Breakout Candidate

May 19th, 2024

Bucs CB Zyon McCollum.

As an athlete, there is no doubt Bucs corner Zyon McCollum is a stud.

As an NFL cornerback, well, we’re going to find out.

Since the Bucs traded their best corner in the offseason, Carlton Davis, Bucs coach Todd Bowles has all but knighted McCollum as his successor. In other words, McCollum is going to have to play himself out of a job this summer if he doesn’t start Week 1 against Washington.

Bradley Locker of the PFF tribe is of the mind that all McCollum needed to break out on the NFL level was consistent snaps. He will have those this season.

… McCollum hasn’t been superb through two seasons, but his tackling and run defense play each improved in his second year. After all, he already has Todd Bowles’ trust, with his 870 snaps in 2023.

“Improved?” Joe always felt tackling was McCollum’s weakest point. Then again, Joe’s standard for tackling is pretty high. Therefore, the standard tackling in the NFL makes Joe wince and squirm.

To be fair, Bowles is a helluva defensive backs coach. He has a knack for getting the very best out of defensive backs. So if Bowles believes McCollum can get the job done as a starter, who is Joe to quibble?

35 Responses to “Breakout Candidate”

  1. DayOnePaul Says:

    Maybe he can even intercept a pass, which Carlton and Jamel have not done well throughout their careers. That’d be nice…

    And calling Davis “a stud” is a bit of a stretch. He’s an oft-injured legitimate starting CB. That’s about it. On a good defense, he probably wouldn’t even be a CB#1

  2. Joe in Michigan Says:

    Honestly, I’m more worried about Jamel Dean than I am McCollum. It looked to me that McCollum has put in the time to get better (I saw improved tackling), Dean looked like he barely cared when he played.

  3. AlabamaBucsFan Says:

    Joe, you accidentally put Joe Tryon-Shoyinka photo here instead of Zyon McCollum. At first I thought you were going to say JTS was going to have a breakout season.

    Just kidding on the photo. Is it just me or do they look alike.

  4. Defense Rules Says:

    McCollum is certainly one of the possible ‘breakout candidates’ but the Bucs have several others. Personally I think that Ya Ya Diaby is a great candidate; 7.5 sacks last year with relatively limited snaps (515), so I’m really expecting him to step up big time this year (12+ sacks in probably 750-800 def snaps).

    Also expect that Calijah Kancey will take a giant step forward this year, especially if Vea & Gaines can stay healthy (and draw attention away from Kancey). I think his snaps will increase some (had 577 last year, but could up in the 700 range this year), and if that happens he could come close to doubling his sacks (from 4 to 7-8 this season).

    Several others are also strong candidates, among them Trey Palmer, Cody Mauch & yes, Robert Hainsey (don’t count him out just yet). I expect the latter 2 will come back bigger, stronger & even more motivated than before. If they don’t, they’ve be warming the bench.

  5. Beeej Says:

    As best I could tell he was superior to Davis last season

  6. BillyBucco Says:

    Bryce Hall gives me tons of comfort should either Dean or McCollum not olay great.
    I know McCollum has supposedly been GIFTED the starting role, but don’t tell Kevin Ross that. Either way truly looking over their shoulders is a good thing.
    Josh Hayes could surprise some people as well. We are absolutely LOADED with depth at Safety and Nickel. This is my favorite DB group in a long time.
    I think it’s better than the SB year.

  7. Casual Observer Says:

    To my casual eye, I think CB is their thinnest position. If these starters don’t look good early, maybe one of the UDFAs will do – or maybe a trade.

  8. A Bucs Fan Says:

    Zyon, Bryce Hall Christian Izien Tavierre Thomas, and Josh Hayes will be fine as long as they stay healthy. I don’t like Jamel Dean. I hope he’s traded or cut because he doesnt care about ball and only tried when he was about to get paid.

  9. Fred McNeil Says:

    Wow! Great article and even better comments.
    First, Alabamabucsfan, I thought that was JTS too. LOL. Defense rules never disappoints. Billy Bucko stood out. You guys left me with nothing to add. Bravo!

  10. Permanently Moderated Says:

    Alabamabucsfan, I scoffed as well at first glance thinking it was JTS. It’s the hair.

  11. Fred McNeil Says:

    BTW…I sure hope JTS finally lives up to his potential too.

  12. M1K3_Fanclub Says:

    ^^ Izien is not a corner. He’s a safety who primarily played nickel. Playing nickel does not make you a CB. He’s not in our CB rotation.

  13. stpetebucfan Says:

    “Joe always felt tackling was McCollum’s weakest point.”

    I’m not so sure about that. Yes he’s a guy who likes blow people up and perhaps that negates “form” tackling with “wrapping up”. But he is a VERY WILLING hitter up there with Whitehead and Winfield. Sometimes though guys looking truly play smash mouth are more worried about HITTING than wrapping up.

    But look at his highlights reel! He destroys a Saints WR behind the line of scrimmage on an attempted short screen. Look at the other HITS and fumbles caused, look at his willingness to hit. He is NOT a shrinking violet. He has the POTENTIAL TO make Bucs fan say Carlton who? And in a backfield with Whitehead and Winfield he can fill out a DBackfield that has WR’s running with their heads on swivels.

    I’ve always believed if you haven’t ever seen a guy do something why expect him to start now. Davis and Dean didn’t bring fear into any WR’s heart. McCollum has done it, if a bit inconsistently in the past. As he plays more the inconsistency will dry up and he’ll learn better decision making…when to blow a guy up and when to simply make certain you get him on the ground.

    Check out his highlights!!!

