Four Bucs With The Most To Prove

May 6th, 2022

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Above all, the NFL is a show-me league.

Nobody cares what kind of player you were three years ago. You’ve got to keep putting out good tape if you want to survive and cash big checks as a pro.

The Buccaneers are no different. Despite winning 29 games in the past two seasons, including a Super Bowl championship, Tampa Bay players start from scratch when training camp opens in late July.

Will Rob Gronkowski be there? Maybe. Will Ndamukong Suh return? Perhaps.

When Todd Bowles gathers his players in the auditorium at One Buc Place to reveal his vision for 2022, here are the four Bucs with the most to prove this fall:


At 6-foot-1 and blessed with legit 4.3 speed, Dean has all the physical traits NFL clubs crave at cornerback. He’s been nicked by injuries throughout his first three pro seasons and Dean has played pretty well.

Jamel Dean

As a rookie in 2019, his 17 passes defended tied for second in the NFC behind teammate Carlton Davis. According to Pro Football Reference, quarterbacks have completed only 53 percent of their throws when Dean is the primary defender.

That’s the good news for Dean, whose base salary of $2.5 million could be dwarfed by a much more lucrative deal if he hits the free-agent market coming off a strong season.

Dean turned the Green Bay game around with an early pick-6 against Aaron Rodgers in 2020, but he has posted only five interceptions in 42 games as a Buccaneer. He hasn’t forced a single fumble for Bowles — who demands takeaways.

While Davis just cashed in with a contract extension, Dean awaits his big payday. His former Auburn teammate believes the Bucs will soon show him the money.

“I feel like he’s on track to being a great player, a good corner in this league,” Davis says. We kind of feed off each other in practice. We know how to push each other when we’re not playing up to our par.”

If Dean stays healthy and registers more takeaways, his chances of earning a second contract in Tampa will go up exponentially.


Last year’s first-round draft pick had his ups and downs, but the ups were intriguing. On the field for approximately half the defensive snaps, he played all 17 games and finished with four sacks while playing a variety of positions.

Joe Tryon-Shoyinka will take on a full-time role.

With Jason Pierre-Paul presumably gone, Tryon-Shoyinka would seem to have a more defined role — burst off the right edge with speed and a nasty disposition. Nobody questions the physical traits he brings, but Tryon-Shoyinka needs more polish and discipline.

Even when it became evident that JPP’s injured shoulder rendered him ineffective as a pass rusher for most of last year, Buc coaches kept him on the field because he was still a factor against the run.

Tryon-Shoyinka was not.

“There was a lot on Joe’s plate,” says Lavonte David. “People might not know, but he had to do a lot of different things for us just because you had to get a guy like that on the field. His upside is real good and now he’ll have the opportunity to be a full-time starter and show what he can do.”

In his haste to get to the quarterback, Tryon-Shoyinka has a tendency to get trapped out of position on running plays. Given how Tampa Bay’s defensive philosophy is based on stopping the run, this second-year pro needs to show a more complete game to earn the full confidence of Bowles.


A second golden opportunity.

While it’s true that Stinnie was impressive replacing injured right guard Alex Cappa for three postseason games en route to a championship, the Bucs aren’t convinced he’s an NFL starter. That’s why they offered him a mere $1 million in base salary to re-sign in March.

Stinnie took the deal rather than test free agency, knowing he’ll have a good chance to start at left guard following Ali Marpet’s stunning retirement. Second-year pro Robert Hainsey is also in the mix, along with rookie mauler Luke Goedeke.

Stinnie doesn’t have much pro experience, but those three playoff starts in 2020 opened eyes at One Bucs Place. Tom Brady threw a combined 98 passes when facing the Saints, Packers and Chiefs and he was sacked only once in each game en route to the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

This may be Stinnie’s job to lose, but he’s facing competition. At the age of 28, he realizes this may be his last, best opportunity to shed his backup role.

“Always believe in yourself,” Stinnie says. “You get knocked down, just brush off the dirt and get back up. One of my favorite quotes is every setback is a set-up for a great comeback.”


Let’s say this upfront: Devin White did not have a bad year. He made the Pro Bowl for the first time and led the Bucs in tackles for the second consecutive season.

But he didn’t improve. He didn’t take that next step up after peers selected him as the 28th-best player in the league following the championship season. The Bucs have already picked up his fifth-year option for 2023, but White is thinking about the opportunity to reap more money as an unrestricted free agent in 2024.

