Calijah Kancey: A Thinking Man’s Defender

June 16th, 2023
Calijah Kancey

Rookie defensive tackle Calijah Kancey, the Bucs’ first-round pick.

Joe wouldn’t be shocked if Bucs rookie defensive lineman Calijah Kancey’s head is spinning about now.

In a handful of months, he was drafted, took a crash course in a 34-defense, and began proving to Bucs coaches that he can handle a starting job.

Kancey, it seems, is taking more of a mental approach to his NFL baptism, not so much a physical one.

“I think I learned a lot of football schematically,” Kancey said. “Just understanding the new defense for me coming from a 4-3 in college to a 3-4 here.

“There are just a lot of movements and stuff like that. It’s just understanding football as a pro.”

Learning the nuances of being a pro seems to have made a strong impression on the head coach who drafted him, Todd Bowles.

“He’s smart,” Bowles said of Kancey this week. “He’s a lot smarter.

“He’s not just a lineman trying to line up and do things, he’s trying to understand everything on the defensive line and the offensive line so he knows how to play. I’m very impressed with that.”

Knowledge of the game and preparation might be 70 percent of football. Maybe more. The rest is execution. So it’s comforting to Joe to know Kancey is trying to master the mental aspects of the NFL.

23 Responses to “Calijah Kancey: A Thinking Man’s Defender”

  1. AtlBuc Says:

    I can’t believe we are predicted to finish last in the NFC South. We can win the division if Trask or Mayfield doesn’t turn the ball over.

  2. BucfaninMi Says:

    The defense is enough to carry the team to winning the division at least. Mayfield will be fine. We need an RB to step up and of course the line needs to open lanes.

  3. Casual Observer Says:

    Agree with Alt. This team could be pretty good.

  4. garro Says:

    Every time I hear people talk about the mental part being the most important. I just shake my head.
    Don’t get me wrong it is very important If you don’t know technique and understand your assignment you just can’t play. But you also have to have the Physical tools and strength to execute.

    I marvel at the physical gifts of pro athletes. I’m a big guy and played football. After standing near Batman Wood (he had just made a tackle on the sideline near me) in a game at the Old Sombrero ….I’m still in awe that a guy that big could move that well.

  5. AnonymousBuc76 Says:


    The Brady effect is over, so we’ve been totally written off and banished back to the cellar as far as the media is concerned…

    The fact of the matter is, there’s no clear cut #1 team in the NFC South at the moment… There’s plenty of guys on this team with playoff experience; I’m glad to see that we’ll be much more balanced on offense…Our defense actually got faster, which is scary; we just need to find our “Brad Johnson”…We don’t need our QB to be all world, we just need the guy that can protect the football and keep us in good down & distance situations…

  6. Statguy Says:

    More excited about this year than last year. Bradys head was gone before it started last year

  7. Biff Barker Says:

    Last year with Brady was a waste. He never wanted to be here.

    Last year with Bryon was a waste.

    Add JTS the human mobile dung heap.

    Add Logan Hall. He cant help you but he can hurt you.

    I hold little hope for Todd to keep us out of the NFC East cellar.

  8. Mike Says:

    He’s going to do a lot of learning and growing in his first season, that’s for sure. He’s an exciting talent and I look forward to seeing him live in the opponent’s backfield for many years to come.

  9. Dooley Says:

    The thing about Kancey that I like most is he seems eager to learn because he knows what that does for his ability to apply himself once things get physical. Still waiting to see what we’ve really got with him, but unlike a Gerald McCoy he’s not being drafted into a true rebuilding situation on a team lacking talent at multiple positions while being asked to be “the guy”.

    Same went for Logan Hall last season, who I’ve heard other Bucs reporters that are saying Hall looks like he followed the plan of adding more bulk to his frame and is looking the part. We’ll see if either of those two guys play like it, but so good to know we’re not totally reliant on their success for our defense to be successful.

  10. Destinjohnny Says:

    Hopefully our best pass rusher JTS will get him single looks

  11. Infomeplease Says:

    Destinjohny says ” Hopefully our best pass rusher JTS will get him single looks”

    Dj, if JTS is our best pass rusher, we are for a long poor season!! Have you seen JTS play?

