In my experience covering football, rookie offensive tackles face one of the toughest transitions to the NFL of any first-year player, largely due to the fact that opposing pass rushers are so much more formidable at the pro level. Whether it is the emphasis on pass rush in practices and offseason development, or that fact that more liberties can be taken with get-off and rush moves because of the pass-heavy nature of the NFL, college offensive tackles tend to have their hands full in one-on-one match-ups early in their career.

Saints DE Cameron Jordan and former Bucs QB Jameis Winston
Saints DE Cameron Jordan and former Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images

That’ll certainly be the case this season for Bucs’ rookie right tackle Tristan Wirfs, who faces a brutal array of pass rushers during his first season in the NFL. Looking primarily at rushers who tend to align on the left side of the defense, Wirfs will face a handful of the best rushers in the league within the six weeks of his career – assuming he beats out the newly signed Joe Haeg and comes out of camp as the starter in New Orleans.

Week 1: Cam Jordan, New Orleans Saints

Jordan, a five-time Pro Bowler, including the last three seasons, spends the vast majority of his snaps on the defensive left side, where he has abused rookie right tackles for years now. Last year’s biggest victim was the Falcons’ Kaleb McGary, who was shredded by Jordan in four-sack, 10-pressure game for the Saints defensive end.

Jordan has long been one of the league’s dominant defensive linemen, tallying three sacks against the Bucs last season en route to a career-high 15.5 sacks. While Jordan, who has 40.5 sacks combined over the last three years, offers a lot of unstoppable traits, his biggest strength is just that: his absurd raw power. He can bully offensive tackles into submission like few other edge rushers in the NFL.

Week 2: Brian Burns, Carolina Panthers

The 16th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Burns split his rookie season between the right and left side of the defense, but will likely align a little more heavily over right tackles in year two, where he dominated in college. Burns collected 7.5 sacks as a rookie with two coming against Tampa Bay, including his first NFL sack in Week 2.

Burns is completely different type of pass rusher than Jordan, which will be an interesting test for Wirfs in back-to-back weeks. Where Jordan is almost all power and inside moves, Burns is almost exclusively speed and bend to win the edge as a pass rusher. His all-around rush game still needs to grow, but Wirfs’ athletic ability and footwork will be tested in Week 2. He can’t afford to be late out of his stance against Burns.

Week 3: Von Miller, Denver Broncos

The NFL’s 25th all-time leading sack artist, Miller is coming off his first non-double digit sack season in six years, recording eight QB captures in 2019. He was still a pressure machine off the edge, relying on one of the most well-rounded pass rush skill sets of any edge defender in the NFL. Miller still has elite speed and bend to win outside the tackle, but he’s also aware enough to hit inside moves if tackle’s overset to stop his burst up the arc.

Broncos OLB Von Miller
Broncos OLB Von Miller – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

It’ll be imperative for the Bucs to help Wirfs out on Miller, as the face of the Broncos’ franchise is primed for a career year with defensive tackle Jurrell Casey and outside linebacker Bradley Chubb in the fold for 2020. Wirfs, who will have to adjust to the mile high air in Denver stamina-wise, has the rare tools to hang with a freak like Miller, but his technique – and his conditioning – will be tested in a huge way in Week 3.

Week 4: Joey Bosa & Melvin Ingram, Los Angeles Chargers

Bosa and Ingram each split time between the right and left side, which means that Wirfs will get a healthy dose of both dynamic edge rushers in Week 4. Bosa is the better of the two, with arguably the best technique and plan of attack of any rusher in the NFL. The Ohio State product may not be quite as twitchy as his brother Nick, but Joey will long arm and cross chop Wirfs to death if he catches the rookie tackle’s hands lingering. He had 11 sacks last year.

Ingram, who had seven sacks a year ago, is more of a wild card rusher, working chops and spins to beat offensive linemen from various alignments. The Chargers will likely move him around, and they’ll really test Wirfs and Alex Cappa by running games with Bosa and Ingram both aligning on the defensive left. Communication between the two new teammates will need to be polished enough to stay on the same level and seamlessly pass off twists to keep Tom Brady clean.

