For this weekend’s Pewter Report Roundtable, the crew tackles another tough question. This week’s prompt: Which Bucs newcomer will make the biggest impact?

Scott Reynolds: Hicks Can Make A Huge Impact – If He Can Stay Healthy

If you know me, you know I love defensive line play. I’m excited to see what rookie defensive tackle Logan Hall can do in his rookie year. Can he live up to the hype he’s been getting this offseason from Will Gholston, Warren Sapp and others? But the kid was going to be under some real pressure this year. He really only had one great year rushing the passer at Houston. That was last season when he had 6.5 sacks.

Bucs DT Akiem Hicks

Bucs DT Akiem Hicks – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Hall’s own stated goal for 2022 is to get six sacks. But that’s rather lofty considering that the last four defensive tackles drafted in the first round – Sapp (1995), Anthony McFarland (1999), Gerald McCoy (2010) and Vita Vea (2018) – didn’t come close to that number. Sapp, McCoy and Vea posted three sacks in their rookie seasons, while McFarland had just one.

Enter veteran Akiem Hicks, who has over 40 career sacks and an incredibly quick first step for a 350-pound man. The signing of Hicks should take some pressure off Hall. Regardless of whether Hall starts or if it’s Hicks starting at the beginning of the regular season, both big men will play. The 32-year old Hicks will not only make an impact as a seasoned pass-rusher in Tampa Bay, replacing Ndamukong Suh and Steve McLendon. He’ll also aid in Hall’s development as a mentor. If healthy for most of the season, I could see Hicks get six sacks and Hall come away with four. That would be better combined sack production than Suh (six) and McLendon (zero) had last year.

Matt Matera: Gage Will Help Instantly

The Bucs signed Russell Gage in March and it may go down as the most important signing they’ve made this offseason. Gage solidifies the third wide receiver role in the Bucs offense and will be even more valuable early in the season. With the uncertainty of when Chris Godwin will return, it’ll be Gage that moves up in his spot. There’s no replacing Godwin, but Gage can ensure that there won’t be a huge drop off until Godwin gets back.

Gage has been in this situation before. When playing for Falcons, Julio Jones was traded to the Titans and Calvin Ridley took a leave of absence after five games for mental health reasons. That made Gage the top guy in Atlanta’s offense and he played well doing so. Gage can line up on the outside and in the slot as well, making him very versatile in the Bucs offense.

Whether Godwin is ready for the beginning of the season or not, I think Gage’s versatility will shine through for the Bucs. Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich can get creative in deciding where to line him up. He’ll be a trustworthy receiver for Tom Brady. There’s a reason that Brady facetimed Gage to try and get him to Tampa. Brady has been called the ultimate recruiter, but he doesn’t do it for everyone. He does it for the guys that he wants. Evidently, Gage made the cut and we’ll see the value he brings this season.

JC Allen: Mason Gives Offensive Line Big Boost

You can make a strong case for the skill position players brought in this year. Rookie Rachaad White and Russell Gage could certainly wind up making the biggest impact this season. Though, you can also make a case for the defensive additions like Akiem Hicks or rookie Logan Hall. But the player I’m going with won’t show up on the stat sheet.

The addition of Shaq Mason will make this team even better on the offensive line than it has been. Mason is one of the top guards in the league. His ability to open up holes in the run game with be crucial to a team that wants to establish the run more this season. Last season, he finished with a 85.3 run blocking grade, per Pro Football Focus. Last season with the Patriots, rushers had 467 yards running inside right of their 2,030 total rushing yards, per Sports Info Solutions. Nearly 25% of their rushing yards came from holes opened by Mason.

Not only a dominant run blocker, Mason is a more than capable pass protector. What truly helps him is his time spent with Tom Brady in New England. Mason knows Brady’s tendencies in the pocket, which should allow him to buy the future Hall of Fame quarterback more time. He finished last season with a 73.1 pass blocking grade, which tied for 26th in the league. At first glance, that may look low, but consider that Alex Cappa finished 46th with a 69.6 pass blocking grade. Replacing Cappa, who allowed five sacks and seven hits last year, Mason will prove to be an immediate upgrade. Last year, he only gave up one sack and three hits while blocking for a rookie quarterback. Imagine what he’ll do blocking for the GOAT once again.

Josh Quiepo: Rachaad White Can Reach His Stated Goal

We all know attrition is a beast for the running back position. With the play-by-play beating the position demands, there is an understanding — nay, I say an expectation — that running backs need to be in some sort of committee.

