The under-appreciated difference-makers for the Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a team with a tremendous amount of star power. Both sides of the ball are littered with elite playmakers who gather all sorts of attention, both by opposing teams and in the media.

But football, especially the winning brand of football that has come to Tampa Bay, is a team game. And for every Tom Brady, Mike Evans, and Devin White garnering headlines and Twitter threads, there is a less-appreciated teammate also doing their all to help the defending champs run smoothly.

So, while Brady continues to (rightfully) rack in praise and MVP discussion and Evans celebrates his record 8th (!!!) 1000 yard season, lets take a look at the less-appreciated, but no less important, contributors to the defending champs.

1. G – Alex Cappa

Much has been made about the Buccaneers’ strengths on the offensive line. Indeed, the public showed their appreciation for Tampa Bay’s big men up front by nominating Tristan Wirfs, Ryan Jensen, and Ali Marpet to the Pro Bowl this year.

Along with them, blindside tackle Donovan Smith has been resurgent, continuing an excellent stretch of play that has rewarded the patience Jason Licht showed in offering him a three-year contract back in 2019, and a subsequent extension this past offseason. His play, combined with the attention that being a blindside tackle brings, has made him a popular name for those that follow the Buccaneers.

But sometimes lost amidst the praise given to the other members of the offensive line is the work done by Alex Cappa. Cappa has played every single offensive snap for the Buccaneers this year, one of only two members of the team to have done so (Wirfs). In all that time, he has been counted as giving up just 5 sacks, and committing only a single penalty, per PFF.

In the Buccaneers’ offense, which is extremely pass heavy complimented by a north/south run game, this kind of stalwart production in the middle of the line is invaluable.

2. K – Ryan Succop

Gone are the days when Bucs fans watched field goal attempts through their fingers with anxiousness., and only ever took the 6 points of a TD for granted. Ryan Succop has seemingly broken the longstanding Bucs kicker curse, that began when the team moved on from Matt Bryant more than a decade ago.

Though Succop’s performance this season hasn’t been exceptional, his middle-of-the-pack field goal percentage of 83.3% and top-10 placement in points scored, per ESPN, is consistent and clutch – precisely what Tampa Bay needs at such an important position. Bad kicking, as longstanding Bucs fans know, doesn’t just cost a team points. It can be a momentum-killer as well.

Fortunately for the Buccaneers it seems that, as Tony Romo said way back in Week 1, “They finally have a kicker in Tampa Bay.”

3. S – Antoine Winfield Jr.

Antoine Winfield Jr. is quietly having a bona fide pro-bowl caliber season as the anchor of Tampa Bay’s secondary. While he may not be underappreciated by Buccaneers fans, who have been watching him make splash plays in game after game this season, his lack of attention in the national media prompts his inclusion on this list.

Winfield has been a stud at the safety position this year, earning PFFs second highest safety rating in the regular season – behind only Kevin Byard for the Tennessee Titans. Even beyond the stats, his results on the proverbial eye test have been tremendous as well, particularly in the Buccaneers’ comeback win against the Jets, in which he made multiple touchdown saving tackles.

With several potent offenses to deal with in the NFC, Winfield’s excellent play as captain of the secondary will be needed, as the still-hungry Bucs try to get back to the Super Bowl.