Zyon McCollum tasked with taking the next step in 2023

While there are many young players who would love to see the Bucs break out and thrive in bigger roles in 2023, cornerback Zyon McCollum could top that list.

During his press conference at this week’s NFL annual meeting in Phoenix, Bucs head coach Todd Bowles was asked which newcomer to the 2022 team he wanted to see step up in their sophomore season with Tampa Bay. With little hesitation, Bowles named McCollum, the team’s fifth-round pick in the 2022 Draft.

“Everyone aside, I would like to see Zyon take the next step in the defensive backfield,” said Bowles. “I think he got injured at the beginning of last year, so he went back a little bit. But I’m looking forward to it [seeing] it.”

McCollum was a major contributor to special teams as a rookie, but he experienced some growing pains at the cornerback position. The 23-year-old was thrown headfirst into the deep end due to injuries and had to take some blows. Sam Houston’s move to the NFL didn’t happen overnight, and he experienced that in 2022.

Size, athletic equipment, opportunities – it’s all here for Zyon McCollum

Bucs CB Zyon McCollum and HC Todd Bowles – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Heading into his second off-season in the NFL, Zyon McCollum will have a chance to build on his debut season and take on a bigger role in the Bucs’ defense. The team re-signed Jamel Dean this month, so the top couple of Dean and Carlton Davis III is still in place. But No. 3 corner Sean Murphy-Bunting signed with Tennessee last week, paving the way for McCollum to potentially become a more regular contributor.

Tampa Bay could very well – and probably should – benefit from a deep 2023 cornerback class in next month’s draft. But the Bowles and the Bucs brass likes what McCollum has to offer at the NFL level, and they’d like to see one of their Day 3 picks outperform his draft status. He certainly has the profile for that.

“He’s a great athlete. Before he got pecked, from an athletic standpoint and from a size, height, weight and speed and intelligence standpoint, you like what the guy brings to the table,” Bowles said. calm down mentally and the game slows down for him. I hope he will be a really big piece to us in moving us forward.

Bowles is correct in pointing out both the size and athleticism that McCollum possesses. At six feet, 199 pounds, he fits the mold for a Bowles cornerback. But if you recall, his Relative Athletic Score (RAS) entering the draft last year was a perfect 10 out of 10. Out of 2,001 cornerbacks from 1987-2022, that perfect score placed him at number 1. So there’s little doubt about the physical resources the young corner kicker brings to the Tampa Bay defense.

With one season under his belt, McCollum should of course see the game a little differently in year two, allowing him to mentally adjust and put those athletic aids on display more often. Allowing him to take the next step could be a major injection of life for the Tampa Bay defense, which should force more turnover in 2023.

Bucs CB Zyon McCollum

Bucs CB Zyon McCollum – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Remember this is a man who has blossomed an all-around playmaker at Sam Houston. He started as a freshman and over the course of his five-year career, he totaled 13 interceptions, 54 passes defensed, 10 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and six forced fumbles.

Bowles is not the only one who is very confident in the team’s pick in the fifth round from a year ago. At the NFL Scouting Combine, general manager Jason Licht had high praise for McCollum and said they are happy with where he is after his rookie season.

“First of all, Zyon has done a fantastic job in special teams for us,” said Licht. “He’s getting to know the position in the NFL, he’s where I thought he would come out of his rookie year. We knew it would take a while; it doesn’t always happen that a late round player becomes a candidate for Defensive Player of the Kudos to teams who have understood that, but I do think he has the potential to become a corner kicker in the league.”

A more influential McCollum would really take Tampa Bay high school to a new level in the years to come. Davis has signed for two more seasons, while Dean is back on a four-year contract. So if a significant jump is made in year two from the soon-to-be 24-year-old, the Bucs will be really well positioned as a cornerback for the foreseeable future.

#Zyon #McCollum #tasked #step

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