And that fact is the start of how Rachaad White can make the biggest impact in 2022. His path to playing time is a pretty straight line. Based on his early camp work, White looks to have an inside track on the RB2 spot, which means he will get one to two drives per game spelling Leonard Fournette. Additionally, given his abilities as a receiver, I fully expect him to siphon off more and more third-down work from veteran Gio Bernard as the year moves on. This should give White the opportunity to get the ball in his hands.

Lastly, given what we know about the attrition rate for running backs, it makes sense to expect Fournette to miss some time in 2022. Fournette has missed three games in each of his last two seasons. If he were to miss time in 2022, I fully expect White to slide into the “lead-back” role and get the lion’s share of the backfield work. That would give White the chance he is looking for.

Bailey Adams: Believe The Hype For Hall

I’m buying into the hype and rolling with Logan Hall. Everything that everyone has said about him to this point has built up high expectations. Head coach Todd Bowles seems pleased with his progress. Hall of Famer and Bucs Ring of Honor member Warren Sapp came away impressed when he worked with him during OTAs. In an appearance on the Pewter Report Podcast, Will Gholston picked him out as the player who will break out in 2022. Then, he made the headline-grabbing claim that Hall is “more athletic than J.J. Watt in his prime.” How can you not expect big things from the second-round pick after all of that?

Bucs DT Logan Hall

Bucs DT Logan Hall – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Of course, Hall is still a rookie. Rookie linemen don’t often come in and make a major splash from day one. Pewter Report’s Scott Reynolds has pointed out recently that even Sapp didn’t come in and rack up sacks regularly as a rookie. He had three in 1995. Top-five pick Gerald McCoy had three himself in his 2010 rookie season. And the Bucs rookie record for sacks in a single season belongs to Santana Dotson, who posted 10 in 1992. I don’t think Hall necessarily breaks that record, but I do think he has the potential to meet the goal he set for himself, which is six sacks. Gholston said on the Pewter Report Podcast last month that he sees six-plus sacks out of his new teammate. You know what? Count me in as being on board.

The opportunities should be there for Hall. For a while, it looked like he would be an unchallenged starter from day one in Bowles’ 3-4 defense. However, the addition of Akiem Hicks has made that less certain. Nonetheless, even if he doesn’t start, he’ll still play a significant share of the snaps. And in those snaps, I expect him to make the most of his size, speed and athleticism. With so much focus on Vita Vea in the middle and the respect that will have to be paid to Gholston and top pass rusher Shaquil Barrett, I like Hall’s chances to have a path to the quarterback. He may not emerge as a rookie of the year candidate or anything, but I think he plays a massive part in Tampa Bay’s defense from the jump.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 27th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive coordinator/defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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8 days ago

Scott, it’s more of a passing league now than it was when Sapp played. More opportunities to rush the passer means more sacks. So yeah, Hall can easily get 6 sacks as a rookie.

Reply to  surferdudes
6 days ago

Your point is True for sure It is more a “passing” league now. But with Bucs being 1st against run last few years or close to 1st, and having a secondary that is wildly inconsistent, I would bet teams throw more on Bucs than they did when Sapp was here. If not more it’s close probably. Teams don’t even try to run. Hell some games they would throw 60-70 times on us. That contrasted the Bucs when Sapp was here. Bucs passing D was great but you could line up and run on them if you wanted to. They were… Read more »

Last edited 6 days ago by fredster
8 days ago

Mason will help the most. He instantly will improve the running game, enable more effective play action pass which is Tom’s favorite and most effective. Gage and Hicks are next, but Hicks is injury prone and Gage is still injured so chemistry with the QB is yet to be developed. Hall and White are both rookies, tons of potential but will know more at least after the pre season.

Alldaway 2.0
Alldaway 2.0
8 days ago

Logan Ryan in the nickel slot.
Bucs defense will generate more coverage sacks this season IMO.

Reply to  Alldaway 2.0
7 days ago

Your prediction is a given if the secondary isn’t manned by guys literally taken off the street like it was last season.

7 days ago

I’m looking forward to Training Camp practices and seeing how all of the new players look. I’m pretty sure the newcomer who makes the most impact will vary from game to game, but the one, who at this point, is most certain to be an immediate starter, is punter, Jake Camarda.

Reply to  scubog
7 days ago

Funny not a word about Camarda. Expecting him to start, do kickoff and be holder. Same with kicking, Succup and the guy from last year competing.