Today launches an annual award that I’ll be giving out at PewterReport.com, where I selected the Bucs’ Offensive and Defensive 12th Men of the Year. I’ll choose one player on either side of the ball that is not a regular starter and played less than 500 snaps on the year, yet made a significant enough contribution to be consistently impactful when on the field.
There were several worthy contenders for this year’s Tampa Bay team, but in the end the choices were still pretty obvious.
Offensive 12th Man Of The Year Award – WR Scotty Miller
Table of Contents
Wide receiver Antonio Brown and tight end Cameron Brate deserve shout-outs for this award, but in the end it was pretty obvious that Miller was the most-deserving 12th Man on the Bucs this season. It’s been awhile since Miller was a major contributor in the Bucs offense, so perhaps people have forgotten that the diminutive receiver was leading the team in receiving yards at the midseason point. As the Bucs dealt with injuries to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin over the first half of the season, before Brown was in the picture, Miller was the one constant the team could rely on in the passing game.
And was he ever impactful. Over the first seven games of the season, Miller went over the 70-yard mark four times, including a six-catch, 109-yard, one-touchdown showing against the Raiders in Las Vegas. Miller was one of the team’s best deep threats all season long, catching eight passes of 20 yards or more on just 20 deep targets, per Pro Football Focus.
The arrival of Brown certainly put a dent in Miller’s playing time and production, but the second-year pro still managed to find ways to make an impact. Miller’s 48-yard touchdown catch against the Vikings was a pivotal play in turning the tide back in Tampa Bay’s favor after Minnesota was surging early in the game. Then against the Saints in the divisional round, Miller’s sliding 29-yard catch between two defenders helped set up a crucial Bucs field goal late in the fourth quarter to break a 20-20 tie, giving Tampa bay a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
But the play Miller will be most remembered for this season is his torching of Packers cornerback Kevin King to score a 36-yard touchdown with just a few seconds remaining in the first half of the NFC Championship Game, giving the Bucs a 21-10 halftime lead. For a guy who caught just 12 passes in 12 games from Week 9 on, Miller always seemed to find a way to make his plays count. He’s exactly what you look for in the 12th Man of the Year Award – a big impact in a small role.
Defensive 12th Man Of The Year Award – FS Mike Edwards
Not many will remember the fine play of Mike Edward when recalling this 2020 Bucs championship season, but I certainly will. Billed as the starter throughout training camp, Edwards could have soured quickly when Antoine Winfield Jr. passed him on the depth chart right before Week 1. Instead Edwards said all the right things to the media and just kept working, not seeing his first real action of the season until Week 3 against Denver.
That’s when Edwards would put himself on the map, with a beautiful read and one-handed catch of a Brett Rypien pass from his single-high safety alignment. Those would be the ball skills that would define Edwards season, as he played just 320 defensive snaps (including the playoffs), but intercepted three passes and broke up eight others, two of which resulted in interceptions for Winfield, including one in the Super Bowl.
To have a third safety that could play at the level Edwards played at this season is almost unheard of in today’s NFL. Every time the team called on him, he delivered. A total of 131 of Edwards 320 snaps came in the playoffs, as the safety was instrumental in shutting down options down the field for Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes. In four playoff games, Edwards broke up three passes, intercepted another and recorded 11 tackles while missing only one stop and surrendering just four catches for 47 yards on ten targets.
Oh, by the way, Edwards would have had another interception if this gem in Week 7 hadn’t been negated by a penalty.
It’ll be a luxury for the Bucs to have Edwards remain in a third safety role next season, as he showed starting-caliber ability in his snap load this year. Perhaps the former Kentucky star isn’t as versatile as the Bucs first envisioned when selecting Edwards in the third round, but his range and ball skills as a free safety should allow them to be more flexible with Winfield’s more diverse skill set next season.
Other contenders on the defensive side of the ball included defensive tackle Steve McLendon and cornerback Ross Cockrell, but Edwards was the clear winner.
Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
PewterReport.com prides itself on being the most complete, comprehensive news source covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and delivering inside scoop on the team found nowhere else.