As training camp opens, there are four players on this Bucs team that need to have a breakout season to help the Bucs get back to the Super Bowl.
Players Have Reported
With training camp set to open around the NFL this week, every team has those three or four players on the bubble. Players that have either underperformed in the past or a rookie coming to camp looking to start right away. In addition, some rookies and free agents are also looking to break through and make an NFL roster.
That is no different for the Buccaneers. There are four players on this team that I am predicting big things for this season.
Two are on offense, and two are on defense. Two are entering year two, and two players are rookies trying to make their mark in their first NFL training camp.
Let’s start with the two offensive players.
Wide Receiver, Jaelon Darden
Darden is a player I picked last year to make a significant impact on offense and in the return game. That never happened.
Jaelon Darden was the fourth-round pick of the Bucs out of North Texas last season and came to the Bucs with high expectations.
The Bucs were excited about his game-breaking speed and ability to make tacklers miss in the open field as a receiver/returner.
However, Darden struggled in the return game and also struggled to learn the NFL game. As a result, Darden’s production was almost non-existent as a wide receiver. He had six catches for 43 yards. In addition, he averaged 19.9 yards on 18 kick returns and 7.5 yards per punt return.
After struggling his rookie season, Darden will have to show improvement this season. The Bucs will give him every opportunity to return kicks and punts and have a more prominent role in the offense as a receiver.
The physical tools are there; it’s just a matter of Darden putting it together.
Runningback, Rachaad White.
White was the Buccaneer’s third-round pick out of Arizona State and is already ahead of Ke’Shawn Vaughan on many depth charts. That says everything you need to know how the Bucs feel about White and his ability. It also tells us what the Bucs think about the play of Vaughan, which has been just okay the last couple of seasons.
With Leonard Fournette entrenched as the starter, White is the favorite to be the backup to Fournette.
In his final season at Arizona State, White averaged 5.5 yards a carry and ran for 1,000 yards with 15 touchdowns. However, what caught the eye of the Bucs was his ability to catch the ball. White had 43 catches for 456 yards and one touchdown his senior season.
The duo of Fournette and White could be a nightmare for opposing defenses, as they both run with authority and are excellent pass catchers.
I look for White to have an excellent rookie season and a significant impact on the Buccaneer’s offense.
Edge, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka
The edge rusher from Washington was the Buc’s first-round pick in 2021 and never met his expectations.
He did start six games as a rookie, though, and that was enough to convince the Bucs to hand him the starting right outside linebacker job and not resign Jason Pierre-Paul.
Expectations are high for Tryon-Shoyinka. Many are predicting double-digit sacks for the second-year player. Coach Todd Bowles is also looking for a much higher level of play from Tryon-Shoyinka than we saw last season.
“Well, (the expectations) they’re high. He’s very athletic. Obviously, we took him in the first round. Going into year two, we expect him to have the nuances down with a lot of the things he did last year and expect him to come into his own. I don’t expect him to be Jason Pierre-Paul; I expect him to be Joe. He has a skill set all on his own that he could be a good player.”
Tryon -Shoyinka appeared in all 17 games last season with six starts. He finished with 29 tackles, five for loss, ten quarterback hits, and four sacks.
Edge, Logan Hall
Logan Hall has some big shoes to fill. The second-round pick from Houston was drafted to replace Ndamukong Suh on the defensive line. The Bucs are also hoping that Hall and his other defensive linemates will be able to put more pressure on the quarterback than we saw last season.
The DL the last few years has been one of the best in the NFL at stopping the run but not great at getting pressure on the quarterback. However, with Hall and the addition of Akeim Hicks, the Bucs are hoping that changes this season.
Former Buccaneer great and Hall of Famer Warren Sapp helped coach the young defensive linemen during OTA’s and was impressed with Logan Hall.
Sapp compared Hall to Gerald McCoy physically but with a more nasty demeanor on the field than McCoy had.
Look for Hall to start from day one and help the Bucs’ defense get more consistent pressure on the quarterback.