Calijah Kancey Receives Recognition: NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month
For his stellar contributions on the field, Buccaneers' rookie Calijah Kancey was named the November NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month. Kancey led all rookies in November with seven tackles for loss – two more than any other rookie and four more than any other non-Buccaneers rookie. His seven tackles for loss are tied for the most among all NFL players in the month of November, and more than any other non-Buccaneers player. Kancey ranks second among all rookies in November with 14 pressures and he is tied for second among all rookies in November with four quarterback hits. The former Pittsburgh star has not only met the expectations that encompass his first-round draft status, but he has exceeded them. He has made his presence felt in the Bucs' interior with urgent athleticism, elite contact balance and explosion off the snap. Kancey attacks with proper leverage and is able to drive blockers back. He is a physical run defender and possesses the range to disrupt ball carriers. Kancey led all FBS defensive tackles in tackles for loss (14.5) in 2022 and he has continued the trend in the NFL. With first-step quickness, Kancey has the ability to slide past blockers and get skinny – maneuvering his hip placement – to knife through gaps. He adds another dimension to the Bucs' defensive interior and has a limitless ceiling in Tampa Bay.
The 4-7 Buccaneers are one game behind the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints in the NFC South race, and they have one game left against both of those teams in addition to two matchups against the Panthers. The division is up for grabs and the Bucs are entering Week 13 with a narrowed view at minimizing self-inflicted wounds. The club's aspirations are still achievable despite their record and the Bucs - as cliché as it sounds - control their own destiny. Tampa Bay is preparing for the visiting divisional foe with a must-win mentality.
"For me, my mindset right now – and it should be for the whole team – is we're in a playoff-mode mentality," described Baker Mayfield. "We have to take care of business each week to move on and to get to where we want to go. It's a matter of we don't really have a lot of room [for error], there's no slack. We have to pick up the pace. We have to have a sense of urgency about it. I think now everybody realizes what is at stake. We have to win out. We have to win these division games to get to where we want to go and to get into the playoffs. It's a sense of urgency. It's a matter of guys doing all the treatment and getting everything we need to get done. Young guys stepping up and realizing that they're going to play a pivotal role in this final season push that we have. Everybody just has to be on board."
Mike Evans' Red Zone Prowess
Mike Evans has cemented a Hall of Fame-worthy career between the hash marks, seemingly shattering records week-after-week. It is hard for a receiver in the NFL to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark for two or three seasons in a row and Evans has done it every year he has been in the league. Even more impressively, he has accomplished the coveted – yet often elusive achievement - with a revolving door at quarterback and with multiple offensive schemes and offensive coordinators. Evans consistently commands double teams when he is on the field. He powers through jams with physicality and can box out defenders in contested catch situations like a big-framed tight end. Evans' trademark is his ability to highpoint the football over the top of defensive backs and he is lethal on back-shoulder fades. Evans resumé puts him in the company of Jerry Rice and Randy Moss – two of the best receivers in NFL history – which encapsulates his imprint on the modern era. Against the Colts in Week 12, Evans hauled in his eighth and ninth receiving touchdowns of the season and the 89th and 90th of his NFL career. With his first touchdown in the game, Evans broke a tie with Don Maynard (88) for the 15th-most touchdown receptions in league history. Evans led the team with six receptions for 70 yards and two touchdowns. With subtle route movements that generate separation, Evans has become a go-to target for Baker Mayfield in the red zone.
"I think the first touchdown shows exactly why Mike is so great," said Baker Mayfield. "He understands it's a two-man concept. If he runs it a certain way, they could pass the concept off, but he gives an inside leverage stem and really makes the guy think he is going to go in, loses him… when you show the film, there is not anybody in the picture when he has the ball in his hands. He understands how to beat coverages [and] how to win off coverages. He has done it consistently. It's obviously pretty easy to throw to and he makes my job easy."