Okay, it's time for some lists.
Over the next few weeks, Staff Writer Carmen Vitali is going to join me in posting a series of top-five lists on a variety of Buccaneer-related topics. But there's a twist: The list-maker doesn't get to decide the list topic.
Rather, to start each week I'm going to give Carmen a topic for which she must produce her version of a top five. After that is complete, I'll follow with my opinions on her choices, and then we'll present it to you. Later in the week, we'll reverse the process and Carmen will provide me with a topic.
That's the premise; I call it "Give Five," and I'll start by giving Carmen a topic now.
Today's Topic: The top five individual seasons produced by Buccaneer players during the last decade (2010-19).
Not all of these will have specific parameters for the answers, but this one has one: Only one season by any given player allowed on the list. So, if you want Mike Evans on that list somewhere, just choose what you believe to be his best season and then move on to another player.
Take it away, Carmen!
5. Vincent Jackson – 2012
Receiving Yards: 1,384
Awards: Pro Bowl, Best Yards per Reception Average in NFL
It'd be hard to argue that anyone made a more immediate impact than VJax in the early 2010s for the Buccaneers. He may have spent the first part of his career in San Diego, but he enjoyed some of his best career years in the Sunshine State. In fact, his best season came during his first year in Tampa Bay, catching 72 receptions for a career-high 1,384 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012. He also owned the best yards-per-reception average in the league that season with 19.2. For reference, current wide receiver Mike Evans averaged just over 17 yards per catch in each of his last two seasons that sent him to the Pro Bowl. Jackson also had the longest reception in the NFL in 2012 – a 95-yard bomb from Josh Freeman against the division-rival New Orleans Saints in Week Seven.
Speaking of the NFL all-star game, Jackson was selected to the Pro Bowl following his 2012 season. It was his second consecutive selection and last of his three total trips. His 1,384 yards led the team and ranked fifth in the league during a time receivers like Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas were in their prime. It makes leading the league in yards per catch and having the longest receiving play that year even more impressive, am I right?
Jackson now lives in the Bucs record books with the fourth-most receiving yards in just five seasons in the red and pewter. His 95-yard play is also the longest reception in team history. It's only fitting he enjoyed an excellent Buccaneer career after starting it off with a bang in 2012.
View pictures of QB Tom Brady in the new Buccaneers uniforms.
4. Doug Martin – 2012
Rushing Yards: 1,454
Awards: Pro Bowl
Ok, I may be contradicting myself already here by immediately following VJax with the "Muscle Hamster" himself. You might actually remember Martin's 2015 season more when he garnered both Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors. However, his rookie year in 2012 was actually his best season ever statistically, rushing for 1,454 yards with double-digit touchdowns. Talk about an immediate impact.
Martin finished fifth in the league in rushing yards during the 2012 season among a crowded group of running backs. That year, the Vikings' Adrian Peterson rushed for over 2,000 yards and guys like Marshawn Lynch and Jamaal Charles topped 1,500. Martin's 11 touchdowns also ranked fifth, tied with Lynch. Yet, Martin was still overshadowed that year among rookies by Washington's Alfred Morris, who rushed for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns. Numbers like these, for rookie running backs especially, are almost unfathomable not even a decade later in today's NFL, which relies much more heavily on the pass.
Martin was responsible for the overwhelming majority of the Bucs' 1,837 rushing yards, which placed them in the middle of the pack in 2012, ranking 15th in yards gained on the ground. Martin also accounted for 11 of 13 total rushing touchdowns. In essence, Martin was the Bucs' rushing attack that season and he did it all as a rookie. Stats aside, that ups the wow factor over his award-winning 2015 season for me tremendously and puts him at number four on this list.
3. Mike Evans – 2016
Receiving Yards: 1,321
Awards: Pro Bowl
You knew this was coming, right? How could it be anyone else? Evans is the model 'X' receiver and while he may be entering his seventh year in the league, Evans is still very young and very much in his prime. He's arguably been in his prime the whole time. Just take his 2016 season into account, which got him the first Pro Bowl nod of his career.
At first glance, his 2018 season may seem statistically better. He had 1,524 yards over the 1,321 here. But in valuing production over yards output, Evans had a career-high 12 touchdowns in 2016, tying his rookie season total. That was tied for second-most in the league that year, while obviously leading the team. In fact, it was a single-season Bucs record that still stands. And while his yards weren't a career-high, his 96 catches were. They are also the second-most ever by a Bucs receiver. And those catches came at clutch times in 2016. Evans led the league in receiving first downs with 81. So, he was essentially more productive where it counted: moving the chains and getting into the end zone.
View photos of tight end Rob Gronkowski in the new Buccaneers uniforms.
2. Lavonte David – 2013
Tackles: 145 (total), 107 (solo)
Tackles for Loss: 21(!!)
Sacks: 7.0 (!!)
