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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Calijah Kancey Impresses in Preliminary Non-Padded Field Work

As training camp arrives, General Manager Jason Licht dishes on Calijah Kancey’s “wow” plays during the offseason workout program

Calijah Kancey pre-training camp story

Eat. Sleep. Breathe. Football. Rinse. Repeat. 

Training camp has arrived and with it, a repetitive schedule that mimics the classic, Groundhog Day. NFL players will undergo a strenuous itinerary of meetings, lifts, practice, more classroom sessions and detailed walk-thru's. For Buccaneers rookie Calijah Kancey, he will begin to forge the foundation that he will build on throughout the duration of his pro career. During the upcoming extensive training period, Kancey will suit up in pads for the first time and stive to showcase the skills that warranted a first-round grade. In the preliminary minicamp stage, Kancey drew the attention of General Manager Jason Licht. 

"The number of wow plays that he had in shorts was more than I was even expecting," Licht stated on Tuesday behind the podium. "So, that does not necessarily translate to making a bunch of plays in the NFL his rookie season. I am not saying that he will for sure be an All-Pro his rookie season or anything like that but seeing this defense – I don't want to say transform – but mold into what Todd [Bowles] does really like, an explosive and penetrating front that can get pressure up the middle as well as off the edge, with the tools that we have, it will be exciting."

A three-year starter at Pittsburgh, Kancey had a breakout campaign in 2021, accumulating 13.0 tackles for loss, 7.0 sacks, one forced fumble and a pass defensed. He continued to emerge in 2022, further cementing his draft status. Kancey led all FBS defensive tackles in tackles for loss (14.5), with 46.8 percent of his tackles coming in enemy territory, and became the program's first unanimous All-American since Aaron Donald. He also received ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors for his contributions in the trenches. Kancey had the most pressures for an interior defensive lineman, with 13 more than second place out of Power 5 schools. With elite quickness off the snap, violent hands and stellar awareness, Kancey became the focal point of pressure packages in Pat Narduzzi's system. At Pitt, Kancey built a calculated rush plan weekly to beat the opponent across the line of scrimmage. 

Due to his small frame by NFL defensive linemen standards (6-foot-1, 281 pounds), Kancey had to diligently prioritize his technique at the point of attack in preparation for double teams. Other interior defensive linemen with a larger frame can still survive on plays without proper fundamentals. For Kancey, he must utilize near-flawless technique in order to achieve the proper leverage or he will be moved off his spot. What others perceived as a knock, Kancey turned into a strength. 

Now in Tampa Bay, Kancey will have a few weeks of crucial padded contact against NFL competition, including two joint practices with the Jets, before game-like scenarios commence during the preseason where the intensity is palpable, and the stakes are high. Kancey adds an infusion of speed to Bowles' penetrating, attack-styled front. Whether collapsing the pocket from the interior or the edge, Kancey adds another dimension to the trenches. As camp kicks off, the Pitt star will vie to earn his place as a pro. Kancey is off to a promising start and will look to continue the trend in pads.

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