Position Group: Outside Linebacker
Players: Shaquil Barrett, Yaya Diaby, Anthony Nelson, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Cam Gill, Markees Watts, Jose Ramirez (Reserve/Future)
2023 Evaluation: The Buccaneers tied for seventh in the NFL with 48 sacks in 2023, led by rookie Yaya Diaby, who totaled 7.5. Todd Bowles dialed up a myriad of exotic pressure packages throughout the year that kept offenses off-balance as players collapsed the pocket from a variety of alignments in the Bucs' attack-styled system.
Shaquil Barrett, the team's 2023 Ed Block Courage Award recipient, tore an Achilles tendon on October 27 of last year, prematurely ending his 2022 season at the midway point. Nine months after suffering the significant injury, the Buccaneers conducted the first practice of their 2023 training camp, and Barrett was back on the field, running full speed. He avoided starting camp with the active/Physically Unable to Perform designation, bolstering the squad. In 2023, the two-time Pro Bowl veteran amassed 4.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, 52 combined tackles, three tackles for loss and nine quarterback hits on 652 snaps played. Barrett leveraged his speed with a vast array of pass rush moves in his arsenal. He was relentless in pursuit of quarterbacks and helped set the tone up front.
Rookie Yaya Diaby, the Bucs' third-round draft pick (82 overall), started out the year in a rotational role in certain sub-packages for Tampa Bay. Given his production on the field with a smaller sample size of snaps, Diaby earned additional playing time opposite Shaquil Barrett. He served primarily as a run defender in college but quickly showcased his versatility at the pro level. Diaby's short-area burst and acceleration off the ball made him an ideal fit for Todd Bowles' blitzes/stunts. Despite starting only seven games for the Buccaneers this past season, Diaby proved to be one of the most dominant young defenders in the NFL from the 2023 Draft class. He notched his first start in Week 12 against the Colts and racked up 38 tackles, one forced fumble and 7.5 sacks in 2023 on 515 defensive snaps. He became a disruptive force in the trenches with a rare blend of power and speed. Diaby has a high ceiling and only scratched the surface during his first year.
Anthony Nelson and served in a rotational role in 2023 on defense and contributed on special teams, along with Cam Gill and Markees Watts. Nelson played 409 defensive snaps in 2023 and accumulated 3.0 sacks, 40 combined tackles, seven tackles for loss and six quarterback hits. The rangy player showcased initial quickness and above average change-of-direction skills. Tryon-Shoyinka played 579 defensive snaps (12 game starts, 17 games played) and tallied 5.0 sacks, 45 tackles, seven tackles for loss and seven quarterback hits. Tryon-Shoyinka is sound in lateral movements and has solid bend for his lengthy frame. Once tackles overset, Tryon-Shoyinka wins with inside leverage.
2024 Outlook: Cam Gill is the only player who is a pending unrestricted free agent. The Buccaneers will seemingly retain their starters and the majority of their depth options, forming continuity along the line. In 2023, the Bucs' edge defender unit ranked 20th in sacks and 28th in pressures. For 2024, Tampa Bay will strive to continue an upward trajectory off the edge with consistent production.