Week 5: Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears

Okay, this is getting ridiculous. Over the first five weeks of his career, Wirfs will face six former first-round picks, as well as four of my Tier 1 edge rushers in the entire NFL (Jordan, Miller, Bosa, Mack). That’s tough sledding for any tackle in the NFL, let alone a rookie coming off a ridiculously modified offseason.

Like Miller, Mack didn’t produce sacks (8.5) at his normal level last season, but he was every bit the pressure monster he typically is. You have to be ready for everything when you face Mack, but he pulls off that hump move to get back inside of tackles all the time. Wirfs was guilty of oversets at times in college; if he does that against Mack in Week 5, it could be a long day for the rookie.

Week 6: Preston Smith & Za’Darius Smith, Green Bay Packers

The good news is Wirfs doesn’t face a former first-round player in Week 6, the first time that will be true in his career. The bad news is that the Smith brothers combined for 25.5 sacks last season, including 12 from Preston, who spent a little more time on the defensive left side than Za’Darius did in 2019.

Bucs RT Tristan Wirfs
Bucs RT Tristan Wirfs – Photo by: Getty Images

This was a career statistical outlier season for Preston Smith however, who is a good player that hasn’t sniffed dominance during his five campaigns in the NFL. Watch out for the long arm with Preston Smith, but his counter game isn’t as sudden as some of the guys Wirfs will face earlier in the season.

If the Bucs rookie faces Za’Darius, however, the Kentucky product has some of the most deadly hands in the league. The Packers don’t use him in one conventional role however, so one-on-one match-ups should be scarce.

Week 7: Maxx Crosby & Carl Nassib, Las Vegas Raiders

Crosby looked like a Day 3 steal after a solid rookie performance a year ago, yet he’ll seem like child’s play compared to the ridiculous slate of pass rushers that Wirfs will face in Weeks 1-6. Crosby, who had 10 sacks as a rookie, is more motor and hustle like new Raiders teammate Carl Nassib, a former Buccaneer from 2018-19, than consistently attacking with refined rush plans, but his hands are developing quickly based on his tape last season. Nassib had six sacks last year in Tampa Bay.

Wirfs will have the strength advantage here against Crosby and Nassib, which will help. But at times last year Wirfs’ tenacity wasn’t where it needed to be on every snap. That won’t work against Crosby, who is one of the most fanatical players in the NFL. Gotta be ready to fight all day against a guy like him.

Week 8: Markus Golden, New York Giants

The Giants put an unrestricted free agent tender on Golden this offseason, and when no other team made an offer on the fifth-year pro, his rights reverted back to New York. Coming off a 10-sack season, Golden is far from a slouch, but he also doesn’t offer the same amount of pass rush athleticism as his colleagues on this list.

Golden has good hands and plays incredibly hard. He’ll be a good test for Wirfs, but nothing like those ahead of him on this list.

CLICK THE NEXT PAGE TO SEE WIRFS’ FOES FOR THE SECOND HALF OF THE YEAR

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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
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BigSombrero

I made exactly this point a week ago. IMO, there is NO CHANCE they start a guy who is a solid run blocker, but a liability in pass pro against these defensive ends the first 6 weeks. They better have Gronk and a RB helping him if they start him. Also, the weakest rushers on this list are in Carolina with Burns and Gross-Matos. Penn State’s DL and Gross-Matos OWNED Tristan Wirfs last season. He simply could not handle stunts, so they did it over and over and over and over… Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet.… Read more »

BigSombrero

I’ve got my popcorn ready. For all those who pounded the table for OG Wirfs and ridiculed the idea of taking RB Jonathan Taylor, get ready for a lesson in the IMMEDIATE value of a great running back vs the 4th blocker off the board.

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TBAtlas

There was absolutely zero chance we were taking Taylor at 13/14. Zero.

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BigSombrero

Achilles heal. No depth or threat at RB is gonna be a problem. Football is about running the ball and stopping the run. Getting cute with passing all the time isn’t the way to win in the end. You’ll see.