  12. realistic-optimistic Says:

    “Hit me in the head with a hammer the next time I take a dumb guy. I want smart players. They get better and better and better. My first four picks with the Dallas Cowboys (were) all Academic All-Americans.” He later added, “The same problem with players getting in trouble on social media are knuckleheads. I don’t see smart players getting in trouble on social media. It’s usually the knuckleheads.” -Jimmy Johnson

  13. bucsfaninOregon Says:

    In what universe is JTS our best pass rusher? He is so far removed from the QB at the end of play he is barely on the same field.

  14. J Says:

    I like how he’s living in the present and not allowing the moment to be too big. Smart guy. Just might get 10 sacks this year.

  15. Fred McNeil Says:

    I know the article is about Kansey, but JTS seems to have come up. He does get around the QB, but much like a dog chasing a car, he doesn’t know what to do with it when he catches it.
    Better coaching will bring better results.

  16. Defense Rules Says:

    AnonymousBuc76 … ‘there’s no clear cut #1 team in the NFC South at the moment’.

    I totally agree with you on that; any of the teams in the NFC South COULD end up being the division winner. I think it’ll take a lot more for the Bucs to win it than to just ‘find our “Brad Johnson.” QBs today are a lot more central to the team IMO than QBs were a quarter century ago.

    For instance, the 2002 Bucs went 12-4 and scored 346 points with Brad at the helm for 13 of their 16 games (he went 10-3, while Rob Johnson went 2-0 & Shaun King went 0-1). But look a little closer & the defense scored 5 TDs (35 points) on INT & fumble returns, plus S/Ts added 1 punt return TD for another 7 points. That’s 42 points, meaning the 2002 Bucs offense really only scored 304 points that season. The 2022 Bucs went 8-9 and scored 313 points with Tom Brady at the helm for all 17 games. Our defense last season scored 1 INT return for 7 points, meaning that the offense put up 306 points on the season. Roughly the same IOW … except one won the Super Bowl.

    Reason? Because our 2002 defense … one of the absolute best of all time … only gave up 196 points in 16 games (in actuality they only gave up 175 points because our QBs threw 3 Pick 6’s). IF our 2023 defense turns out to be as stingy as our 2002 defense we could probably get away with a game manager QB like Brad was. But last year we gave up 358 points (21 PPG average) which is pretty much inline with what Todd Bowles’ defenses have allowed since post-2019 (355, 353, 358) so I’m not expecting us to all of a sudden give up less than 200 points on the season. I’ll guess that surrendering around 20 PPG average would be an improvement & get us back into the Top-10. Meaning that our offense better improve over what we showed last season or we’ll be on the bottom looking up.

  17. SlyPirate Says:

    Devil’s Advocate

    What have we seen the past few years? DL need time to develop.

    JTS and Hall need time to learn the schemes, build their bodies, and acclimate to the NFL. Many of Joe’s genius commenters forget college kids don’t typically go against 8 year vets and instantly have success. The guys on the OL make money, too. Sapp had 3 sacks his first season (JTS 4, Hall 2.5). I’m expecting Kancey to perform better than JTS and Hall as a rookie but let’s temper our enthusiasm. And … look out for JTS this year. 10 sacks, easily.

  18. Brandon Says:

    Flat out… the defense will be better. The offense… can’t get much worse. If we are middle of the pack on offense… and have the same or better defense…. there’s zero reason we can’t get at least 10 wins. We were 8-8 last season before we decided to sit everyone against the Falcons… you can’t even call that a loss. We had a respectable record for one of the league’s worst offense.

  19. Destinjohnny Says:

    JTS blows
    But who is better from the outside on this roster?

  20. Tony Says:

    I wasn’t much of a fan of Tryon when he was even coming out. I didn’t think much of him even then. Same thing with when they drafted Ronald Jones. I didn’t care for him coming out either & I can see why now. What has he done? Nothing much.

  21. Destinjohnny Says:

    Nothing but he is our best pass rusher
    Jones was a marginal pick too
    Our gM and his missed picks are not good

  22. sasquatch Says:

    He’s a defensive weapon.

  23. Bucschamp Says:

    I don’t really worry about kancey, he’s a rook and he got time. JTS otoh is on the clock, now is the time to shine. There is no tomorrow for him.