3 Buccaneers players who must improve in 2023

Goedeke on the sidelines of Buccaneers vs Chiefs
Goedeke on the sidelines of Buccaneers vs Chiefs / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages
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Russell Gage, WR

Speaking of receiver, even a team strength can get stronger. Mike Evans is the pinnacle of consistency, and Chris Godwin is looking to have another breakout year following the injury that slowed him last season. But Russell Gage, who was expected to provide a sky-high upside to the WR3 spot, failed to live up to expectations.

Now, regardless of who wins the Baker Mayfield/Kyle Trask battle for QB1, the Bucs will be fielding a brand new starting signal caller. And that’s a job made much easier by a supporting cast that can win on their own. This is especially true for slot receivers, as Gage has been his whole career, since they typically fill the quick-hitting option for a QB.

With a brand new offensive line that features an underwhelming crew of starters, and two quarterbacks new to the system, that role could be the key to unlocking offensive efficiency in Tampa Bay. If Russell Gage can take a step forward, it could unlock a new level to an offense that desperately needs it.

Vita Vea, DT

Vita Vea is perhaps a surprising name to see on a list like this. After all, it was just last offseason that he was thought of as one of the league’s best interior defensive linemen. But a surprisingly poor showing in 2022 from the massive DT resulted in easily his worst-graded season as a pro.

He’s still a stalwart piece of the Buccaneers’ defense, no question about that, but to unlock the team’s full potential they need him to be better than he was. That is especially true with the addition of Calijah Kancey next to him.

Kancey was absolutely dominant in college, with an athleticism so eye-popping that the obvious worries about his low weight and ability to beat NFL-sized linemen were pushed aside. But those worries still exist. Particularly against the run, Kancey could be out of his element. Which is why the reemergence of Vita Vea as a run-stuffing interior presence that forces double teams to him is so key to unlocking Kancey’s potential.

If Vita can open up one-on-one situations for Kancey it alleviates the pressure the rookie will be under to be perfect every play. Instead, on both rushing and passing downs, he will be more able to unlock elements of the supreme athleticism that made him a first-round pick if he only has to beat one blocker.

If these players can improve and the Buccaneers can reap the rewards of a clean pocket to throw from, a receiving corps that can dice up any secondary, and a defensive line capable of both pressure and run-stuffing, then what has looked to be a rebuilding season could turn into a genuinely competitive year for the Tampa Bay faithful.

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