If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are to accomplish their goal of "going for two" - to repeat as Super Bowl champions this year - a handful of select players will have to be at the top of their games all season long.
Therefore, AllBucs has compiled a list of the ten most important Buccaneers entering the 2021 season, ranked from No. 10 down to the most crucial of the bunch at No. 1. Although this list is unique, the most important Buc - who will be revealed at a later date - may seem fairly obvious.
But, who else needs to make a large impact this year in order for Tampa Bay to reach, and win, Super Bowl LVI? In this writer's opinion, the second-most important player plays the second-most important position in football: Edge rusher Shaquil Barrett.
(If that doesn't expose who will rank No. 1, I'm not sure what to tell you.)
Most Important Buccaneers, No. 2: Shaquil Barrett
Big money, big expectations.
The prized re-signing of Tampa Bay's offseason, Shaquil Barrett returns to the Buccaneers on a long-term deal worth up to $72 million. It was a well-deserved reward for the 28-year-old after Barrett posted 27.5 sacks in the past two seasons - adding another four in the 2020 postseason - along with 180 quarterback pressures according to Pro Football Focus.
Barrett didn't lead the league in sacks this past year as he did in 2019, posting eight compared to a whopping 19.5 a season before. However, he still found ways to disrupt opposing quarterbacks to a point where teammates could capitalize on his pressure, and made more impact plays in crunch time as Tampa Bay approached and played in the Super Bowl.
That is a motivating factor for Barrett, though, and he intends to become a more consistent player as a responsibility stemming from his large, new contract.
"This upcoming year, I'm working on being consistent game-in, game-out," Barrett told media in June. "There were some games where I might have played good, but in my head, I don't think I played the way I'm supposed to play. So, I'm most definitely gonna improve on that."
Barrett's counterpart, Jason Pierre-Paul, isn't getting any younger as he turned 32 earlier this year. He's still productive entering his 12th pro season, but make no mistake about it, Barrett signed his extension to become the long-term face of Tampa Bay's disruptive pass rush.
Without Barrett in the lineup, Tampa's pass rush undoubtedly takes a step back. Look no further than the Bucs' Week 17, one-sack showing against Atlanta with Barrett sidelined, compared to Tampa Bay's three-sack performance against the Falcons two weeks earlier in which Barrett compiled eight pressures.
So long as he continues rattling passers and builds upon his ability to make consistent impact plays, Barrett will maintain that status for quite some time. The Buccaneers certainly need him to earn that status in 2021.
Stay tuned to AllBucs for further coverage of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offseason updates, and other news and analysis