The PewterReport.com Roundtable features the opinions of the PR staff as it tackles a topic each week that involves the Bucs. This week’s topic: Which Player Leads The Bucs In Sacks In 2021?
Scott Reynolds: Barrett Retakes Bucs’ Sack Title With 13
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I already chimed in on this topic in my SR’s Fab 5 column on Friday, stating that outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett would retake the Bucs’ sack title with 13. Barrett was Tampa Bay’s leading sacker in 2019 with a career-high 19.5 sacks, which also set a new franchise record and earned him his first Pro Bowl berth. More importantly, it led to Barrett getting the franchise tag last year and parlaying that into a contract extension this year worth an average of $17 million.
Bucs OLB Shaquil Barrett – Photo by: USA Today
Barrett only had eight sacks last year, and was third on the team behind fellow outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul (9.5) and inside linebacker Devin White (nine). Pierre-Paul made the Pro Bowl and was the lone selection from Tampa Bay.
This year, I suspect Barrett will be back in the Pro Bowl with his team-leading 13 sacks. He’s already gone on record saying he was disappointed in his regular season sack total last year (he notched four in the postseason). I’m expecting Barrett to want to prove to the team that he’s worth every penny of his contract extension. He’s not the kind of player that will get paid the big bucks and rest on his laurels.
Barrett will have the chance to race out to an early lead on Thursday night as the Bucs will be facing a Cowboys team that has All-Pro right guard Zack Martin out with COVID-19. Right tackle La’el Collins has missed some practice time due to injury too, and won’t be 100 percent when he faces Barrett in the season opener. With Pierre-Paul moving inside on third-and-long and obvious passing downs to allow rookie Joe Tryon-Shoyinka to come on the field as an edge rusher, Barrett should have the most opportunities to capture quarterbacks this season from the edge. Barrett edges JPP in sacks, 13 to 12.
Jon Ledyard: Pierre-Paul Continues Late Career Surge With Bucs
When Pierre-Paul arrived in Tampa Bay, his career looked like it was coming to a close. But playing in Todd Bowles defense has rejuvenated the edge rusher, who has 18 sacks in 26 games during the Arians regime. Pierre-Paul led the Bucs in sacks last season with 9.5, but should be more productive in 2021 thanks to greater depth at the position.
The presence of Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and a healthy Vita Vea should make life better for Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett. Tryon-Shoyinka will be able to keep the duo fresher than they were a year ago, when the Bucs didn’t have a reliable No. 3 outside linebacker. Now they have a rookie knocking down the door to get on the field. Vea’s return will also make an impact, as teams will have to alter protection schemes to avoid leaving him one-on-one.
Pierre-Paul is a good edge rusher, but he’s even more effective as an interior pass rusher. Tampa Bay deployed him sparingly in that role over the past two years, a strategy which should change this season. Getting Tryon-Shoyinka more snaps will be a priority for the Bucs coaching staff, and Pierre-Paul’s ability to kick inside in obvious passing situations will help make that happen. Bring the rookie off the edge, bookending Barrett, and let Vea and Pierre-Paul work on the interior offensive line. Better usage rates and more ideal matchups will help Pierre-Paul lead the Bucs in sacks against this season with 10.5.
Matt Matera: You Can Never Count Out JPP
There aren’t many players in the NFL that have a better work ethic than Jason Pierre-Paul. His willingness to win by putting in relentless effort each season leads me to believe that he can lead the Bucs in sacks again this season. As great of a teammate he is, you know JPP likes the competition of coming in first against his teammates.
Bucs OLB Jason Pierre-Paul – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Let’s take a look at Pierre-Paul’s time in Tampa Bay, shall we? His first year in 2018, Pierre-Paul broke a decade-long Bucs drought of recording double digit sacks with 12.5. While next season was all about Shaq Barrett’s incredible season, JPP worked his way back from a fractured vertebrae to record 8.5 sacks in 10 games. He follows that up by leading the Bucs in a Super Bowl-winning season, getting to the quarterback 9.5 times. The man is always determined.
On top of all of that, Pierre-Paul said that this is the healthiest he has been in years going into the season. He feels like the JPP from 2010, and he’s been working on some new pass rushing moves as well. Not that he needs anymore motivation, but Pierre-Paul is in a contract year, so having a good season could result in him earning another contract that keeps him with the Bucs again. The Bucs will share the wealth when it comes to recording sacks, so Pierre-Paul leads the way with 11. That 11th sack would also be his 100th career quarterback capture.
JC Allen: The Return Of Sack Barrett
Shaquil Barrett notched 14 sacks over his first five seasons in the NFL with the Broncos. After signing a one-year deal with the Bucs in 2019, Barrett exploded onto the scene with 19.5 sacks. Slapped with the franchise tag, Barrett came back down to earth in 2020, tallying only eight sacks last season. Despite the drop in sack numbers, Barrett led the league with 77 pressures, per Pro Football Focus.
Once Vita Vea came back in the postseason, there was an immediate uptick in Barrett’s production. The edge rusher sacked Aaron Rodgers three times in the NFC Championship, while consistently putting pressure on Patrick Mahomes in the Super Bowl. Having Vea back for a full season is sure to lead to higher sack totals in 2021.
Combined with Vea’s return, the addition of Joe Tryon-Shoyinka will allow the coaching staff to move Jason Pierre-Paul inside on obvious passing situations. While JPP is still effective rushing inside, it will give Barrett more opportunities to get after opposing quarterbacks. After signing a huge four-year, $72 million deal in the offseason, Barrett isn’t the type of player to let complacency set in. For all those reasons, I think we”ll get the return of “Sack Barrett” in 2021, as he’ll lead the team with 14.5 sacks.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com 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 line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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