“When White sees something, he trusts his eyes and he explodes to the ball,” says recently retired Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth. “He sees and recognizes, then he’s going to attack and destroy. His speed is rare.”

White’s nine sacks in 2020 set a high bar, likely an unrealistic standard for an inside linebacker. He was far less effective as a blitzer last year and because of his eagerness to make an impact,

White took himself out of too many plays. His tackling was erratic.

If White isn’t already the leader of this defense, his time is near because David will turn 33 before the NFL crowns its next champion.

The Bucs want more and White has more to give.

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Ira drives a 2020 Ford Escape (cherry red).

14 Responses to “Four Bucs With The Most To Prove”

  1. Buczilla Says:

    Good stuff Ira and all four players have what it takes to be great, but only White has been remotely close.

  2. Buccos Says:

    White and Dean are about to get paid big bucks. JTS better be good or else Hall may take his position. I expect White and Dean to have major breakthroughs this year.

  3. PassingThru Says:

    Ira, don’t forget Robert Hainsey. Second-year OGs selected in the third round should challenge and win a starting position when the competition is a career backup.

  4. KingLDavid54 Says:

    Great article Ira. I also think Vita Vea has to prove he can be on the field a majority of the time this year!

  5. Goatfarmer Says:

    White and Showinski need to get rid of their inner headless chickens.

  6. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    I agree with these 4……we also need to see something from Keyshawn Vaughn & Robert Hainsey ….two 3rd round picks….
    I also would expect Kyle Trask to win the backup QB job.

  7. stpetebucsfan Says:

    Jamel Dean has the most to prove and justifiably the most to earn.

    Dean has flashed “cover corner” skills at times. He has the physical attributes, perhaps the fastest player on the Bucs. But he’s been wildly inconsistent largely due to his well documented injuries.

    Dean has the talent he simply needs to flash ONE ability this season…”AVAILABILITY”! I predict if Dean play all 17 games he’ll be a wealthy man next year. Forget that stats they will take care of themselves.

    He HAS Talent! But does he have that critical abilility…availability?

  8. Jeebs the Honey Bear Says:

    Lavonte David has been one of the top LB in the game for a decade, and was barely recognized. Devin White was mediocre at best last year and made the Pro Bowl? Fascinating.

    This is the year that Devin White either puts it together, or we know for sure that he is a superior athlete but a below average football player. I hope Bowles can find ways to play more to his strengths with the blitzing. It seemed like he had less opportunities last year to blitz than in 2020. He offers nothing in coverage, we might as well send him hard toward the backfield. LFG

  9. gotbbucs Says:

    Devin White, Mike Edwards, Jamel Dean, and I’m gonna say Cam Brate if Gronk doesn’t come back.
    Brate keeps taking pay cut after pay cut to stay with the team. He’ll want to prove he’s worth another contract.

    They don’t want Stinnie to win the left guard job. They signed him as a backup and that’s where his value is. That left guard spot is Goedeke’s to lose.

  10. gotbbucs Says:

    They’ll probably actually move Mason to left guard and let the rookie play right. Mason has played both sides.

  11. Joe Says:

    Lavonte David has been one of the top LB in the game for a decade, and was barely recognized. Devin White was mediocre at best last year and made the Pro Bowl? Fascinating.

    Couple of reasons. White played on a team that was always playing on prime time and has won 29 games the past two years. David played on trash teams until recently that networks tried to hide.

    White is outspoken and embraces the spotlight. Loves to go on NFL Network and BSPN and they love him. David runs from the spotlight and rarely appears on network TV or national radio.

    Visibility is very, very important.

  12. Buccos Says:

    The Steelers just declined the 5th year option on Devin Bush, the other Devin LB who was drafted in the 1st round that year. Atleast we were able to pick up White’s 5th year. I think he is going to be awfully good for a long time. But maybe not as good as LVD has been for all these years. Hopefully some of that will transfer between LVD and White.

  13. Brandon Says:

    Even more importantly, according to the Profootball Reference statistics, is that Dean surrendered a 50.0 opposing QB rating when targeted.

    As for White… when he got hurt, he found a way to get blocked. He was awful.

  14. Caradoc Says:

    Actually, let’s say this upfront instead: White had an awful year and clearly and significantly regressed from playoff form