Blowing Up In 2021?

April 18th, 2021

Bucs RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn.

A guy who works under the roof (and behind the backyard patio) at One Buc Palace has propped up a player for having a nice season.

And it’s not one of the many current Bucs stars.

In fielding a question for his mailbag, reporter/feature writer/historian Scott Smith was asked what player he sees having the biggest improvement this fall.

Sean Murphy-Bunting will be that guy, Smith responded.

Now for Joe, this is saying a lot. While SMB at times struggled as a rookie, he did lead the team improve last year and lead the team in picks. His play in the postseason was special, as Smith documents.

Murphy-Bunting did struggle a bit more in 2020 and finished the regular season with just one interception. He and Dean essentially traded the starting job opposite Carlton Davis a couple times during the season, though that was largely masked by how often the team was in the nickel and Murphy-Bunting was in the slot. Late in the season, Head Coach Bruce Arians revealed that Murphy-Bunting had played a good portion of the season at less than 100%, and he occasionally landed on the injury report with a groin ailment.

The postseason was another story. He made huge plays in each of the three games that got the Bucs back home for Super Bowl LV, becoming just the fourth player in league history to intercept a pass in each of his first three playoff contests. His pick shortly before halftime in the NFC Championship Game at Green Bay was probably the most memorable of those three picks as it set up Tom Brady’s stunning touchdown heave to Scotty Miller with seconds remaining.

Murphy-Bunting has talent, he has confidence (as some of his other tweets demonstrate) and he now has a much better opportunity to develop his game than he did last offseason. What he’ll seek in 2021 is more consistent play from Weeks One through 18 (and maybe beyond), and I think he will achieve that, thereby making a big Year Three Leap.

It’s sort of what Bucs Super Bowl-winning coach Bucco Bruce Arians has been saying of the lack of spring workouts, that younger players are behind in practice snaps. So using that formula, Joe fully gets where Smith is coming from. If SMB plays anything close to how he did when healthy in the postseason, he should be damn good and Smith will be on target.

Personally, Joe is thinking the most improved player could be running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn. He got off to a slow start in August because of The Sickness. And he had zero offseason workouts in 2020 (neither did fellow rookies Tristan Wirfs and Antoine Winfield, so Joe doesn’t know how much of that excuse is valid).

Vaughn looked smooth in a touchdown catch just enough for Joe to have faith he hasn’t yet shown his full ability. (One fine-looking play does not make a career.)

Now that Vaughn has a lot of competition, he better step it up this fall if he plans on ever being the Bucs No. 1 running back in 2022.

21 Responses to “Blowing Up In 2021?”

  1. Medicated Pete Says:

    SMB’s confidence was 3/8th’s the battle

  2. Hodad Says:

    Joe, when it comes time to RB’s injuries happen. Vaughn could be our #1 back by mid season, and that’s a scary thought. That’s a big reason why I’m not opposed to drafting a stud like Harris, or Etienne.

  3. BucEmUp Says:

    Only reason it cannot possibly be Vaughn is because he has three guys in front of him that will make it nearly impossible to ever see the field. I agree with the SMB prediction. I would also hope that OJ Howard stays healthy and explodes. Having Bernard on third downs is going to make it a nightmare for dbs and lbs to decide who to committ to.

  4. Mike Says:

    If AB does not resign, Jackson will be the best candidate.

  5. Alexander Nascimento Says:

    My greatest problem with him was ball security
    Those two fumbles caused huge momentum change in games against the Bears and Washington
    But I’m confident he can turn it around
    He already started to change by altering his jersey’s number from #30 to #21
    Go Bucs!

  6. Godlovesbucs Says:

    My vote for most improved is going to go to OJ. I think he is going to explode this year and stay healthy, finally showing his 1st round talent. He looked good in the begining of the season, and he should get plenty of opportunities. They dont want to burn out gronk so he should get a lot of reps.

