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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Joe Tryon-Shoyinka Stresses Mental Fortitude in Year 3 

In the process of refining his pass rush repertoire for the upcoming 2023 season, Buccaneers outside linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka is focusing on building the “willpower to finish”

JTS year 3

During offseason workouts, cleats hit the grass and endless possibilities await. OTAs are in the rearview and the page turns to mandatory minicamp, the prelude to July's training camp. As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gear up for the 2023 NFL slate, outside linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka aims for ascension in Year Three. A new league year often sparks evaluation on the previous one, cultivating growth. 

"We like what he was doing last year," Head Coach Todd Bowles assessed on Joe Tryon Shoyinka's 2022 campaign. "He was kind of missing at the top of the pass rush – he probably missed more [sacks] than he made. If he can wrap up and tackle those, he'll be right where we want him to be…It's not leaving your feet so early and it's going through – pushing through – with your shoulder and understanding when you can go for the ball and when you can't go for the ball."

Tryon-Shoyinka, the Bucs' 2021 first-round pick, was asked to play multiple positions during his rookie campaign in order to maximize his time on the field in the defensive rotation. The Washington product rushed from the edge, the three-technique spot and he served as an off-ball linebacker. He concluded the 2021 season with 10 quarterback hits, five tackles for loss, three passes defensed and 4.0 sacks in 560 defensive snaps (17 games played). Tryon-Shoyinka had the opportunity to cement a starting role opposite Shaquil Barrett in 2022 following the departure of Jason Pierre-Paul via free agency. Last season, Tryon-Shoyinka served in a full-time role as a 3-4 defensive end/OLB. His pursuit skills in space and ability to close on the quarterback flashed, but Tryon-Shoyinka was not able to reach his full potential in the Bucs' defensive front. 

In 2022, Tryon-Shoyinka posted 41 tackles (23 solo), six tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, 14 quarterback hits and two passes defensed. With rare bend for his size and outside-in rush fluidity, Tryon-Shoyinka has a limitless upside. As he continues to face numerous block combinations and expands his toolkit of counters while modifying rush angles, Tryon-Shoyinka will reach unimagined heights. The 24-year-old has the physical traits and closing speed to become a high-impact defender. For context, he only had a couple of seasons to develop at the collegiate level. Tryon-Shoyinka redshirted in 2017 and had a limited role in 2018 before becoming a second-team All-Pac 12 selection in 2019. Then, he opted out of the COVID-condensed 2020 season to prepare for the 2021 Draft.

Tryon-Shoyinka is still a young pass rusher who will continue to ascend with repetition. Increased snaps will create a better comprehensive look at the defense, allowing Tryon-Shoyinka to play faster. As Tryon-Shoyinka vies to refine his leverage/positioning when setting the edge and pass-rush arsenal to bait offensive tackles, he can reach the next level. When Tryon-Shoyinka breaks free, he eats up space quickly with his speed and closes well, but getting off blocks consistently and knocking the quarterback to the ground is a point of emphasis in 2023. 

"It's just mental at this point," Tryon-Shoyinka described. "You've got to have that willpower to finish, and being in position isn't enough. You want to make those plays – you're going to rewind those plays that you missed every time and be sick, thinking about what could have been. At the end of the day, you've got to move on and try to improve and that's all I'm going to do."

The NFL has an insatiable desire for pressure players that collapse the pocket. Tryon-Shoyinka has an impressive get-off paired with the coveted explosion/power elements. Now, the work will be put in to unleash those skills in 2023 when toe meets leather. 

In February, the Buccaneers made changes, adding to Todd Bowles' coaching staff with the hiring of outside linebackers coach George Edwards. Edwards most recently served on the Cowboys staff for the previous three seasons and is in his fourth decade as a football coach. His NFL career has spanned 25 seasons thus far, beginning with Dallas as a linebackers coach in 1998. After four seasons with the Cowboys, he had stints in Washington, Cleveland, Miami (twice), Buffalo and Minnesota and worked as a defensive coordinator or co-defensive coordinator for Washington, the Bills and the Vikings. His most recent role in Dallas was a senior defensive assistant position. With his detail-oriented approach, Edwards was credited with the development of young NFL phenom, Micah Parsons. Edwards' knowledge of the game will likely accelerate the refinement process for Tryon-Shoyinka in Year Three. 

"I think the biggest thing is to take some of the thinking out of it from a schematic standpoint and to just focus on the little things that can give him an advantage whether it is something pre-snap, or technique, or fundamentally post-snap," Edwards described on Tryon-Shoyinka's growth. "I think that is the biggest thing that we have been working on is the technique and the fundamental part. A lot of those things will not come to fruition until we get in pads, but I think working through some of the movements to get muscle memory and those kind of things whether it's blunt protection, whether it's rushing the passer, whether it is the aiming point, or whether it is different decision-making things, the muscle memory helps you feel. Then when you get in those situations, you can react to them faster." 

In a pass-centric league, there is a premium placed on sack numbers. However, that metric can not solely summarize a player's production on the field or dictate success. It only paints a portion of the full picture. Double teams, a quarterback's quick release and a myriad of factors influence sack numbers. Even though Tryon-Shoyinka may not have flashed on the stat sheet in 2022 given his high-rep count, he affected the pocket and often moved the quarterback off his spot, drawing extra protection. However, in a stat-driven industry, racking up numbers is the ultimate goal. 

"All I can do is take the body of work that he has had thus far and look at the things that I think we can help improve on and just try and focus/concentrate on those things," said Edwards. "Finishing plays is a huge part but I do not want to put a stigma or a limitation on him that he has not done those things yet. I want to focus on the things it will take to get him there to finish those reps. When you lose a double-digit sack guy in Shaq [Barrett], that is nothing to laugh at. When you look at him rushing last year, a lot of teams were still getting protection to his side whether chipping him out or those kinds of things, because they recognized his ability to rush. So now, we just have to clean up his angles and his toolbox and add some things to his toolbox. As he keeps progressing, I think you will see the result of that. That is our goal right now to create that toolbox and for him to feel comfortable. I think it is all-encompassing. It is not one thing. Everybody likes to just count sacks but there is a lot to be said for presence and moving the quarterback. If you look at batting averages in baseball, you have to look at sacks in the same category. They are hard to come by. If you look at his rush ratio and the number of sacks, that ratio would not be that high. But the whole thing is to get him to where he is finishing the product."

The Bucs will face several teams in 2023 with young signal-callers at the helm. The quarterbacks with an inexperienced NFL resumé lining the Bucs' opponent compilation includes the Panthers (Bryce Young), Falcons (Desmond Ridder), Texans (C.J. Stroud) and Colts (Anthony Richardson). Tryon-Shoyinka will strive to capitalize with several unseasoned players set to take their place under center across the line of scrimmage. In the same way that a singular play can shift the outcome of a game, a breakout campaign for an athlete can change the trajectory of a career. For Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, this could be that year.

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