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? Here's a hint: He serves as a crucial blocker for the No. 1 player on this list, which we hope you've guessed by now, and is one of Tampa Bay's most consistent performers when he is on the field.
The blocker is Buccaneers left guard Ali Marpet.
Most Important Buccaneers, No. 6: Ali Marpet
Since his 2015 second-round selection from Division III's Hobart College, Ali Marpet has exceeded just about every expectation set for his pro football career.
Marpet would immediately earn a starting role on Tampa Bay's offensive line at right guard, where he spent two seasons before making the full-time switch to left guard, although he spent 11 games at center during the 2017 season, showcasing tremendous interior versatility.
Since making his move to left guard, Marpet has played the best football of his career, improving as a pass protector specifically by allowing just six sacks and 70 total pressures on over 2,000 pass-blocking reps according to Pro Football Focus. His PFF run-blocking grade also reached the 80.7 mark in 2020, the first time Marpet has been considered a "high-quality" run blocker by their grading system since the 2017 season. He previously graded "above average" with a 65.2 mark in 2019 and a 70.0 grade in 2018.
In 2020, Marpet and rookie right tackle Tristan Wirfs each allowed one sack across the regular season, the lowest count of any full-time starting Buccaneers offensive lineman.
With Tom Brady serving as his quarterback and the Buccaneers' running game acting as a complementary aspect of the offense, Marpet is the ideal interior offensive lineman to help lead the Bucs back to a Super Bowl.
The only thing that could stand in Marpet's way are potential injuries. Marpet missed three games during the 2020 season with a bad concussion, which was the first time he missed a game since being sidelined for five in 2017. Although there were a couple of factors that led the Bucs' offense to some regression when he wasn't on the field, shuffling the interior line to replace Marpet's output certainly didn't help Tampa Bay move the ball in that stretch.
Joe Haeg, who is no longer with the team, first stepped into the lineup after Marpet suffered his concussion, but was benched following his lone start against the New Orleans Saints. A.Q. Shipley was the next man up and held the role down well, but went down with a career-ending neck injury two weeks later.
Tampa Bay saw promise from Aaron Stinnie in the postseason, who impressed across the first three starts of his career (at no better time to do so) after right guard Alex Cappa sustained a fractured ankle in the Wild Card Round. The Bucs also selected an interior lineman in the third round this year in Robert Hainsey.
Should Marpet have to miss time again, the team can bank on potential from these two backups, but not experience nor sure-fire expertise at the left guard position like it receives from Marpet.
Given the nature of Marpet's injury in 2020, this isn't to suggest that he's a health liability when in the lineup whatsoever. Rather, the Buccaneers' offensive line simply can't afford to lose Marpet's for a long period of any season for its offense to operate at 100 percent, particularly a season with Super Bowl aspirations.
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