  7. bojim Says:

    Hope Vaughn does well this year.

  8. Defense Rules Says:

    Wouldn’t have envisioned this 2 years ago, but I think the most improved player last season may well have been Alex Cappa. He got burned in a couple of games, but for the majority of the season he was a beast. It’s easy to overlook the big uglies, but all it takes is one weak link on an OLine or DLine, and opposing teams exploit that weakness mercilessly. The right side had been that weak link, but not any more. Cappa & Wirfs have turned that into a real strength.

  9. Thomas Edrington Says:

    KV: needs to understand that running backs who fumble — don’t play..

  10. Ben green Says:

    Howard is a top 5 blocking tight end. That should be his first priority. They’ve got plenty of receivers. I’d suspect you’ll see more from him in the passing game later in the year. Blown achilles and the inevitable surgery sucks. I still have pain. A word of advice for all you pups. Don’t play pickup basketball in your 40’s without stretching.

  11. Wesley Says:

    Vaughn could be this teams best back if given a legit chance. Getting 2 to 4 touch’s at game ain’t gonna do it.

  12. Gofortheface30 Says:

    Good god almighty hodad chill out. You are really concerned about not one, not two, but THREE running backs to be out on the injured list? How often has that happened, like, ever? Your concern can also be applied to literally any other position on the football team too so what’re we even talking about here

  13. Bird Says:

    If SMB plays like end of year, then bucs are back in playoffs no question
    Him and davis would play opposite and Dean gets in the mix too
    If bucs go DB early then that guy becomes 4
    And cockrell 5

    Pretty impressive backfield

    And enough said on winfield
    Whitehead had a pretty impressive last year
    And edwards 3 goes in and just makes plays

  14. Godlovesbucs Says:

    So you wanna draft a stud 1st round rb to be the #4 in case of injuries?? Id rather go wr with that thought, evans and godwin have injury history, it would be scary if our top 2 threats are scooter and johnson.

  15. SOEbuc Says:

    “Go for it. A hair over 78 percent of the carries the Bucs got from the run game last year is possibly walking out the door in less than a year. And sorry if Joe is nowhere near ready to anoint Vaughn as a No. 1 back — he may prove to be one this season but not (yet) seeing it.“-Joe

    Did you seriously write this after the conversation we had maybe three articles ago (Trading down for Travis Etienne) about not needing Etienne in the first pick because we’re loaded at RB??

  16. SOEbuc Says:

    Sad thing is Vaughn probably won’t get a lot of time again because we have RoJo and Bernard and we don’t run the ball.

  17. SOEbuc Says:

    *I forgot to mention Lombardi Lenny. Had too many of those beers you like Joe lol

  18. Jack Burton Mercer Says:

    Joe, I’m on board with your opinion on Vaughn. Could be a very nice player.

  19. Cobraboy Says:

    I agree with DR: Cappa may be the most improved. He has morphed from a slight liability—although tougher than woodpecker lips—to a superior asset in all phases of his game.

  20. cmurda Says:

    Typically the lifespan of an NFL RB is obviously pretty short. Vaughn could easily make a huge jump as ROJO did. I think Vaughn has better hands though and we shall see on his ability to pick up blitzes and protect the ball. I have to admit that I think ROJO could be moving on to greener pastures next year and that he has already peaked. Lenny might be gone too. Vaughn will still have his chances barring an Etienne pick at #32.

  21. David Says:

    The way that whole secondary kept improving, I can see that.
    But, I think Dean may emerge simply because his speed. He’s able to recover better than the rest of the DBs

    At this point, I really want to see Johnson get a lot of opportunities at third receiver. He has shown a lot of promise.

    As for Vaughn at running back, I don’t think he’s going to get the chance. I think Lenny and Rojo split time and Bernard becomes the main third down back. It’s unfortunate because Vaughn is a good receiving back and showed some explosiveness off the first cut when he did get the ball