Last season’s Ace in the hole
Last season, I correctly singled out Shaq Barrett as a player that was going to make a big difference in our Defense, and that was our “Ace in the hole”. This was back on June 12, 2019, back before Camp, back at the ending of OTA’s. What do I do for an encore? Shaq being overlooked by most last season was easy to do. He was signed in March of 2019, then came the draft and undrafted free agents. He kind of just fell off the map until he got in there and started playing as the season arrived. I don’t see another Shaq-type impact player like he was last season. However, I do see some players that will step it up this season and make impacts to a high degree. My opinions on these players:
I had expected more from last season. As the season progressed, it was plain to see that the Arians/Leftwich offensive machine didn’t give the running game much of a fighting chance to shine. But there is a glimmer of hope with what was learned last year, and with Brady being here, that the running game, and overall touches to the same, will increase this season. With that being said, I believe in Ronald Jones. Even with the talented rookie from Vanderbilt coming aboard, I believe Jones will have the kind of season that’s truly going to surprise some people. It will be his breakout year, and he will cement himself as the starter. I also feel very encouraged by the potential of Ke’Shawn Vaughn, he could actually come in and have close to the season I’m expecting from Jones. But that’s cheating, so I choose Jones for 2020. I’m looking for the nine hundred to one thousand yards rushing, and another three to five hundred yards receiving. Pencil him in for ten to twelve touchdowns. Possibly, four of five of those being short passes from Brady in the red zone that he turns up-field and into touchdowns.
Let’s get Defensive
Second up, we jump to the other side of the ball and focus on a second-year multi-talented former Iowa teammate of our first-round draft pick, Tristan Wirfs. Of course, I’m speaking of OLB/Endrusher Anthony Nelson. At 6’7, 275 pounds, he’s hard to miss. He’s also the main reason they didn’t retain Carl Nassib. We already have a player better than Nassib needing snaps. When Anthony Nelson gets the downs this season, you are going to hear that name called quite a bit. In Nelson’s Iowa career, he finished with 23.0 sacks and 31 tackles for a loss in just 39 games. Coming out in a year that was full of big-name defensive lineman, Nelson slipped into the fourth round. Jason Licht was certainly happy to see him there when the Bucs were on the clock. You are going to find out why – if he can stay healthy in 2020 – not being a starter is going to hold his numbers down, but when he is in there, he will be a disruptive force as he comes into his own this season.
Second-year players dominate the list
It seems that the team is full of young players ready to jump out and add to last season’s accomplishments. Jamel Dean is a 6’1″, 217 lbs corner that will run circles around you at a pace of 4.30 seconds in the 40. Dean started out at Ohio State though he wasn’t medically cleared to play while there. He transferred to Auburn, turning pro after his junior year and being chosen by Tampa in the third round. In his Buccaneers debut week 9, Jamel Dean had a rough go of it. He gave up three touchdowns, but he also had six tackles and 4 deflected balls. One week later, he picked off Deshaun Watson. Dean finished up his rookie season with 21 tackles, 17 pass deflections, 2 interceptions, and 1 forced fumble. This season Dean will show growth and come into his own, making a name for himself and becoming the shutdown corner the Bucs have needed for a long time. Sean Murphy-Bunting will also come into his own and have a great season. however, I suspect that Dean will shine the brightest of our second-year stars.
Expect the unexpected
The last two of the five, one from the offense and one from the defense, are extremely talented. One has been doing it at the top level for many years, and the other is expected to be great and to further build on his impressive rookie season. You may ask why would either of these players be on a breakout list, especially the offensive player? This is why. Finishing 12-4 is boring, you might ask? For Mr. Brady, yes, very much so. The 2019 Patriots were going nowhere. Had they even made it as far as the AFC Title game, it would have been a shock to many. Remember this is the team that lost to the Dolphins at home to boot. 2020 is going to be a rebirth of Tom Brady. You are going to see a newer, reinvigorated edition of number twelve in Tampa. He’s going to make all the difference in the world. With the talent around him to make a run at a tenth career Super Bowl appearance. You’re going to see a new fire in him. So much so that he is my fourth break out player pick. I’m sure you are thinking that’s a safe pick for me, but at 43, during the season, Brady could be boring like he was last season. I’m predicting a very big year from him. He will not disappoint, and he will be noticeably better than last season, leading the Buccaneers on a run to being the first team to host a Super Bowl at home in NFL History.
Second future Hall Of Fame player is #5
Last, but far from least, another second-year player that’s going to make us forget all about Derrick Brooks – so to speak. He is our next Hall of Fame inductee unless Barber or Lynch find their way in. Assuming he’s able to stay healthy, there’s no doubt about it. The Hall was brought about because of players like Devin White. Had he started every game last year, I believe he would have been Defensive Rookie of The Year hands down. We saw glimpses, last season, of how good he could be. Be prepared for a full year of breakout-superhero- level football from number 45. This season will be his breakout year. He will be doing some absolutely amazing things for this Defense. He’s going to be a one-man wrecking crew. But, he is just another piece of a Defense that is going to be extraordinarily successful this season. He and LaVonte David are going to be so much fun to watch; add in the rest, and you wonder how anyone will ever score on us this season. Enthusiastic about the season, am I? You bet! I actually believe every bit of what I’m saying. This team can make some very good teams look average. Now they just have to get out on that field and do it, and with the five breakout players I’ve named, they will. Go Bucs!!