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Dave

Football is about running the ball and stopping the run? Lol it’s not 1970 anymore. It’s 2020. And in 2020, it’s not about drafting one dimensional backs at 14. It’s about building a dominant line, where you can throw anyone back there(Saints, Colts, Eagles, Ravens, Cowboys, and 49ers). All those teams can throw any RB in there and be a top 10 rushing

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Last edited 1 month ago by Dave
BigSombrero

The 49ers, the Ravens, the Titans may disagree with you. Also the Seahawks, the Eagles, the Saints, the Vikings, and the Bills. Even Green Bay ran their way into the playoffs…with Aaron Rodgers!

Its about running the ball and stopping the run. Pure and simple.

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DerLutz

Titans were good when Tannehill took the QB spot and played an awesome Season, because of the passing game. 49ers have an awesome scheme and line, the rb doesn’t matter here. Seahawks run the ball, but the success here come with Wilson thorwing on 3rd and Long. Eagles get in the Playoffs because the Cowboys sucked. Saints: You remember Thomas and Brees and the Oline? Vikings run the Football well, but also had a good Play Action. Packers had an better record than they played. Ravens were awesome yes, but remember the Playoffs? Remember when all the Teams failed? When… Read more »

BigSombrero

Your argument against a good running back is the Chiefs passed when they fell behind by double digits. They have Mahomes. There is only one Mahomes. Tom Brady couldn’t get NE in field goal range in the ENTIRE 2nd half vs Tennessee in FOXBOROUGH.

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Dave

Dude that’s so misguided it’s not even funny. You know what’s more important than a good rush offense? All the things I told you in a previous article that matter. TD/INT ratio, QB Rating, and INT %. So 7 of the top 10 rush offenses made the playoffs last year. Not bad. But of the 11 best QB Rating teams last year, 9 made the playoffs. Of the top 10 teams in TD/INT ratio, 9 of the 10 made the playoffs. And of the 11 best teams in lowest INT’s, 9 made the playoffs. Running the ball may help you… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Dave
BigSombrero

Top five offensive rookie of the year candidates include Burrow, CEH, Tua, Taylor, Swift

So, for the record, thats 3 RB and 2 QB and ZERO LINEMEN.

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DerekPHFD

And I’m sure top 5 mvp candidates are Mahommes, Jackson, McCaffrey, Wilson, and Rodgers. So does that mean an offensive line is not important? Rookie of the year is based on counting stats. Just like mvp. Saquon Barney won rookie of year and his team picked 6th the following year. Nelson was the best rookie and his team made the playoffs. If you want to play fantasy football, you pay running backs. If you want Super Bowls, you build trenches. Look at the teams in the Super Bowl this past year. Were you beating the table for mostert and Damien… Read more »

BigSombrero

Both teams in the superbowl invested more high round picks on the defensive line that OL. They both also have an impressive seasoned secondary. And I never said the offensive line was unimportant. I said its easier to run more effectively with a great running back behind a solid line than drafting 3 first round OL and trying to make hay with an average platoon of RBs.

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DerekPHFD

Of the top 10 leaders in team rushing, only 2 of the teams didn’t invest at least 1 first rounder on the o line. If those same top 10 rushing teams, 1 team invested a first round pick into a running back. And that same team, Dallas, invested 3 first round picks into there o line. I’m not sure where you are getting at how it’s easier to to have a running game they way you mention when stats clearly dictate other wise.

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Dave

Has an offensive lineman in the history of the league ever gotten a single MVP, OPOY, or OROY vote? Ever? That’s your argument? Well you win the award for the dumbest comment of the day. A comment like that makes me believe you don’t have a single clue on how football works

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Last edited 1 month ago by Dave
Dude

What did I say?

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BigSombrero

Not about drafting “One dimensional backs at 14”?

So to be clear, you think it’s better to grab a ONE-DIMENSIONAL RUN BLOCKER. Go back and watch the Iowa games from last year. He is a matador.

