the little things every day, getting better every day. I owe a lot of the guys I was in the room with.”
“Coach Foote during those years, Shaq, and all those guys that were helping me and teaching me, mentoring me. It’s one of those things where you get one percent better every day, and a couple years later you’re a lot better because you worked.”
Nelson came into this league leaning on his strength and power. Since then he has added counter moves and pass rushing techniques to his repertoire.
“I feel like I was a power guy when I first came in,” Nelson stated. “I still rely on that fundamental, and that’s still kind of my identity. But I’ve been able to add some stuff that I’ve learned from Shaq, and then really just refine what I have and been able to play aggressive.”
With Jason Pierre-Paul no longer on the team and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka stepping into his spot, Nelson looks to get significantly more reps in practice and playing time on gameday.
Buccaneers’ Youth Movement
“Everybody in our room is ready to step up, take on a little more, do more for this defense,” Nelson stated. “We want to be the most dominant room in the whole defense, so we all got to do a little more. … I’m excited to see what Joe and Shaq and me and Cam and all the young guys can do. We’re going to have a good group.”
Having Vita Vea and newly signed Akiem Hicks in the middle will also benefit Nelson and the guts off the edge. Nelson understands their value and is ready to capitalize off of it.
“What don’t they do for us? They pack our lunch and pick out clothes and all that stuff. I mean, everything,” Nelson stated. “They close down the middle. It’s important for us to set an edge, because we know they’ve got it on lockdown in the middle. They’re pushing the pocket, and they’re eating up everything in the run. They make playing outside linebacker in this defense really fun, and I’m excited to see what they’ve got this year.”
Nelson’s size and reach are traits that can’t be taught, and are a valuable asset, but also a challenge.
“That’s a challenge,” Nelson stated. “You’ve got good things and bad things. The length really helps, but I’ve got to be extra careful with my pad level coming inside. It’s a double-edged sword, and it makes it fun. There’s things I’ve picked up from Shaq. He uses such great leverage, so if I’m able to apply those things to me, I’ve got longer arms, I should be successful. It’s a race to the quarterback, and I’m using what I’ve got.”
Going from a rookie who leaned on power, Nelson can now surprise opposing teams with his newfound techniques. That coupled with him getting more reps and playing time is why we see Nelson having a breakout season in 2022 for the Buccaneers.
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