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Why some roster gaps went unfilled by the Bucs

TAMPA, Florida — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were able to fill multiple needs this spring in free agency and in the draft last month, but there are two positions that remain up in the air after player departures.

 

The Bucs did not address outside cornerback despite trading away Carlton Davis III for a third-round draft pick. They also didn’t bring in an inside linebacker despite letting former Pro Bowler and fifth overall pick Devin White sign with the Philadelphia Eagles, raising questions about both positions in coach Todd Bowles’ defense.

It should be noted that it is almost impossible to address every need in a single draft or free agency period. Teams that attempt to do so frequently end up overdrafting or choosing a group of players they like but aren’t in love with, or they acquire players who don’t truly fit into the Bucs’ culture, which is something they place a high value on. As said by John Spytek, assistant general manager, “You can’t fix everything in the draft.”

However, they believe that Graham Barton, a first-round selection, is their center Ryan Jensen’s replacement. They signed Randy Gregory and selected Alabama edge rusher Chris Braswell with the 57th overall pick to replace Shaquil Barrett, who left the team. They selected Jalen McMillan, a possible wide receiver who could replace Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. Jordan Whitehead’s return to the team improved the safety spot, and Sua Opeta, Ben Bredeson, and Elijah Klein will be competing for the left guard place.

 

The Bucs view each of these issues as a positive challenge.

 

“We think and feel that the individuals in that locker room right now are capable of playing at the level we need them to play at to be successful,” Spytek said.

Taking a closer look at the two areas they neglected to address this offseason and the reasons behind it:

 

drafting security Outside cornerback versus Tykee Smith

Smith, a safety, was signed by the Bucs, who intend to employ him at nickelback. Christian Izien, who began there as an undrafted free agent rookie the previous season, is still with the team. Tavierre Thomas was already signed by the franchise during free agency.

According to all accounts, Smith had an outstanding college career and possesses the physicality and ball abilities that Bowles desires. Considering how much of Bowles’ favorite player in this draft class he was, it’s not surprising that he wound up in Tampa. However, others have contended that there might have been a greater necessity at that outside corner location. While there was still some valuable talent available, the actual fit varied widely.

Examining a number of players who were available both when the Bucs selected Smith and even after—Elijah Jones was chosen by the Arizona Cardinals one spot after Smith, at No. 90 overall. In the final 20 games at Boston College, he had seven interceptions, giving up a 38% completion percentage. He stands six feet two inches tall and has a 40-yard dash time of 4.40 along with a 42.5-inch vertical. The Bucs also had meetings with Iowa State’s T.J. Tampa (No. 130, Baltimore Ravens), Oregon’s Khyree Jackson (No. 108, Minnesota Vikings), and Florida State’s Jarrian Jones (No. 96, Jacksonville Jaguars).

However, what if a player who weighed 199 pounds and ran a 4.33 at 6-2 had 13 interceptions in 56 games, 54 pass breakups, 6 forced fumbles, 1.5 sacks, 10 tackles for a loss, and 205 total tackles (147 solo)?

 

Zyon McCollum was selected by the Bucs in the fifth round of the 2022 draft, based on his stats upon graduating from Sam Houston State. Although McCollum hasn’t yet recorded his first NFL interception, the Bucs believe he can take over as the starting quarterback after stepping in multiple times during the previous campaign.

Coach Kevin Ross of the cornerbacks stated, “Zyon got his hands on some balls.” “He did a good job stepping in. He demonstrated his ability to play at this level, so anticipate him moving up. The key is to be consistent and not give up on any wild moves.”

 

Spytek and the Bucs made their draft choices in part because they want McCollum to “settle into” the outside corner position.

 

Spytek declared, “It’s obvious that we’re really excited about Zyon.” “He accomplished a lot of excellent work last year. We were impressed by his size, athleticism, intelligence, willingness to work hard, and ability to be a successful player. I also thought he performed pretty well last season. And we asked him to do a lot of different things.”

Bryce Hall, a free agent they signed from the New York Jets, is another player the franchise has high hopes for. They had been observing him for some time, and Rob McCartney, the director of player personnel, had a soft one for him. He felt that he had just fallen down the depth chart behind D.J. Reed and Sauce Gardner.

 

“Bryce Hall’s a legit starter I think in this league,” Ross stated. “Prepares well, very focused and knows what he’s doing, knows where his help is.”

 

Additionally, they intend to transfer Josh Hayes, who bounced around at nickelback last season and led the NFL in special teams tackles, to the outside after he was a gunner. However, owing of his size, it is thought that the outside is his home.

Ross remarked, “He’s in capable hands. All he needs is work experience. It’s hard to get that corner spot. We utilize our corners for more than any other team in the league. They might be doing [Cover] 3 or they might be performing a Cover 2. They are proficient at man-to-man, flats, and curl. Those people are multitaskers.”

 

Bowles sees Smith playing one of the defense’s chess piece positions, which can open up a lot more options.

Written by schooleiwa

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