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Dave

YES! 100 times out of 100. I cant even believe that’s a debate. In 2020, one dimensional backs are useless. Unless they’re playing for one of those teams like the Colts, that built their team in the trenches first, then got their 2 down backs second

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Dave

It’s absolutely mind numbing to me, that anyone thinks we should have taken a one dimensional RB who can’t catch, can’t block, and is fumble prone, at 14(who ended up going in the middle of the 2nd round btw lol) like Wirfs or not, he wasn’t going past 20. Under any circumstances. Drafting an extremely one dimensional back at 14 is laughable. Unless you’re a complete do it all back, you have no business going in the top 2 rounds. Only reason why he was taken in the 1st 2 rounds, was the Colts have arguably the best run blocking… Read more »

DonkeyHunter


You are 100% correct.

This isn’t 1965 football. This is a pass driven league and RB’s have seen a steady decline in positional value.

And, if your GM is dumb enough to draft a RB in the 1st round, he had better be in the McCaffrey/Kamara mold. Not a one-dimensional, can’t block back who likes to put the ball on the ground.

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BigSombrero

CIncinatti and Detroits GMs are smart enough to draft OL in the first round. They’ve selected more OL in the first round than any other team in the last 8 years. That’s why they’re sooooo good!

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DonkeyHunter

Since you like bringing up the Colts…don’t they have TWO first round and a 2nd round pick on that line of theirs? Weren’t they a Top-5 rushing unit last year?

Must’ve been because of their 1st round running backs, right?

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BigSombrero

The Colts wasted picks on OL. With their GREAT line and so-so RBs in Mack/Hines, the Colts were 7-9 last season. That same line got Luck killed and he RETIRED.

NEXT ARGUMENT!

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Last edited 1 month ago by BigSombrero
DerekPHFD

You are right. The colts were 7-9. With a last minute qb and two playoff teams in there division. How well did McCaffrey, Elliot, and Barkley do for their teams. The 3 highest drafted rbs recently. Spoiler alert… they all missed the playoffs

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Dave

I love how you constantly bring up Detroit and Cincinnati. The 2 worst franchises in football. They don’t discriminate. They get every pick in every round wrong. The 49ers, Saints, Colts, and Cowboys like their 1st round OLineman. Worked out just fine for them.

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Captain Sly

You’ll need an awful Big Bag of popcorn waiting for an RB to have positional more value than a Tackle… The days of making stupid draft picks are Over!

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BigSombrero

A left tackle? Sure. A right tackle??? No frickin way.

I really hope there is a season. I’m not a fan of Brady or Rivers, but I love the Colts draft! A lesson in stocking up for today and tomorrow. I wish this was the Bucs draft. It literally checks all the boxes.

Rd 1 traded for Deforest Buckner, Rd 2 WR Mike Pittman Jr, Rd 2 RB Jonathan Taylor, Rd 3 S Julian Blackmon, Rd 4 QB Jacob Eason, Rd 5 OL Danny Pinter

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Last edited 1 month ago by BigSombrero
DerekPHFD

Who would be blocking for Taylor? I’m sure you like Indy’s draft, but you know what they already have? A top five o line! You know why.. because the invested a top 10 pick on a frickin Guard.

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Dave

He’s completely clueless on what it takes to be a great running team in this league in 2020. You build the dominate line, then you throw anyone back there. You don’t draft 1 dimensional backs(that you can get a round later) at 14, and pass on a top 4 tackle

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BigSombrero

You’re clueless. The Colts had Marshall Faulk, Edgerrin James, Joseph Addai, Frank Gore, Marlin Mack, and now Jonathan Taylor.

Until Marlin Mack, the Colts best and most notable lineman was Jeff Saturday, an undrafted FA by Baltimore. No 1st round OL on Mannings teams, yet Edge and Faulk have HOF jackets.

