Can Buccaneers Calijah Kancey Make The All-Pro Jump In Year Two?


Last season, we saw a strong rookie class from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They had four rookie starters, and several more who had significant playing time during the season. Of this group the most promising seems to be first round pick Calijah Kancey.

The defensive tackle out of Pittsburgh got off to a slow start in his career. He suffered a calf injury in training camp which cost him most of camp and a Preseason. Kancey came back only to re-aggravated it in the first game of the season after just a few plays.

Despite this, he was able to put up one of the most impressive rookie seasons for a defensive tackle in recent memory. In the final 13 games of the year, he recorded 4.0 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. He also recorded a combined sack and a half and two tackles for loss in a pair of playoff games.

Needless to say, Kancey found his footing in the NFL. In fact, he actually ended up having more success as a rookie than most of the top defensive tackles in the league did in their rookie years. Guys like Jeffrey Simmons (2.0 sacks, 4 tackles for loss), Justin Madubuike (1.0 sacks, 2 T.F.L.), Quinnen Williams (2.5 sacks, 4 T.F.L.), Chris Jones (2.0 sacks, 5 T.F.L.) and Christian Barmore (1.5 sacks and 3 T.F.L.) all put up less impressive rookie numbers before emerging into one of the game’s best. 

So this leads to the question; exactly how good can Kancey be in the NFL? It seems logical to think that because he was better as a rookie than the league’s best defensive tackles then he can certainly be in that conversation. Especially when you consider the type of potential a special athlete like him has.

In fact, I don’t think it’s crazy to say that Kancey can be an All Pro as early as next season. Especially when you consider that Aaron Donald, the gold standard of defensive tackle play, retired this offseason which leaves an opening for a 1st team All Pro. 

Keep in mind that the great defensive tackles don’t typically take that All Pro jump until their third season. With that said, Kancey’s rookie year was more productive than most of the second years of these defensive tackles. He had more tackles for loss than Simmons, Madubuike, Jones and Barmore did in their second seasons and more sacks than each of those four except Jones. Kancey is well ahead of the curve set by the best in the game.

Will this translate into him having an All Pro season in year two? Only time will tell. However, even if Kancey doesn’t receive this honor (either by not earning it or being overlooked like many Buccaneers stars have been in the past) it’s time to start normalizing these conversations that include him with the best defensive tackles in the NFL.

If I were to make a projection right now, I would guess that Kancey lands somewhere in the ballpark of 8.0 sacks and 14 tackles for loss this year. He is too skilled and too athletic for me to think that his success as a rookie isn’t sustainable. Especially while playing under Buccaneers defensive mastermind Todd Bowles. 

Whether these numbers (or wherever he finishes in these categories) would be enough to land Kancey in the Pro Bowl or All Pro team is yet to be seen. However, this isn’t an unfair hope or even expectation for a first round defensive tackle who was drafted to rush the passer and make splash plays in the backfield. He has done exactly that so far, more than most of his peers, and projects to continue to ascend.

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