The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are returning a vast majority of their starting defense. For the most part, we know what to expect with one of the most proven and impressive units in the NFL. Head coach Todd Bowles knows what he has and how to maximize his talent.
With that said, there are some question marks with this Bucs’ defense. A few positions where there are as many questions as answers. It’s among these positions that someone must take a step forward.
Looking at the talent on this defense, I see many candidates who could have a breakout year. However, there is one who stands out above the rest. Here is my reasoning as I breakdown the Buccaneers breakout defensive player in 2023.
Third year outside linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka is ready to have a breakout season. After coming off the bench in 2021 as a backup to Jason Pierre-Paul, Tyron-Shoyinka had his first opportunity as a starter last season. This naturally came with ups and downs.
When he was drafted 32nd overall in 2021 it was clear that Tryon-Shoyinka needed to be developed. He missed the 2020 season, as many did with the pandemic, so evaluation came from 2019 where he recorded 8.0 sacks and 12.5 tackles for a loss at the University of Washington. This was an impressive display, but having missed his final season it did set back his development.
One thing that was obvious when the Bucs drafted him was that Tryon-Shoyinka has a ton of talent to work with. He tested as an elite athlete at the combine with a great combination of size, speed and agility. In terms of physical gifts, this is a player who can do anything the coaches could ask of him.
After recording 4.0 sacks as a rookie, many expected Tryon-Shoyinka to take a jump forward last year. However, despite becoming a starter and getting more playing time, he only recorded 4.0 sacks again last year. Despite this, I still believe this year we will see that big jump in production that people had expected in 2022.
The Pressure Is On
Sacks are only part of the story when looking at how disruptive a player is. What might be even more telling is the amount of pressures a player generates. These are tracked just like any other statistical measure.
Last season, Tryon-Shoyinka recorded 22 pressures. That was tied for 38th in the NFL with the likes of Devin White, Denico Autry, and Grady Jarrett. With 32 teams in the NFL, this would make Tryon-Shoyinka when of the more disruptive second option pass rushers in the NFL.
However, this did not translate to sacks last year. This is because there is a lot of variance in sack totals and how pressure can impact a quarterback. Sometimes pressures result in sacks for the one who generates the pressure and sometimes it chases a quarterback into the arms of a Vita Vea or Anthony Nelson.
As an example of this variance, there were many players who generated less pressurers, but recorded far more sacks. Brandon Graham of the Philadelphia Eagles had one less pressure than Tryon-Shoyinka, but had nearly three times as many sacks (11.0). Cameron Jordan of the New Orleans Saints made the Pro Bowl with 8.5 sacks, but he ranked tied for 71st in pressures with 17.
There are many examples of players who had less pressures, but more sacks than Tryon-Shoyinka. But if he can out produce guys like Khalil Mack and Jeffrey Simmons in pressures then there is reason to believe he can out produce them in sacks too.
What To Expect In 2023 And Why
We know that Tryon-Shoyinka is very athletically gifted and has a ton of untapped potential. We also know that this has translated to the field in the form of pressuring the quarterback. The next step is turning those pressures into sacks.
The low sack total was probably misleading for how disruptive he was. Tryon-Shoyinka often forced the quarterback off his spot and into the arms of a teammate. This is a big positive, especially considering that he was the primary pass rusher after star Shaq Barrett went down with a season ending injury in week eight.
Assuming he can maintain the level of pressure production he has already shown, Tryon-Shoyinka should see an increase in sacks. Considering numbers of those with comparable pressures last year, expecting 7-10 sacks is very reasonable. If he can improve on what he did last year then the sky’s the limit for this young pass rusher and he could prove to be the Bucs top pass rusher for the next decade.