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Last edited 1 month ago by BigSombrero
Dave

Ummm they were both 15+ years ago. AGAIN, this is 2020. Elite RB’s are not how championship teams are built. Championship teams are built by a dominant line, and an efficient offense that doesn’t turn the ball over. If you have a top 10 run blocking line, a top 10 QB Rating, a top 10 TD/INT ratio, or are in the top 10 in fewest INT’s, there’s an 80+% chance you’re a playoff team. Yet here’s a list of your starting RB’s of all the playoff teams last year: Patriots: S.Michel – below average Bills: F.Gore – average Titans: D.Henry… Read more »

BigSombrero

Agree on drafting Nelson in 2018. He was a rare talent and worthy of being the 1st OL off the board at 6 overall. Who was the 4th OL off the board that year (like Wirfs this year)? If you guessed Detroit’s Frank Ragnow, you’d be correct. He joined two other previous 1st round linemen drafted by Detroit in Laken Tomlinson (2015), Taylor Decker(2016). WHere are the rushing titles? How about the playoffs with any RB in front of that premiere OL? You want to talk Colts.They’ve had Marshall Faulk, Edgerrin James, Jodeph Addai, Frank Gore, Marlin Mack, and now… Read more »

DerekPHFD

What do those running backs have to do with your point? That was over the span of 5 different head coaches. And the colts did have a 1st round pick for LT for most of those running backs. Tarik Glenn, 3 time pro bowler. Funny thing. He was the 4th oline player taken in his draft. Damn those facts. You bring up marshal faulk. Be real, he earned his jacket in St. Louis. Don’t move goalpost.

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BigSombrero

Thought Glenn was a 2nd rounder. He was loathed in Indy, just like Donovan Smith here. People always complaining he gave up pressures and sacks.

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Dave

So you thought at the time, Q.Nelson was the RIGHT pick at 6? You didn’t think that was a reach at all? Weird, you’d be the only one. At the time, everybody thought that he was a reach at 6th overall. Hindsight is 20/20. easy to call it a great pick after the fact

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Last edited 1 month ago by Dave
BigSombrero

I live in Indianapolis. My wife is from South Bend. I watch Irish college ball every year. I was in the chorus of people who liked Nelson and McGlinchey.

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Dave

Michael Pittman was a great pick at 34? Lol. A really solid player, yes. At 34, absolutely not. He was projected as a late 2nd rounder

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Last edited 1 month ago by Dave
BigSombrero

I’d take him. He would be a great story playing in Tampa where his Dad won it all. He could also learn from his clone in Mike Evans. I would swap their WR, S picks with ours in a minute.

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Captain Sly

Tampa’s Offensive Line was just Ranked in the top tier yesterday without considering Wirths talent. Sooo again w h y are we worried???
If I the other teams I’d be worried about what we are about to unleash on them!!!

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Dman

Preseason rankings don’t mean much to me. The line we put on the field the past few season was in the bottom half in performance, Top 10 in compensation. Not a great combo.

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surferdudes

Wirfs will face some tough pass rushers. What else is new? Most NFL teams have at least one very talented pass rusher. Whether it’s week 1, or 17, Wirfs will be tested, O.K. got it.

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bucballer

To be the best u have to beat the best. The NFL is full of talent for all teams. All linemen must be able to better their opponents on any given day. That’s an NFL player’s life. We can’t be concerned with who will be across from Wirf on any given game. It is what it is. I think the more appropriate question is, did we upgrade the talent at that position over the previous year. With Dot being older and nicked up from years as an NFL player, this fan thinks we did. There is nothing better than youth… Read more »

seat26

The big guy will be fine. He may need a little help from our TE’s in the beginning but since we don’t use TE’s in the passing game, we have plenty to spare to help out with blocking on the right side.

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BigSombrero

$20.465 million in TE’s to throw at teams!

Gronk, OJ, Brate, Auclair, Hudson, Leggett, or McElroy! Pick your poison to help block for Tom’s dinks and dunks!

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Dman

Still expecting a trade out of the TE room. No sane GM goes into the season with that kind of money tied up in that position.

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Hockey Duckie

Arians said we’d be running more 12 personnel. This is good because our tackles will need help from chip blockers.

This is a great write-up and also a bit daunting for Wirfs!

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flashgordon

Wirfs needs to study some film of Ot’s that have played successfully against some of these. Like the Green Bay Lt handled Khalil Mach.

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Dman

Baptism by fire, no doubt. Welcome to the NFL.

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