There will be a lot of eyes on the Buccaneers this upcoming season. They’ll need some of their guys to break out if they want to live up to the hype.
Each year, there are a handful of players in the league who may not have been first-round draft picks, or may not have been the biggest free agent acquisitions in the news cycle, or may just be given a new opportunity on the same team, that come in and elevate themselves in their new role and take the league by storm.
Last year, around the league, players like Cordarelle Patterson, De’Vondre Campbell, and Foyesade Oluokun, went from role players to bonafide stars for their respective teams.
Below I will make my case for some little known rookies, new faces, or returning players who could be poised to step their game up to another echelon for the Buccaneers in 2022.
Zyon McCollum, CB- The rookie cornerback out of Sam Houston State may not be a household name and he may not have been at the top of everyone’s draft boards….. Most of us probably honestly have no clue where Sam Houston State even is (a guess probably could have gotten you here, but I’ll save you the google either way, it’s in Texas)….. But Zyon McCollum is one that Bucs fans should be ready to know over the next few years. ‘
Our secondary has been shaky at best for a long time, and the Bucs have ranked 21st and then 24th in the league in passing yardage per game in 2020 and 2021 respectively. While they have a good young core with talented players…. We have to step up these results to be an elite team.
Enter the incredibly-athletic Zyon McCollum! McCollum has the speed, length, and instinct to be a game-changer covering the slot, athletic tight ends(the secret weapon to stop Kyle Pitts?), and tall outside receivers. The biggest factor in this is; will Zyon see enough early playing time to make the impact that he’s capable of? That remains to be seen, but he should be given the shot! He’s raw and will need to keep working on his technique and fluidity, but I am extremely excited about the fit that he can be for the Bucs!
Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, LB- With the presumed departure of last year’s starter Jason Pierre-Paul looming, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka should be in line for a significantly increased role this year.
Joe was able to post 29 total tackles and four sacks in his rookie campaign, but was on the field for only about 49% of Tampa’s defensive snaps. What will Joe be able to do as the full time starter, where he can get in a rhythm rushing the passer and can read the offenses keys every play? He has the speed and athleticism to win, and I’m hoping that after working with pass rushers like JPP and Shaq Barrett for a full year, he has been able to work on being more tactful with his rush style and has been developing some new pass rush moves so that he doesn’t have to rely solely on his athleticism to get him to the QB.
If he can prove how much he has grown, he could be a double digit sack guy this year with ease.
Russell Gage, WR- Coming to the Buccaneers from the division rival Atlanta Falcons could be just the change of scenery that Gage needs to take his career production to the next level.
Seemingly-targeted by Brady as a weapon that he wanted the front office to add to our roster, Gage has the potential to develop into a really solid playmaker. He should get a solid share of targets as Chris Godwin is still working on recovering from ACL surgery, and even when he does fully recover and regain his role, Tom Brady is a quarterback that goes through his progressions and often hits his third option on the route tree, so he can still have plenty of usage opportunity when Godwin does come back.
This should allow Gage to shine and elevate past what his role was in Atlanta and could take quite a few people by surprise!
Sound off below in the comments to let us know who you think can be a breakout star for Tampa Bay this year!
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