Awards: All-Pro, NFC Defensive Player of the Week (Week 12)
I know, I know, how did I not put David FIRST in this list? As underrated as he is, this was about individual seasons. If we're talking Bucs careers – spoiler alert: you know who I'm putting top two, and probably not two. Though Rondé Barber certainly has a case to be made there… And Derrick Brooks… Warren Sapp… Mike Alstott… Lee Roy Selmon…
What's crazy about David's 2013 season, which was his second in a Bucs' uniform, was that he was named First-Team All-Pro yet somehow didn't make the Pro Bowl. It just further proves that the Pro Bowl is a popularity contest but also… WHY WASN'T LAVONTE DAVID POPULAR THEN? He absolutely dominated. David had the third-most tackles for loss that season. You want to know who else was in the top five? Robert Quinn, J.J. Watt, Adrian Clayborn and Greg Hardy. All defensive ends. In fact, David still dominates – especially in regard to taking down opponents in the backfield. He has the second-most tackles for loss since he entered the league behind only Watt and he's starting a whole level behind Watt. David's combination of recognition, reaction and speed is, and has been, insane. If you haven't noticed 54 on the field, I implore you to get your eyes checked immediately. What's even crazier is that in 2015, David did make the Pro Bowl (the only time in his career) but didn't get on the All-Pro list. Madness. It's madness.
David led the Bucs in tackles (obviously) in 2013, ranking top 5 in the league in the process. The man also recorded a safety that season, which was my own way of differentiating his 2013 season from his 2015 season because honestly, either was viable. David also had double-digit pass breakups with 10 and registered a career-high 7.0 sacks his sophomore season. Oh, and I didn't even mention the five interceptions David had that year, too. Five. As an off-ball backer. If that isn't enough to warrant one of the best defensive seasons in the last decade, I don't know what is.
1. Shaq Barrett – 2019
Tackles for Loss: 19
Awards: Pro Bowl, NFC Defensive Player of the Week (Week 2), NFC Defensive Player of the Month (September)
Well, ok, there may be one better defensive season. I'm really on a roll with this whole contradicting myself thing. The reason I had to put Barrett's 2019 season ahead of David was essentially because of his oh, 19.5 sacks, setting a franchise record and becoming the league's sack king last year. That's just an insane total. It surpassed Warren Sapp's 16.5 sacks, a record that stood in the Tampa Bay record books for nearly two decades. In fact, it was just a year prior that everyone was excited for Jason Pierre-Paul breaking double digits in sacks as a Buc for the first time since 2005 when Simeon Rice did it. Well, Barrett quite literally burst on the scene to show he was about to take care of business in 2019, registering nine sacks in the first four games. Barrett had four on New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones in Week Three alone. Welcome to the league, buddy.
Barrett admittedly tapered off a bit the next couple games but then Pierre-Paul returned from injury and Barrett was as consistent as you could possibly be. Then came the drama. After leading the league for most of the year in sacks, Arizona's Chandler Jones pulled ahead right before the last game of the season. But Barrett would not be denied. He finished the year with three sacks against Atlanta to put him at his whopping finishing total of 19.5, and ahead of Jones.
Here's the thing, though. It wasn't just the sacks. Barrett also tied for the most quarterback hits in the league with 37. He finished with the second-most tackles for loss last year behind only Los Angeles' Aaron Donald with 19 and tallied the third-most forced fumbles with six, too. He was as complete an outside linebacker that you could possibly ask for and surpassed Warren Sapp en route to a record that is likely going to stand long beyond Barrett's Buccaneers tenure.
Scott's Thoughts: Well done. This list is perfectly fine as is.
I can't seriously argue with anything here; I can only quibble. Which I shall now do.
Right after I assigned this topic I tried to come up with my own list off the top of my head. Three of my immediate answers matched ones Carmen has above: Barrett in 2019, David in 2013, Martin in 2012, while I also had Evans but I preferred 2018 over 2016. I was then mulling over a number of options for my fifth season but I had not thought of VJax in 2012. I should have.
I find it hard to exclude Gerald McCoy's 2013 season, in which he had 9.5 sacks from the interior line and was named a first-team All-Pro. The thing about critiquing the exclusion of something from a top five list is that you have to be ready to remove something from that list in order to make room. I guess I could slide in McCoy over Jackson's 2012 season, but that's really a toss-up.
Others that I considered were Aqib Talib in 2010 (six picks), Josh Freeman in 2010 (25 to 6 TD-INT ratio, 95.9 passer rating) and Chris Godwin last year (1,333 yards, nine touchdowns in 14 games). I don't think any of those can unseat Carmen's top five, though.
I only have two other quibbles. As I mentioned above, I'd take Evans's 2018 season over 2016 because yards are more important than catches. Carmen is right to point out his 12 touchdowns in 2016, but the eight he had in 2018 weren't too shabby. And his yardage total set a Buccaneer single-season record.
The other quibble is that I would have put David's 2013 over Barrett's 2019. Yes, Barrett's 19.5 sacks represented an incredible feat and shattered the Bucs' single-season record. That said, David's combination of statistics could be considered even more rare. While noting that the sack wasn't official until 1982 and tackle for loss stats only go back so far, do you know how many players since at least 1999 have had at least 140 tackles, at least 20 tackles for loss, at least five sacks and at least five interceptions in one season? One. Lavonte David in 2013.
Come back on Friday to see what I make of Carmen's challenge involving 20 years worth of Bucs games!