Buccaneers Rookie Calijah Kancey is off to an Incredible Start


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers season is not going well. The team has underperformed to the tune of a 4-7 record and most are looking for major changes in the offseason. At this point and time there isn’t a lot to celebrate for the Bucs faithful.

However, there has been one very bright light regarding the future of this team. That would be rookie defensive tackle Calijah Kancey and how well he has been playing. This after another strong game against the Colts where he tallied another sack, two tackles for a loss and a deflected pass while pressuring Colts quarterback Gardner Minshew. 

This brings his season totals up to 3.0 sacks and 8 tackles for loss in essentially seven games this season. It is also important to remember that Kancey missed almost all of training camp and the preseason due to a calf injury. That is to say that he’s been thrown right into the deep end of the NFL world and he has played extremely well.

He has played so well that I decided to take some time to compare him to some of the other great defensive tackles around the league to see how he stacks up. Here are some comparables that I found. 

Best In The Game

There could be arguments made as to who the best defensive tackle in the NFL today is. The likes of Aaron Donald and Chris Jones are at the top of that list, but names like Jeffrey Simmons and Quinnen Williams are also worth mentioning. Here are some numbers for these top tier defensive tackles.

Aaron Donald – 5.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss in 11 games.

Chris Jones – 7.5 sacks and 9 tackles for loss in 10 games.

Jeffrey Simmons – 5.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss in 11 games.

Quinnin Williams – 2.0 sacks and 7 tackles for loss in 11 games. 

Generally, these great players average around a tackle for loss per game. Kancey is on the same pace with 8 in as many games, although he only played a handful of snaps before re-injuring his calf against the Vikings. And while sack production can be a little more sporadic, it is telling that two of the names on this list average 0.5 sacks per game. Kancey is slightly below this pace, but keep in mind that these are established pros while Kancey is still just a rookie.

Rookie Comparison 

It is important to remember that every Hall of Famer and every all pro was once a rookie. In almost every case, those players were not the best version of themselves in year one and only continued to improve and develop. That is true of all these names that I am comparing Kancey to.

However, I was curious as to how these same players performed as rookies. That would give more of an apples to apples comparison to work with. Here’s how they stacked up.

Donald – 9.0 sacks and 18 tackles for loss in 16 games.

Jones – 2.0 sacks and 5 tackles for loss in 16 games

Simmons – 2.0 sacks and 4 tackles for loss in 9 games. 

Williams – 2.5 sacks and 4 tackles for loss in 13 games

I also wanted to compare Kancey to a pair of players who I viewed as comparable to him coming out of college. After all, his blend of athletic ability and size are very rare. The two names I kept coming back to were Geno Atkins and Gerald McCoy. Here’s how they compared as rookies.

Geno Atkins – 3.0 sacks and 3 tackles for loss in 16 games.

Gerald McCoy – 3.0 sacks and 7 tackles for loss.

Just for fun, I decided to include Buccaneers legend Warren Sapp and the last two defensive tackles to win defensive rookie of the year before Aaron Donald did in 2014.

Ndamukong Suh – 10.0 sacks and 13 tackles for loss in 16 games.

Sheldon Richardson – 3.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss in 16 games.

Warren Sapp – 3.0 sacks in 16 games, but tackle for loss was not yet a recorded stat at that time. 

It truly is amazing that Kancey, with no real training camp or preseason, has already come in and out produced some of the best defensive tackles in recent memory compared to what they did as rookies. His ability to disrupt the pocket and make splash plays in the backfield is truly rare. He is not only putting up comparable numbers to some of the best defensive tackles in the NFL, but is off to a better start to his career than essentially any defensive tackle in recent memory.

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