Despite his rookie label a season ago, Buccaneers' right tackle Tristan Wirfs was considered anything but a youngin' during his inaugural year in the NFL.
Wirfs earned immense praise for his performance on the right side of Tampa Bay's offensive line, even deemed an All-Pro snub after allowing only one sack throughout the 2020 regular season. The Iowa product kept up the pace in the postseason, giving up zero sacks and just two quarterback pressures from the Wild Card round through the Super Bowl.
Although they are teammates, even Tampa Bay outside linebacker Shaq Barrett, one of the NFL's best pass rushers, gave Wirfs his due as one of the best offensive linemen in the game this week.
"Tristan is probably, not probably, Tristan is the best tackle that I've played against," Barrett said. "He most definitely learned from his mistakes and then most definitely don't repeat the same mistakes at all anymore."
Wirfs' lone sack as a rookie came in week five against the Chicago Bears, meaning he went 15 continuous matchups without allowing quarterback Tom Brady (or backup QB Blaine Gabbert when he played against Detroit) to be tackled in the backfield.
Barrett has proclaimed a desire to improve his sack count this season after posting eight in 2020, compared to leading the league with 19.5 in 2019. Set to compete against Wirfs throughout training camp and practice throughout the year, Barrett believes Wirfs' excellence displayed at right tackle should lead to better production for himself.
"It's going to be good going against them this training camp that's coming up, because it's gonna make me a better player," Barrett shared. "[He'll] make me have to work on different pass rushes and different game plans and different schemes for going against certain tackles.
"So, if I'm able to break him down and be able to get some wins on him, that is most definitely going to translate over to other tackles in the league."
Tampa Bay will kick off its annual training camp on July 24, and iron is certainly expected to sharpen iron when the Bucs' edge rushers and offensive tackles - particularly, Barrett and Wirfs - face off in one-on-ones and team drills.