The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were two plays away from winning back-to-back Super Bowls.
Of course, I’m referring to the plays that took receiver Chris Godwin and offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs off the field when the Bucs fell in the NFL Playoffs to the eventual champion Los Angeles Rams.
While Rams fans would argue the game wouldn’t have ended any differently, everyone outside of that group knows different.
So it’s no surprise Tampa Bay is consistently ranked above Los Angeles in preseason projections, including a recent 32-team order or merit list put together by ESPN’s Ben Linsey.
While the Bucs have suffered some losses from last year to now, they still have a solid cast of contributors looking to make a third-straight run to the postseason.
“The Buccaneers lost a quality starter at right guard in Alex Cappa and still managed to improve at the position by trading for Shaq Mason,” Linsey wrote about the offensive line being a strength for Tampa Bay. “The right side of their offensive line has a strong case for best in the NFL. Tristan Wirfs and Mason are both top-three players at their position in PFF's wins above replacement (WAR) metric over the past two seasons. Add in Ryan Jensen's return at center and the strides made by Donovan Smith at left tackle, and Tom Brady once again will have one of the best offensive lines in the league entering 2022.”
While Linsey says the Buccaneers are the NFC’s best, he does have another team on top of his league-wide list: The Buffalo Bills.
In a passing league, however, it’s no surprise the X factors for both the Bucs and Bills play the same position.
“Tryon-Shoyinka, Tampa Bay's first-round selection in the 2021 NFL draft, played 608 defensive snaps while working behind Shaquil Barrett and Pierre-Paul in 2021,” Linsey says of Tampa Bay’s outside linebacker. “He wasn't able to generate consistent pressure (9.8% pressure rate) in his time on the field, but he'll be counted on to make an impact as a starter in 2022. The physical tools are there for him to make that second-year leap.”
Buffalo’s Von Miller may have experience on his side, but Tryon-Shoyinka will be doing all he can under coach Todd Bowles to help the Buccaneers reach the destination they were so equipped to arrive at in 2021.