Skip to main content

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Lines of Discussion | S.S. Mailbag

This week, Bucs fans have questions about Calijah Kancey's fit, Tristan Wirfs' potential transition, possible additions in the trenches, and more


In the summer of 2020, I posted a series of articles on about all the jersey numbers from 1-99 (there was no zero option yet) and which player in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history could claim "ownership" of each one. That is, of all the players who have worn a specific number for the team, which had the most impactful career, so to speak. Derrick Brooks, for instance, was an extremely easy choice for number 55 but some others, like choosing between Dave Moore and Vincent Jackson at number 83, were a lot harder.

Why did I take on this 10-part exercise that summer? You may recall that there was a pandemic at the time that had a lot of us confined to our houses and looking for new content ideas. I'm glad I did it, though, as it proved to be a lot of fun and led to some pretty pointed feedback on Twitter. It has also given me a follow-up topic that I've explored the last couple years and am about to do again. When the Bucs assemble a new draft class and eventually assign them their jersey numbers, I like to judge how hard it would be for them to take "ownership" of their numbers from whomever I originally chose in those 2020 articles. Antoine Winfield Jr., for instance, has only needed three years to take the crown at #31, which was a wasteland before his arrival.

So here we go with the Class of 2023, listed in the order that they were drafted:

·    Defensive Lineman Calijah Kancey, #94: This one won't be easy but if Kancey delivers on his first-round pedigree and becomes a pass-rushing force in the middle, he'll have a shot. In the 2020 countdown, I gave this one to Greg Spires, who started opposite Simeon Rice on the 2002 Super Bowl team and started 82 games over six seasons in Tampa. He had some good competition from Adrian Clayborn, Steve White and even the most recent player to wear that number in Tampa, Carl Nassib. All of those players were (or are) defensive ends/edge rushers, so Kancey could at some point steal that number away for the interior guys.

·    Guard Cody Mauch, #69: The history of this numbers has been mostly concentrated at the tackle position, where it was well represented for around two decades straight by Pete Pierson, Anthony Davis and Demar Dotson. Pierson and Davis both had long tenures but not a huge number of starts on their Buc resumes, so when the undrafted Dotson came around and basically locked down the right tackle position for the better part of a decade he easily took ownership of the 69 jersey. Mauch would need to have a long tenure on the Bucs' line – which, of course, is what the team is anticipating – to challenge Dotson, but if he did that and maybe made a Pro Bowl or two he'd have a very good shot.

·    Outside linebacker YaYa Diaby, #0: Last year I jokingly praised tight end Ko Kieft for his strategy in this game, as he chose a number – 41 – that didn't have much history for this franchise. That's nothing compared to what Diaby has done this year. NFL team owners only voted this year to allow players to wear the number zero, so there is absolutely no history of it with the Buccaneers. As soon as Diaby takes one snap in the regular season, he'll be at the top of the 0 jersey list. Hopefully he has a productive enough career in Tampa to make it hard for the next player to wear zero to take it away from him.

·    Inside linebacker SirVocea Dennis, #8: My jersey countdown of a few summers ago will probably be more fun, with more diverse choices, in another 10 or 20 years. The NFL's recent decision to relax the rules about which positions are eligible to take which jersey numbers has led to some choices we've never seen before, like outside linebackers Shaq Barrett and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka donning the numbers 7 and 9, respectively, and now Dennis sliding in at number 8. When I made the original choice of Brian Griese in 2020, he was basically only battling other quarterbacks and the odd kicker or punter. Hall-of-Famer Steve Young is the most famous player to wear #8 for the Bucs, but his time in Tampa was short and the pick was based on what the players had done for Tampa Bay. Griese basically had to beat out Mike Glennon and punter Bradley Pinion. Still, Griese only made 21 starts for the Bucs (he went 12-9 in those starts, it's worth noting), so I wouldn't say he's got this jersey in a death grip. If Dennis develops into a starter he'll have an excellent chance of moving to the top of the list here.

·    Tight end Payne Durham, #87: If you're like me, the player that comes to mind as wearing this number for Tampa is wide receiver Keenan McCardell, who scored two touchdowns in Super Bowl XXXVII and went to the Pro Bowl in 2003. I thought he would be a slam dunk at the position, but in the end those were his only two seasons in Tampa. Meanwhile, wide receiver Gerald Carter has the third most games played at his position in team history and ranks well ahead of McCardell in both receptions and yards. Carter is, in fact, 10th in team history with 3,443 receiving yards, so Durham will have to become a high-volume pass-catcher at the tight end position to catch him.

