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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Point-Counterpoint: Biggest Leap by a Buc in 2023

As we begin our traditional round of Fourth of July week debates, Brianna Dix and Scott Smith offer up a pair of candidates, both second-year players on offense, to take the biggest step forward in production this season


The Fourth of July holiday is on Tuesday in the United States, which means this is a week many of us will be thinking about freedom, vacations, barbecues, firework displays and debates.

Wait, debates? Okay, I guess that's not actually a tradition around the Fourth of July. But maybe it should be! I mean, what did the Founding Fathers love more than debating? Would the Patriots have prevailed over the Tories in their push to fight for independence without Thomas Paine's famous argument in his "Common Sense" pamphlet? Meanwhile, the drafting of the U.S. Constitution took an entire convention's worth of debating to make it to paper.

Okay, I'll stop before this starts to feel like summer school. The point is that a healthy debate or two makes a lot of sense this week, so that's exactly what Staff Writer/Reporter Brianna Dix and I are going to do for the next few days. It's our annual series of Point-Counterpoint discussions (in some years called Roundtables instead) during the Fourth of July Week, when players and coaches are scattered for one last break and the AdventHealth Training Center is much quieter than usual.

Brianna and I have five Bucs-related topics we will be debating this week. Here's the whole schedule:

Monday, July 3: Which Buccaneer player will make the biggest leap in his performance in 2023?

Tuesday, July 4: If Tampa Bay, hypothetically, doesn't win its third straight NFC South title, which team will?

Wednesday, July 5: Which Buccaneer player do you predict will win a significant individual award this season?

Thursday, July 6: What is one statistic you hope to see regarding the Buccaneers by the end of the 2023 season?

Friday, July 7: What one player would you like to steal from another NFC South roster to add to the Bucs' roster?

That means were discussing the "Big Leap" today, Brianna. To be more specific, the idea is to predict one player on the Bucs' current roster whose performance in 2023 will be significantly better, more productive or more impactful than it has been to this point in his career. This rules out all the rookies because these players need some baseline NFL performance to leap from.

We won't be duplicating answers, so the order that Brianna and I get to attack this question in matters. In an effort to be chivalrous, I will cede the starting spot today to my colleague, but if she takes my answer I'm not going to be happy. Take it away, Brianna!

Brianna Dix: RB Rachaad White

Scott, there are many players that I was deliberating between of granting the "Big Leap" status in 2023, including third-year outside linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka. However, for the purposes of this debate, taking the Buccaneers' new offensive system under Dave Canales into consideration, I am going with second-year running back Rachaad White.

During his rookie campaign, White showed flashes and improved enough in pass protection to be a three-down back. The Buccaneers finished last in the league in rushing offense last season, averaging 76.9 yards per game on the ground (franchise worst), which forced the Tampa Bay offense to become one-dimensional in a perpetual cycle of catch-up. Tom Brady attempted a career-high 756 passing attempts at the age of 45, including 50-plus per game over the final month of the season. The Bucs' lack of a complementary attack certainly impacted the stat sheet, as White concluded his first year with 481 yards on 129 rushes and a touchdown for an average of 3.7 yards per attempt. In the passing game, White contributed 290 yards on 50 receptions and two touchdowns. One of his most notable moments was the nasty stiff-arm against Seattle's Quandre Diggs in Germany, where White demoralized the defender to gain additional yardage.

This season, the Bucs' new implemented system is expected to have an emphasis on marrying the run and the pass game, with an increase in movement featuring scrambles, bootlegs, wide-zone runs, mid-zone runs, misdirection and jet sweeps. White could serve as the beneficiary, becoming the team's offensive catalyst in 2023. He possesses inside-outside versatility and has the slash-running style to thrive on edge runs. White is patient in reading his block development and is able to quickly transition post-cut. Head Coach Todd Bowles confirmed that White will have more responsibility placed on his shoulders in 2023 and his breakout year could materialize come fall. The last Bucs' running back to eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing marker was Doug Martin in 2015 and if White continues his upward trajectory, he could be next. Scott, who do you think will take the biggest leap in 2023?

Scott Smith: T Luke Goedeke

That's a very good choice, Brianna. One of the most important factors in a player taking a big step forward in his production is opportunity. In this case, the Bucs look like they will be marrying a much bigger piece of the offensive pie with a player who has clearly demonstrated some exiting talent.

The same thing could be said of a few more young players on the Bucs' depth chart, including defensive tackle Logan Hall, cornerback Zyon McCollum and, of course, quarterback Kyle Trask. However, I'm not totally comfortable in predicting that any of the three will definitely land a much bigger role in 2023, so I won't be picking any of them. You're mention of Tryon-Shoyinka makes sense and is tempting; he already had a big role last year and likely will again this season, and Head Coach Todd Bowles said the main reason for the young pass-rushers lower-than-expected sack totals are that he just didn't finish enough plays. There are a couple of little adjustments the coaches will be helping him make that could change that, such as not leaving his feet too early when closing in on the quarterback.

So I could reasonably choose JTS, but I'm going to go in a different direction. My selection is second-year offensive tackle Luke Goedeke, and one of the main reasons I made that choice is that position designation: Offensive tackle. The current plan for the Bucs' offensive line, as has been made clear by several coaches, is to have Goedeke start at right tackle after All-Pro Tristan Wirfs switches to the left side to replace the departed Donovan Smith. This is a very good opportunity for Goedeke.

As a rookie last year, Goedeke was inserted into the lineup first at left guard, taking that spot on opening day. This was a switch of both position and side of the line for the second-round draft pick, who played right tackle at Central Michigan. It wasn't an easy transition by any means, and Goedeke's play was uneven through seven starts before he was knocked out by a foot injury. When he was healthy enough to play again, the Bucs chose to stick with Nick Leverett at left guard. Goedeke made one more start in 2022…at right tackle.

That was the season finale at Atlanta, and Goedeke's performance at his more familiar position was encouraging. He showed good awareness and vision at that spot to determine where the pass-rushers were coming from and he sealed off the edge well on multiple running plays to his side. He clearly understands how to play the right tackle position and what angles to take when asked to make blocks on the move. He also moves well in space for a 6-5, 312-pound blocker, which should come in handy in a new run scheme that will involve more wide-zone concepts.

One solid game isn't proof that Goedeke will definitely be the long-term solution at right tackle, of course. Still, it's noteworthy that the Buccaneers could have used one of their first two draft picks on a tackle prospect who could reasonably have been expected to challenge for the right tackle spot, but instead they chose a defensive tackle and projected guard. The primary backups on the current depth chart are Justin Skule and Brandon Walton. This tells me that the Bucs' coaches are confident that Goedeke can handle the job well. I'm going to join in that optimism and pick the second-year lineman as my "Big Leap" candidate for 2023.

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