Bucs OLB Tryon-Shoyinka’s development path
Lost in the disappointment of the Bucs’ 34-23 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday was the fact that the defense played much better than the score would indicate. The unit was continually placed in terrible positions as it was backed five times in its own zone after a turnover on downs and four consecutive times by the offense.
But in the first half, starting from more typical spots, the defense batted and held the Bengals to just three points over five drives spanning just 28 plays and 69 yards. The Bucs defense grabbed a rarely seen turnover for good measure in the first half. The Bucs had a formidable Bengals offense on very little production.
And while the Bengals went on to score 31 points in the second half, thanks in large part to the aforementioned turnovers, it didn’t stop the defense from still performing admirably in poor conditions. One of the players who really excelled during the game was Bucs outside linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka.
Tryon-Shoyinka, who has taken more than enough criticism since fellow outside linebacker Shaq Barrett lost to a torn Achilles tendon for the year against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 8. Over the course of those first eight weeks, Tryon-Shoyinka posted 18 presses on 193 quick pass snaps. Three of those pressures turned into sacks as he added two quarterback hits and 13 hurries.
But what many don’t realize is that Tryon-Shoyinka’s moment-to-moment productivity remained fairly constant after Barrett’s injury. He recorded 14 presses over 115 quick pass snaps, including 12 rushes.
But two things have changed during that time. First, JTS hasn’t managed to “come home” to the quarterback all that often in that span. Tryon-Shoyinka was able to convert 16.7% of his pressure into sacks prior to Barrett’s injury. But since week eight, that bag-to-print rate had fallen to just 7.1%. The former first-round pick didn’t offer the “splash plays” people have come to expect from elite pass rushers.
Which brings me to the second substitution since the game against Baltimore. Expectations for Tryon-Shoyinka have risen for a myriad of reasons.
The floor for those expectations was already pretty high considering he was the 32nd overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. Given that draft status, the fact that the Bucs failed to re-sign Jason Pierre-Paul. Then, after Barrett’s absence, Bucs fans applied the age-old “next man up” mentality to the Bucs outside the linebacker room, and voila! JTS was now expected to be a league average or better No. 1 edge rusher.
Tryon-Shoyinka’s development is exactly where it should be
The problem is that Tryon-Shoyinka just isn’t. He was not destined this season. Therefore, Barrett was re-signed to a major contract ahead of last season.
The hope for Tryon-Shoyinka’s development path was to be a rotating piece in his first year. He would then take on a starting role over the course of years two and three as an athletic, but raw addition to Barrett’s consistent production as the team’s No. 1 seed. By year four (and possibly year five), Tryon-Shoyinka would have the potential to move up in the role of Barrett, as Barrett would most likely decline as he reaches his age of 31 and 32 seasons. He was not destined and is not ready to be a dominant lead in year two after missing his senior college season due to an opt-out followed by a rookie season in which he rushed from inside or fell into cover around 25 % of his snaps.
By almost any objective measure, Tryon-Shoyinka has actually climbed to a quality No. 2 lead. Playing with Pro Football Focus’ database I looked at the 82 edge rushers with at least 200 passrush snaps. JTS is tied for 32nd in pass rush wins (49) and tied for 37th in pressure (35). And his 10.1% pressure to make the rush is exactly where I predicted he would be prior to the season.
Add to that the fact that Tryon-Shoyinka has developed into one of the foremost covered edge rushers in the entire NFL. His PFF rating of 80.4 ranks third in the league, behind only Micah Parsons and Trayvon Walker. All this is to say, while the story is that Tryon-Shoyinka could be a “failure” after an absurdly small sample of 32 games (including the 2021 playoffs), based on the project he was always supposed to be, he’s developed pretty good.
Bucs OLB played great against Bengals
Given that backdrop, Tryon-Shoyinka could certainly have used an “escape game.” As the rest of the defensive front struggled to apply any sort of pressure in the absence of Barret and the co-injured Vita Vea, JTS offered the team’s best hope of making opposing quarterback Joe Burrow uncomfortable. This was made even more possible by the fact that he faced struggling offensive tackles Jonah Williams and La’el Collins.
And play a game Tryon-Shoyinka played. Over the course of 37 pass rush snaps, he had three pressures, a rush, a quarterback hit, and that ever-critical sack. JTS terrorized Collins and Williams snap after snap after snap.
It started with the second stage of the race. In third and fourth place, JTS had its most impactful rep of the game.
Tryon-Shoyinka is able to knock Collins’ stab off with two hands as he slams Collins to his outside shoulder. After this, he gives a little shoulder dip as he rounds the corner. This gives him a clear line to Burrow from his rear, allowing JTS to take down Burrow with the help of Anthony Nelson and end the ride.
Tryon-Shoyinka helped make an extra sack for Bucs LB David
On the first play of the next drive, JTS got the party started by making a sack for Lavonte David.
As head coach Todd Bowles calls a blitz and reels in David from the outside, Tryon-Shoyinka has to crash down the line in hopes of keeping Collins busy. This allowed David to come home untouched. And he completes his assignment with confidence.
By attacking Collins’ inner shoulder and landing a vicious punch to Collins’ chest, Collins not only keeps him busy, he downright drives Collins backwards. This gives David the opportunity to come in clean, with an easy angle straight to Burrow. On his own, JTS was busy building pressure himself while his assignment was simply to occupy a blockade to let someone else go home.
Tryon-Shoyinka continued to push Collins
on the next snap Tryon-Shoyinka went from beating Collins in to take the perimeter again.
One game after David was sacked, Tryon-Shoyinka was able to pin his ears back and go after Burrow. Knowing that Collins had just seen him go in with a strong arm, the Bucs linebacker outside decided to win against Collins outside this time. Rushing from a wide five alignment allowed JTS to keep enough space between him and Collins to parallel him with the Bengals tackle. From there, JTS is able to use an impressive display of bending to duck under Collins’ arms and get to Burrow just after he releases the ball. This went on for most of the game.
Tryon-Shoyinka’s most likely career path
Projecting young players is such a mess. If not, teams would have much more consistent success in the draft. But with just over two seasons of games under its belt, JTS has given us enough data to make a probable projection of what the next few years might look like.
This year he has added some inside moves to his repertoire that allow him to show counters. This has improved his arsenal of passes and allowed him to apply more consistent pressure. When you add in his high motor skills and the fantastic coverage capabilities, you have the makings of a great No. 2 advantage for years to come.
And Tryon-Shoyinka has the advantage of still being the Bucs No. 1 as Barrett falls off due to age and injuries. I doubt he’ll reach that ceiling, but his floor is so high that it pretty much guarantees he won’t “fail” by reasonable expectations for the context of his design position.
But if he can add a more consistent element of speed to power, which Tryon-Shoyinka is physically capable of, that’s not out of the question for him. For now, Bucs fans should gauge their expectations and enjoy the considerable development of this high-upside young man.
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