Winner: YaYa Diaby, LB
One storyline coming into Sunday was the utter lack of depth the Bucs had at linebacker. Both Devin White and Lavonte David were inactive, as was rookie SirVocea Dennis. K.J. Britt suffered an injury not long after the game started, and things got so bad that Ryan Neal had to step in as an emergency linebacker to fill the gap.
YaYa Diaby, on the other hand, flourished on Sunday.
Earlier in the week Todd Bowles made one of the first big moves prompted by the Bucs losing streak and replaced Joe Tryon-Shoyinka with Diaby as the Bucs starting outside linebacker. It was a huge promotion for the rookie, but anyone thinking it was a move made out of desperation was quickly corrected when watching him fly around the field making impact plays against the Panthers.
Diaby rewarded Bowles’ faith in him by finishing the afternoon with six total tackles and a sack on Bryce Young. For a defense that was depleted at the second level, Diaby both helped fill in and prove that he has a place in the starting lineup moving forward.
Ideally there’s a way to get JTS going and playing at a level he’s expected to which would give the Bucs a pair of brooding edge rushers to move around the defense. If it’s just Diaby who steps up, though, Sunday was a nice taste of things to come.