·    Cornerback Josh Hayes, #32: This one is going to take a lot of work. James Wilder wore the 32 jersey and he is the franchise's all-time leader in rushing yards, a title he has held onto for more than three decades. Wilder also ranks third on the Bucs' all-time charts for receptions and touchdowns. Even if Wilder wasn't in the mix, Hayes would have to surpass some other very productive running backs, such as Michael Pittman and Errict Rhett. And, really, that number was pretty well represented the last three years by ball-hawking safety Mike Edwards.

·    Wide receiver Trey Palmer, #10: You've got kickers, quarterbacks and receivers in this group, and all three with some decent representation. In fact, Palmer is stepping right into the number that his predecessor as the Bucs' speed-demon wideout, Scotty Miller, wore for the last four years. Just before that it was slot receiver Adam Humphries for two of his four Buc seasons, and kicker Connor Barth also did a lot of nice work in the 10 jersey. However, in 2020 I gave the edge to quarterback Shaun King due largely to positional value and his 14-8 record as a starter. If I had to do it over again, I might go with Barth, Humphries or even Miller. That said, my indecision at this spot would seem to indicate that there's an opening for Palmer here if he can put together a string of productive seasons for his new team.

·    Outside linebacker Jose Ramirez, #33: Ramirez is landing amid a group of mostly defensive backs and running backs here, so it will be interesting to see if he can work his way through that crowd. Safety Mark Cotney was the choice back in 2020 and still would be today as he started for most of eight seasons and was a standout on the first great defense in franchise history. Carlton Davis and Jordan Whitehead each wore #33 for two seasons, and if you could combine them into one player they might have a shot, but that's not enough for either of them to supplant Cotney on their own. Ramirez plays a position that could possibly allow him to post some gaudy sack numbers to combat Cotney's tenure and 17 career interceptions.

So there you have it. In this year's draft class, YaYa Diaby obviously has the easiest path to jersey "ownership" in Bucs history, and I would say it will probably be most challenging for Payne Durham. Here's hoping they all make a good run at it.

Now on to your questions.

A reminder that you can send questions to me anytime you want on Twitter (@ScottSBucs) and they're easier to find if you include the hashtag #SSMailbagBucs. We are also now soliciting questions each week on our Instagram page; look for that story on Wednesdays. As always, if you want to get a longer question into the mailbag and would prefer to email your question, you can do so to

How does Calijah Kancey's size compare to the other guys on our defense in person?

- phillyvic (via Instagram)

I like this question because it underscores how relative some of the descriptions are that we use to describe athletes. MLB pitchers whose fastballs top out at 90 miles per hour are slow. Really? If I was in the batter's box, don't think I would see a 90-mph fastball before it hit the catcher's glove. A 6-2 point guard is "undersized." And, in this case, the 6-1, 284-pound Calijah Kancey is "small" for the defensive line position in the NFL.

I read dozens and dozens of scouting reports and mock drafts in the three months leading up to the actual draft and that got certain notions about some of the players fully ingrained in my mind. Bryce Young was extremely good at just everything a quarterback does but a historic outlier in terms of his size, by NFL standards. Peter Skoronski was an absolutely dominant left tackle in college but his arms might be too short to stick at that position in the pros. Emmanuel Forbes was too skinny. Nolan Smith was too light. And Kancey was a very dynamic pass-rusher but his size was a concern for some analysts.

When it came down to it, though, there were plenty of teams that simply saw these guys as fantastic football players, and they all got drafted in the first round. And, again, those terms like "small" and "undersized" are relative. I have now stood next to Kancey and I can tell you he is a very large human being. He is not Vita Vea. Everyone the Bucs have had, with the possible exception of Akiem Hicks, looks small when standing next to Vea. Kancey is a different mold of interior lineman, and the Bucs specifically wanted that for their defensive front.

"Defensively, we've tweaked somethings that [were different] last year," said Head Coach Todd Bowles, in reference to the additions of Kancey, edge rushers YaYa Diaby and Jose Ramirez and off-ball linebacker SirVocea Dennis. "We've been much bigger up front and in the middle. We've still got some size in there but we've got more quickness now. You're playing more college quarterbacks and college people every week and we had to get faster up front – not necessarily 4.4 [40-yard dash time] fast, but faster at certain positions. We thought we did that."

Hall of Fame defensive tackle John Randle played in the NFL from 1990 to 2003. My first year working in the league was 1991, and the Bucs were in the same division as Randle's Vikings for his tenure in Minnesota (1990-2000), so I saw him play an awful lot. I definitely wasn't tuned into NFL draft scouting reports in 1990, so I honestly wasn't aware that Randle was considered way too small for his position, which is why he wasn't even drafted. But now Randle is a guy that supporters of players like Kancey point to as an example, as he played at around 6-1 and 290. Kancey met Randle at this year's Combine and Randle told the soon-to-be NFLer to use the questions about his size as a chip on his shoulder.

