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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Shaq Barrett, Bucs' Pass Rush Took a Step Forward in New Jersey

Star edge rusher Shaquil Barrett is running free of concern about his repaired Achilles tendon, and in a joint practice with the Jets the Bucs' defensive front as a whole looked like it is ready to make a greater impact in 2023


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers expect to be confronted with some difficult decisions regarding their defensive front when the league-wide roster cutdown day arrives in less than two weeks. They didn't get any easier on Wednesday…and that's a good thing.

Though there are no stats in practice and hitting the quarterback is understandably prohibited, the Buccaneers left their joint practice with the New York Jets feeling as if their pass rush had made a noticeable impact. Getting more consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks, particularly off the edges, was an offseason emphasis for Todd Bowles' team and Wednesday provided the first opportunity against another team to see how much progress had been made.

The Bucs' pass rush appeared to pressure Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers multiple times in the final two-minute drill of practice, with third-year outside linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka notably getting into the backfield multiple times.

"We affected the quarterback a little more," said Bowles on Thursday. "Joe showed more of his natural athleticism, getting back there. I'm very happy to see that part of it. Overall, they're working well as a group."

The Bucs are hoping for more out of Tryon-Shoyinka, their 2021 first-round pick, after a pair of four-sack seasons to start his career. However, the player who could see the biggest leap in his production over last season is outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett, who was one of the NFL's top sack producers from 2019-21. Barrett had 3.0 sacks to his credit in 2022 before a midseason Achilles tendon tear ended his campaign. Barrett has been running without limitations in training camp, but actually cutting it loose against another opponent was an important mile marker in his complete return to form.

"I needed that," said Barrett. "I was talking to Coach Bowles like, 'I think I want to play in this game.' He was like, 'You play in the game you might get injured.' But after getting this practice against the Jets I was like, 'That's all I needed.' I just wanted to get my feet wet again because I hadn't played in a game in so long and I've just been practicing against our own team, which is still good work but it's different going against another team. Being able to do that for me personally was very beneficial, and for the defense, offense and special teams it was beneficial to be able to get full-speed looks without actually having to be in a game."

The best part for Barrett was his state of mind, which was clear of all lingering worries about his surgically-repaired tendon.

"So I'm out there now and I don't even think about it," he said. "I just read and react. Literally, I don't think about it, I don't feel it. I'm pretty much 100% healed. I don't feel it at all. It was just good just getting that edge, being able to go up against another tackle, feel the weight of him, bend, drop and dip. I feel speed but don't feel anything at all [in the Achilles tendon]."

The Bucs practiced this week without 2023 draft picks Yaya Diaby and Jose Ramirez taking part in team drills due to minor injuries, so they were down a few contributors in the defensive front. The ones who did go up against the Jets' offensive front, however, came together to produce the kind of push that Bowles hopes to see in the regular season. It was the collaborative effort that pleased him upon reviewing tape of practice.

"There were guys that had good plays, I'm not saying they didn't," said Bowles. "There are guys that are getting better. I don't think they stood out to a certain degree. Sometimes the ones were against the threes and vice versa. I thought as a group our front seven kind of got better as a whole. They played together, so that was important to me."

Given the needed boost he got out of Wednesday's practice with the Jets, Barrett will probably watch Saturday's game from the sideline. In a way, that may be best for the defense as a whole, as it will provide more information for those tough calls the coaches will have to make on cutdown day.

"I think we've got a great group," said Barrett. "I think there's going to be a lot of tough decisions that are going to have to be made. That's what you've got to do as a player in this league. You have to make them make hard decisions. I'm just excited to see what they do because all camp they've been balling, they made some plays in the [first] game and there's another game coming up and I have no doubt they'll make more plays."

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