Before the Bucs kickoff the NFL season Thursday night against the Cowboys, here’s my predictions for Bucs 2021 awards and superlatives.
MVP Offense: QB Tom Brady
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This one, much like Brady’s decision to join the Bucs, is a no-brainer. Brady came in and changed the entire culture and trajectory of the team. He raises the play of everyone else, and without him this team isn’t competing for back-to-back championships.
Bucs NT Vita Vea – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
MVP Defense: NT Vita Vea
One could make a case for Lavonte David here, but the impact Vea has on this defense is undeniable. His presence could immediately be felt in his return last postseason. With a healthy season, this is the year Vea cements himself as a top five player at his position.
Top Offensive Player: WR Chris Godwin
Last season if Godwin stayed healthy he would have been on pace to lead the team in yards with over 1,200 receiving. The slot receiver role plays a pivotal role in Arians offense and Godwin was tailor made for it. He should easily finish the season with the most receptions and challenge Mike Evans for the most yards as well. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that Brady loves throwing to slot receivers over his career.
Top Defensive Player: LB Devin White
I expect a big season from the third-year linebacker. A true playmaker when he’s on the field, White is the definition of a sideline-to-sideline linebacker. He should lead the team in tackles again this year. After getting nine sacks last season, White will get to double digits in 2021. Throw in the fact that his pass coverage has improved tremendously, and White could cement himself as the best off-ball linebacker in the NFL.
Top Rookie: OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka
As easy a choice as Brady was for Offensive MVP, Tyron-Shoyinka is a lock for this spot. Through training camp and three preseason games, Tryon-Shoyinka has looked like a steal with the 32nd pick. His two sacks in preseason led the way for the Bucs. Expect to see Tryon-Shoyinka pick up Anthony Nelson’s workload from a year ago.
Bucs CB Sean Murphy-Bunting – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Breakout Guy: CB Sean Murphy-Bunting
SMB has had “All-Pro” on his mind all offseason, and he’ll need to make a big jump this year if he wants to achieve that goal. Building off an incredible playoff run, which saw Murphy-Bunting tally three interceptions in three straight games, will be pivotal in his ascension. However, I think that Murphy-Bunting has better technique going into year three. Hopefully we’ll see it translate onto the field in 2021 on his way to a breakout year.
Comeback Kid: OLB Shaq Barrett
While not really coming back from an injury or a disappointing season, “Sack Barrett” should be better in 2021. After posting 19.5 sacks in 2019, Barrett’s sack totals came back down to Earth last season, notching only eight. He still got after the QB with 77 pressures, but by his own standards didn’t finish as much as he would’ve liked. The presence of Vita Vea back in the middle of the defense will help Barrett return to prominent sack numbers. I have him finishing with 14.5 on the year.
Rising Star: S Antoine Winfield Jr.
A starter from his first game, Winfield Jr.’s rookie season was quite impressive. To come in with no preseason and a truncated offseason win the starting job and perform like he did was remarkable. I believe that was just a small glimpse of the player he can become. Going into Winfield’s second year in the system, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has already said the safety is playing with a better understanding of the defense, which should lead to more big plays. IF that comes to fruition, Winfield Jr. could find himself as one of the best safeties in the league by season’s end.
Don’t Forget About: DL Patrick O’Connor
This year’s Mr. Preseason, O’Connor was extraordinary in the exhibition contests. Consistently making plays and being disruptive in the backfield, O’Connor will try to work his way into the rotation this season. While he has players like Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Steve McLendon ahead of him on the depth chart, the Bucs will find ways to get him involved in the defensive line rotation.
Bucs TE O.J. Howard – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Needs To Rebound: TE O.J. Howard
There’s not much to explain here. After four injury-plagued seasons, Howard needs to stay healthy to earn a second contract with the Bucs and avoid the bust label. To his credit, he was off to a great start before a ruptured Achilles ended his season in 2020. Howard will need to pick up where he left off as he looks to expand his role in a loaded offense.
Darkhorse: WR Tyler Johnson
Scotty Miller might be penciled in as the fourth receiver now, but Johnson’s strong camp and all-around game could propel him ahead of the third-year wideout. Johnson came into camp a little heavier than he would have liked, but it didn’t stop him from impressing this offseason. With Johnson’s versatility, he could find himself carving out a bigger role on the offense, especially if there is an injury.
Under The Radar: RB Gio Bernard
So much of the talk has been about who will win the starting running back job, and Bernard has been left out of the conversation. The veteran running back should have a large role in the offense. His pass blocking prowess and natural skills as a receiver will earn him a majority of the third down work.
Who are you selections for 2021? Tell us in the comment section below.
J.C. Allen is one of PewterReport.com’s newest beat writers. As a New England transplant, he has closely followed Tom Brady’s entire career and first fell in love with the game during the Patriots 1996 Super Bowl run. J.C. is in his second year covering the team after spending a year with Bucs Report as a writer, producer and show host. Some of his other interests include barbecuing, being outdoors, and spending time with family and friends. His favorite Buccaneer of all time is Simeon Rice and believes he deserves a spot in Canton. Follow J.C. Allen on Twitter @JCAllenNFL.
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