Kancey participated in the Bucs' rookie mini-camp last weekend but he won't have full practices with the veteran players until OTAs start next week. So I suppose when we get a chance to see that whole group together we might see some difference between Kancey and a 347-pound Vita Vea or a 6-6 Logan Hall. I doubt, however, that Kancey will in any way look "small."

How do you think Tristan Wirfs is going to do at Left Tackle?

- groomskurtis (via Instagram)

If you were to say that my mailbag answers more often than not lean towards the optimistic side, I'd probably have to wear that. But in this case I don't think you need to take my answer with a grain of salt: I have zero doubt that Tristan Wirfs is going to be an excellent left tackle. I think it won't be long before he is recognized as one of the best left tackles in the NFL.

Wirfs is an unbelievable athlete crammed inside a 6-5, 320-pound frame. I mean, you've seen him jump straight out of a pool, right? That shouldn't be possible. He's ridiculously nimble for such a big man and he's very strong, as well. He handles speed rushers and bull rushers with equal aplomb. But what makes me particularly confident that he will handle this likely transition to the left side well is that he just seems so serene and calm about everything he does for his profession. I remember laughing when reporters tried to get him to say the typical line about transforming from a nice guy off the field to a nasty competitor on the field and he basically said (I'm paraphrasing), "I don't really need to do that to play well."

To me, Wirfs' reaction to being told he may now be a left tackle has been, in spirit, a shrug of the shoulders and, 'Okay, I'll start working on that now.' He actually began the process before the Bucs commenced their offseason program, just in case, so he's pretty well into the transition. As coaches always say, you can't get a true feel for how offensive linemen are performing until the pads go on and the hitting begins in training camp, but in this case the concerns are mostly footwork and hand placement, and that's something you can see right now. Apparently, it's going well.

"He's had an unbelievable attitude with it," said Offensive Line Coach Joe Gilbert last week. "Every day he looks better and better, more comfortable. Obviously that's going to be a process, but I think so far, it's coming along very well. Again, it's muscle memory, it's all those little things that he's had a million and five reps over at the right side and now trying to do the same over on the left, so it's a little bit of a process out there. But he's got the right attitude."

Look, I'm not saying that moving from right tackle to left tackle in the NFL is easy. But I do think it's kinda easy for Tristan. He's just that good.

Why did we sign another QB? We don't need more QBs, we need linemen.

- nolan_martinez (via Instagram)

I don't really get this question at all. The Bucs absolutely did need another quarterback before they signed former Ram John Wolford. They may still need another one, though both Bowles and Offensive Coordinator Dave Canales have said that's not necessarily a given. But before Wolford's arrival the Buccaneers only had two quarterbacks on the roster in Kyle Trask and Baker Mayfield. Going into training camp with only two quarterbacks is completely unheard of. You generally have first, second and third-team offensive units in camp when you have a bloated 90-man roster, and each of those groups has its own quarterback. There are way too many reps to go around during camp to carry just two quarterbacks.

In the Bucs' case, Trask and Mayfield are likely to share first-team reps since they are in an open competition for the starting job. Anything can happen, of course, but Wolford was not brought in to be part of that competition. He gives the Bucs a third quarterback who has some NFL starting experience and has played in an offensive system similar to what Canales is installing.

I also don't understand why this is an either/or proposition. If you think the Bucs need more linemen, why does signing a third quarterback preclude that from happening? A 90-man roster is huge. There's room for massive depth at all kinds of positions. The Bucs currently have two long-snappers on the roster. They have two kickers, as well, and 10 edge rushers when they will probably only carry five at the most during the regular season.

I'm also unclear as to whether you mean offensive or defensive linemen? Either way, neither of those positions is hurting for numbers right now. Last summer, the Bucs took 16 offensive linemen and 10 defensive linemen (excluding edge rushers) into training camp. Right now they are carrying 17 offensive linemen and nine defensive linemen. If it is your opinion that the team needs to sign another likely starter for the offensive or defensive line, that's a different argument, but they did add Matt Feiler in free agency and drafted Calijah Kancey in the first round, so it's not like they've been silent on those matters, either.

Who do you think is the best trash talker on the team?

- 818_jayj

I think that title has to go to center Ryan Jensen, who is well known for antagonizing opponents, usually in a way that ends up benefitting the Buccaneers. Some of that has to do with the way he continues to battle through the whistle, but I'm pretty sure he gets some verbal jabs in, as well.

Beyond that, I don't have a lot of personal knowledge on this topic but I asked around a little bit and was told that Mike Evans and Devin White would be high on the list. We've certainly seen Mike mix it up with some guys in the past.

Related Content

Latest Headlines