The new NFL season officially begins for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tonight and, unlike the past offseason, there is plenty new about this team to be figured out. While training camp can provide slight glimpses, there’s nothing like competition under the bright lights to give all of us some clarity on the Buccaneers’ biggest storylines going into the 2022 NFL season. These are some of the most interesting developments to watch for in our first proper glimpse at the 2022 Buccaneers.
1. Kyle Trask
When the Buccaneers spent a second round pick on Florida QB Kyle Trask, the pick was viewed with skepticism by a large portion of the fanbase. More than a year later and the frustration from Bucs fans has grown to a fever pitch.
Perpetual benchwarmer Blaine Gabbert has an iron hold on the backup job, which has many fans wondering how much worse Trask has looked. Well, from what has come out of training camp the last year, the answer is much worse. In fact, Trask has looked so bad that the Buccaneers social media team had to delete a video of him throwing an interception after fan backlash erupted.
However, with Tom Brady not likely to play much of the preseason, fans should get to see for themselves how Trask handles the spotlight. Even playing against likely third-stringers on defense, there are conclusions to be drawn from these games, particularly if he struggles. This is shaping up to be as close to a crunch time performance for Trask as a year 2 preseason slate can be. It will be fascinating to see how he responds.
2. New-look safeties
But enough time spent talking about talent deficiencies, there are plenty of spots on this Buccaneers roster absolutely overflowing with quality players. One of these spots that has seen the most drama this offseason is the safety position.
Antoine Winfield is, of course, still locked in as a year-round starter, but the departure of Jordan Whitehead has left the door open for a variety of interesting and talented replacement options. First among them is a familiar ballhawk safety in Mike Edwards. Edwards has been a contributing member of the Buccaneers secondary for three years, but really came into his own during his somewhat-limited time on the field in 2021. Last year he had career highs in interceptions, forced fumbles, tackles, and touchdowns – which sets him up nicely to compete for the open starting job beside Winfield.
Another member of the safety position group is former Pro-Bowler Logan Ryan. Acquired from the Giants this offseason, Ryan brings a strong veteran presence to the secondary, and still has more than enough juice to be a strong contributor. Last season he was 5th in the NFL in solo tackles amongst safeties, indicating what the Bucs are expecting out of him – a sure tackler who is still willing to put his body on the line to make plays.
Finally, another veteran joins the younger incumbent Bucs in the presence of former division-rival Keanu Neal. Neal is coming off by far the worst season of his career, as a member of the Dallas Cowboys. But during his stint as a member of the Falcons, Neal put together some extremely good campaigns. The Buccaneers are surely hoping to recapture that old magic, but even if Neal cant return to his excellent past performance he provides another depth piece and solid veteran savvy at an otherwise young position.
All this to say, the competition for that second safety spot will be a very interesting thing to keep an eye on. This is especially true if, as expected, Todd Bowles sticks with a rotation of these players based on situation. Finding clarity at this open competition will be a fun thing to watch out for over the course of the preseason.
3. Joe Tryon-Shoyinka
Joe Tryon-Shoyinka is entering his second year in the NFL after the Buccaneers spent a surprising first round pick on him in the wake of their Super Bowl win. But, unlike most first round picks, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka hasn’t really gotten the chance to show his talents in an every-down role yet. He got some work in last year as the change of pace player substituting for Jason Pierre-Paul, but now that JPP is no longer a member of the Bucs, Tryon-Shoyinka has his moment to shine.
We saw, in the Hall of Fame game last Thursday, Travon Walker begin to forge his reputation in the NFL, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka could be in much the same position on a defense that love to maximize the use of its front seven. It will be exciting to see how much newly minted HC Todd Bowles chooses to play the young star, and how he performs in his first taste of action as a bona-fide starter in the NFL.
4. Incoming WRs
The Buccaneers continue to have a wealth of talent in their WR room. Mike Evans is an obvious superstar, and Chris Godwin is a WR1 on most other teams. But with Godwin’s injury almost certainly keeping him out for the entire preseason, and the Buccaneers likely playing it safe
with Mike Evans’ hamstrings, the new faces at Tampa Bay’s most dangerous position group will get plenty of time to show their stuff.
The biggest new name is, of course, future Hall of Famer Julio Jones. Coming off a very middling season with the Titans, Julio gets a chance to return to superstardom with the best supporting cast of his career. Julio is expected to play out wide opposite Evans and provide the Buccaneers with another big body and incredible catch radius. But seeing how he bounces back from what must have been a disappointing season for him last year is the real story. If he in any way returns to form, the Buccaneers are going to be almost unstoppable.
While Julio will garner much of the headlines regarding the Buccaneers’ plans sans Godwin and Evans for the preseason, another new face in Russell Gage will also be worth following. Expected to be another slot receiver, a role he excelled at in Atlanta, watching his chemistry with Brady and evaluating his value for Tampa Bay even when Godwin comes back will prove a fascinating way to create value out of these preseason games.
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