  14. Bobby Says:

    It would be such a surprise JTS and Logan Hall finally had breakout seasons. That’s a 1st and a 2nd round pick that are not contributing to there draft position potential. So far a waste of picks. Hopefully that changes this coming season

  15. teacherman1983 Says:

    We need a 4th outside cornerback.

    Outside Corners:

    1. Dean
    2. McCollum
    3. Hall


    1. Izien
    2. Hayes
    3. Thomas


    1. Winfield
    2. Whitehead
    3. Tykes Smith
    4. Merriweather

  16. Bill Says:

    I thought Zion’s big problem(besides some bad tackling angles) was that he gave the receivers way too much cushion.

  17. Crickett Baker Says:

    Davis was our “best corner” but he wasn’t very good, IMO. In fact, he reminded me of Darden–good on paper but pretty lousy in the game. I saw him rarely playing to the whistle and usually ineffective.
    I hope Zyon keeps smiling, has a lot to prove and does it.

  18. Tony Says:

    They should go sign Xavier Howard for like a year or two. If they can get enough $$$$ to. Signing somebody like Calais Campbell would kind of help Yaya Kancey Braswell & even some of the others, too! Plus he still puts together some decent seasons. He had more sacks than Shaq last year & he wouldn’t cost as much either.

  19. ModHairKen Says:

    Davis was a disappointing player. Never lived up to potential. Hurt frequently. Occasionally made a play.

    He’s gone. It’s done.

    Need McCollum to rise and shine. A couple of good seasons and he can make $10-15m. A couple of bad seasons, and he’s hooding it like the rest of us in the real world.

  20. JimBobBuc Says:

    I see three CB’s that stand out: Dean, McCollum, and Bryce Hall. Of the three in last year’s regular season, Hall had the best passer rating compared to McCollum and Dean (39, 91, 111). However, Hall had the most missed tackle % compared to McCollum and Dean (13, 8, 3).

  21. 74 Bucs Fan Says:

    Ask Julio Jones about Zyon’s tackling.

  22. MadMax Says:

    @teacherman, Tykee is nickel/safety

  23. MadMax Says:

    @Bobby, Logan will be fine, our next Gholston in the mix for the next 6 years…JTS, i dont know.

  24. Bucnjim Says:

    Davis was ranked 36th in the NFL? It’s more than likely that several CBs taken in this year’s draft will be much better than he is.

  25. BucU Says:

    74bucs – I remember that hit. It was brutal. He improved dramatically from yr 1 to 2. And I think he’ll make another leap this yr.
    Julio is still shakin that hit off.

  26. Matt_PcAfee Says:

    I thought this article was going to be about JTS..

  27. Bucnjim Says:

    Breakout candidate the entire D line. Top 10 this year!

  28. Saskbucs Says:

    Zyon will be good. He’s improving and has the high end athleticism to succeed. As others have mentioned, I worry more about Dean than Zyon but Hall is hopefully a solid 3rd who can start if needed.

    @BillyBucco, I agree. Would like the outside CBs to be more proven but the depth in the secondary is as good as I can remember.

    As far as leaps, hopefully Zyon and Mauch and Yaya all take them this season… I guarantee Kancey does. Watching him at the end of last season after having his development slightly stunted with the early injury and just seeing his demeanor … guy is gonna be a monster. I think the Aaron Donald comps will be closer than anyone thought possible. Not saying he is AD, but as far as pass rushing impact from the interior goes, Kancey is a top 3 guy in the NFL right now.

  29. HC Grover Says:

    Lookslike a Plan 9 clone.

  30. Pickgrin Says:

    Jason Licht’s drafting acumen is about to start paying major dividends!

    Licht has drafted 12 starters in the last 3 drafts (Barton, Braswell, Tykee (nickle), Kancey, Mauch, Diaby, Hall, Goedeke, White, Otton, Camarda, McCollum) + additional contributors and potential future starters (McMillan, Bucky, Klein?, Palmer, Dennis?, Durham?)

    Rookies aside – every one of those young players is likely to show at least some improvement and a couple/few will make big jumps from what they showed last year.

    The Bucs are going to be better than last year simply because all these young players continue to improve…. And Licht keeps restocking the talent pool…

    First 4 picks this year are all destined to help us win games and were chosen specifically for that reason – because they can contribute immediately as rookies.

    The future is bright for this Tampa Bay football franchise folks….

    The only way to get out of salary cap hell is to draft your way out. And that is exactly what our GM has been doing….

  31. Usfbuc Says:

    The Bucs are building what looks to be a solid roster. Other than Winfield no single dominant player but a bunch of guys who are solid. I think we continue the trend of finding a guy or two in the undrafted group who make the roster/practice squad.

  32. Crickett Baker Says:

    Pickgrin, great post! GO BUCS!

  33. Noclu4u Says:

    Bucs were7th in the NFL in sacks last year .

  34. garro Says:

    “Then again, Joe’s standard for tackling is pretty high. Therefore, the standard tackling in the NFL makes Joe wince and squirm.”

    My coaches would have come unglued if they saw all the grabass going on with the entire back end of our defense last year Joe! Exception AWJ and LVD of course! Average gains turned in to huge gains because we did not wrap up on guys.

    Go Bucs

  35. Dude Says:

    Zyon was really solid last year, played on 3 different special teams units and line up at 3 different positions on defense last season. Tackling form might be a little contemporary, but I’ve seen nothing to question his willingness or the images of him blowing guys up in the open field on kickoff, or as a gunner, or crashing down on a WR screen.

    Night and day between last season and his rookie year, and he even generated a couple “holy crap” turnovers in 2023 against the Steelers & Bears respectively.