Winner: Christian Izien
A lot was made about the Bucs undrafted rookie class heading into training camp, but a lot of the attention was focused on the offense. Guys like Sean Tucker and Rakim Jarrett delivered on the goods, but Christian Izien did the same thing on the other side of the ball.
Izien was getting praise early in his time with the Bucs, as he earned Antoine Winfield Jr.’s endorsement not long after arriving.
“He reminds me of myself,” Winfield said earlier this offseason. “We’re kind of similar stature. He’s put into the same roles that I was in so it’s good seeing him out there. He’s learning, he’s a smart player, but he’s learning.”
That was a huge endorsement at the time, and Izien lived up to the hype. Saturday’s preseason finale saw the rookie step up in ways that helped him secure a roster spot not long after the game had wrapped up.
He made a great play in the second quarter to force a fumble from Ravens quarterback Anthony Brown, something that ultimately matters in a big way in a game the Bucs won by less than a touchdown.
On Sunday morning, Bucs head coach Todd Bowles named Izien the team’s starting nickel corner for Week1 against the Vikings.
That pretty much sums up not only Izien’s performance on Saturday. He hasn’t always made flashy plays like his forced fumble, but he’s made his presence known all offseason in ways that don’t always show up in highlight reels.