Planting The Flag: Ten Bold Predictions For The Buccaneers


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have reported for training camp. Across the country, expectations are relatively low for the Pewter Pirates. Saying anything positive about this team has become a bit of a hot take.

However, this is the time to call your shot and plant your flag. Not only do I have a few bold predictions, but I came up with ten heading into the season. Here are my 10 hot takes for the Buccaneers 2023 season.

Baker Mayfield has career highs in touchdown passes and passing yards

I am one of Baker Mayfield’s biggest doubters since the moment he was drafted. Even in his early years in Cleveland when he found success, I believe it was a mirage. So, ironically, I am now more optimistic about him than seemingly the rest of the world.

Mayfield has been productive before at the NFL level. He has thrown for 3,500 yards three times as well as 20+ touchdown passes three times. I can’t deny that there is talent here to work with. 

It’s also fair to say that Mayfield hasn’t had the firepower to work with in the past that he will in Tampa. This group of wide receivers is one of the best in the league and Rachaad White brings a strong pass catching element out of the backfield.

I’m also a big believer in the new Bucs offensive coordinator, Dave Canales. He is bringing in Seattle’s offensive system (the one that revitalized Geno Smith’s career) which is a descendant of the Sean McVay tree. After seeing Mayfield play in this system with the Rams, a team with much worse offensive weapons, I believe Mayfield can have a career year.

Calijah Kancey has more than 7 sacks

There are a couple things needed to become an elite NFL pass rusher. Incredible athletic ability and great technique are two of the things at the top of the list. Kancey has both of those qualities in his favor.

The Buccaneers first round rookie has a chance to burst onto the NFL scene in a big way. He is projected to be the Buccaneers starting defensive tackle next to Vita Vea. This is an ideal situation for Kancey as Vea draws so many double teams with his massive size and power.

Kancey is talented enough to win one vs one opportunities at the NFL level. He will also be put in good positions by Head Coach Todd Bowles, who is one of the best in the game at manufacturing pressure. An excellent talent in a favorable situation, I expect Kancey to be in defensive rookie of the year conversations.

Rachaad White 1,300 total yards

As a rookie, White caught 50 passes. That’s more than the likes of Tony Pollard, Dalvin Cook and Antonio Gibson. Now in year two, he will be given even more snaps as the starter.

White’s versatility as a ball carrier and pass catcher will serve him well. He may not be dominant in any area, but he has a well-rounded skill set that Canales will be sure to utilize. He will be a vital part of the Buccaneers’ offense that is looking to establish a running game this season. 

With this opportunity, I expect reasonably high production overall. As a rookie White had nearly 800 all purpose yards. Now as a full-time starter, I expect him to build on that initial success.

Mike Evans, 9+ touchdowns

Perhaps this is the most gentle take of the bunch, but the Mike Evans doubters have started creeping around. I am not sure if it was the team’s struggles last year or a quarterback people don’t believe in this year, but many view Evans’ best days as behind him. I believe that those people are crazy.

Evans has been a touchdown machine over the course of his career. He currently ranks tied for 30th all time in career touchdown catches and is preparing to pass the likes of Calvin Johnson and Antonio Brown. There’s no question that Evans has established himself as one of the best touchdown scorers in NFL history and he hasn’t even turned 30 yet.

I believe these skills will be utilized more this year than they were last season. With no power running element on the team, the Bucs will need a consistent option in the red zone. With Evans’ size and skill set, he would naturally fill that need for a team looking for different ways to punch it in. 

Joe Tryon Shoyinka, 8+ sacks

Entering his third NFL season, many people are eagerly waiting for Tryon-Shoyinka to break out this year. He has always had great athletic ability and many hoped he would live up to his first round status last year in his first opportunity as a starter. He finished the year with just 4.0 sacks.

However, this number is a little misleading. In terms of quarterback pressures, Tryon-Shoyinka ranked 40th in the NFL. This made him one of the better second options in the NFL in terms of moving the quarterback off his spot. 

Many players with similar numbers, such as Josh Uche and Brandon Graham, had double digit sacks last year. If Tryon-Shoyinka can see his sack totals find the norm compared to those around him then 7-8 sacks is a very realistic expectation.

Sean Tucker shines as RB2

There may not be anyone higher on Tucker than me amongst Buccaneers writers. I projected him as one of the top five running backs in the draft and a day two draft pick. Unfortunately, a heart issue at the combine derailed that.

Luckily for the Bucs, it gave them an opportunity to get a player who they wouldn’t have otherwise had an opportunity to acquire. Keep in mind that running back was a big need for the Buccaneers heading into the draft, but decided to invest their draft capital into the trenches instead. Tucker essentially gives them a second round talent on top of their draft class.

Tucker is extremely explosive, with sub 4.4 speed and good short area quickness. He may prove to be the best pure ball carrier on the roster this year. I have little doubt that he will establish himself as the primary backup behind White and thrive in that role.

Chris Izien wins the starting nickel job

It is an open competition for the starting nickel job. The Bucs have Dee Delainey coming back who has looked solid as a depth player in this role in the past. They also invested a draft pick into Kansas State safety Josh Hayes who is primarily a nickel player as well. 

However, I’m putting my money on a dark horse to win this job. Chris Izien was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Rutgers this offseason. He is my pick to become the fifth starter in the Buccaneers secondary.

Izien is extremely smart on the football field. He brings speed and toughness to the position and should have no issue stepping up to make tackles in the box. Get familiar with the name because I believe he will be part of this team for years to come. 

Antoine Winfield Jr, 5+ interceptions

Last season Antoine Winfield Jr played a lot of snaps as the nickel defender. And while he performed admirably there, the team has been straight forward saying that he won’t spend much time there moving forward. His future will be playing over the top in more of a ball-hawk role.

To this point in his career, Winfield Jr has four total interceptions. However, keep in mind that he has played more in the box as a nickel and strong safety. This will be his first time as a true single high player at the NFL level. 

Winfield has the skills for this new role. He is very athletic and plays with a high level of awareness. Expect Bowles to continue to utilize him in a variety of ways and don’t be surprised to see Winfield Jr get his second Pro Bowl this season.

Buccaneers defense top-5 in points allowed

The Bucs ranked 13th in points allowed last season. They also ranked 10th in yards allowed in 2022. I expect them to improve on these rankings this year.

Keep in mind that the Bucs offense kept the defense on the field longer than most other units. They allowed points on just 33% of opposing drives, which ranked seventh in the NFL. The difference in total points allowed and points allowed per offensive drive is  reflection of the defense being on the field more than other defenses.

There is also a lot of reason to believe that the Bucs are even more talented on defense this year. Shaq Barrett is returning from injury after missing half of last year’s season. The Bucs also invested several draft picks into pass rushers like Calijah Kancey and Yaya Diaby to build on their pass rush which tied for seventh in the NFL in sacks last year.

Buccaneers win double digit games and win NFC south.

I have been on record saying that the Bucs have the best roster in the NFC South. I believe the defense will be very good with the mind of Bowles and the talent they have. This alone will keep them in most games regardless of anything else.

As I said earlier, I believe Mayfield will have a breakout year. If he can lead the offense to just average production, then with this defense, ten games is a very reasonable amount of wins to reach. If he can’t then we will basically see more of what we saw last season.

Also keep in mind that the Buccaneers have a relatively soft schedule. Between the NFC North and the AFC South, the Bucs have a great opportunity to pile up wins against teams like the Texans, Titans and Bears. On top of that, everyone agrees that the NFC South isn’t particularly strong either and the Bucs play six combined games vs the Falcons, Panther, and Saints. There isn’t a game the Bucs can’t be expected to win.

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