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Time to manage Jason Pierre-Paul’s workload with more Joe Tryon-Shoyinka?

The veteran Bucs outside linebacker is battling shoulder and hand injuries, so maybe it’s time to lean more on the rookie.
Bucs rookie linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka has been impressive in his first season, so maybe it's time to lean on him a little more?
Bucs rookie linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka has been impressive in his first season, so maybe it's time to lean on him a little more? [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Oct. 23
Updated Oct. 23

TAMPA — No one will ever question Jason Pierre-Paul’s toughness. He had several fingers amputated on his right hand following a July 4 fireworks accident in 2015. He fractured his neck in a one-car accident prior to the 2019 season and still played 10 games. He struggled through the 2020 season with a knee injury that required surgery shortly after the Super Bowl.

Until now, pain hasn’t slowed his production. He led the Bucs with 9.5 sacks last season and was named to the Pro Bowl. He had 8.5 sacks the previous season after surgery to repair a fractured vertebrae.

For Pierre-Paul, it’s always been mind over misery.

His dad lost his eyesight as an adult, but Pierre-Paul never heard him complain once. That clearly had an impact on him.

At 32, Pierre-Paul soldiers on. But he missed two games this season with a shoulder issue. Compound that with another injury to his mangled right hand. He was forced to wear a club on it during the Bucs’ win over the Eagles.

Despite all that, Pierre-Paul played 41 defensive snaps (79 percent) in last week’s win over the Eagles, recording two tackles and a half sack.

Pierre-Paul didn’t practice this week and is questionable for Sunday’s game against the Bears. History suggests Pierre-Paul will play, but should he continue to get the bulk of the snaps on defense?

Tampa Bay drafted Joe Tryon-Shoyinka with the final pick in the first round and he is looking like one of the steals of the 2021 class. Tryon-Shoyinka started for Pierre-Paul in one of the most hyped games of the season at New England and recorded two sacks.

Isn’t it time Tryon-Shoyinka take on a little more of the workload?

“He’s playing plenty,” coach Bruce Arians said. “He had (19) snaps (in Philadelphia). JPP (Pierre-Paul) has got a bigger résumé, and a better one. Joe just keeps growing as a player.”

It’s true that Tryon-Shoyinka has a lot to learn about the NFL game. And Pierre-Paul’s value can’t only be measured by sacks and tackles alone. He’s the emotional leader of that defense.

When asked is Tryon-Shoyinka at least gave the Bucs an advantage athletically, Arians wasn’t buying it. “Not really. Jason’s pretty strong, and there’s a lot more than just rushing the passer.”

But considering Pierre-Paul is battling injuries and we’re only a third of the way through a 17-game season, Arians may want to practice some load management.

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One of the negatives to retaining so many veteran players is that they rarely get more productive and less injured as they reach their 30s.

There’s no way to give Tryon-Shoyinka the kind of experience Pierre-Paul owns. But there isn’t much dropoff when the rookie is in the game.

Arians admits that’s a luxury. Pierre-Paul is in the final year of his contract that will pay him $12.8 million this season. He knows Tryon-Shoyinka can only help JPP get through this regular season.

“It helps so much,” Arians said of having Tryon-Shoyinka in the wings. “We can decrease or increase his snaps and get them out there together as much as we can. But, yeah, that really helps.”

Tyler time

Wide receiver Tyler Johnson (18) is tackled by Dolphins free safety Jevon Holland (8) during the fourth quarter of an Oct. 10 game at Raymond James Stadium.
Wide receiver Tyler Johnson (18) is tackled by Dolphins free safety Jevon Holland (8) during the fourth quarter of an Oct. 10 game at Raymond James Stadium. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Antonio Brown will miss Sunday’s game with an ankle injury he sustained at Philadelphia. Potentially, it’s a big loss for the Bucs since Brown has become a go-to receiver for Tom Brady in the most important moments of the game.

Brown’s absence likely means more playing time for Tyler Johnson. The second-year receiver from Minnesota has worked hard to get his body in shape and played well in a loss to the Rams earlier this season.

“He’s finally in great shape and he understands what he’s doing,” Arians said. “He’s playing really fast. ... He’s just still learning some little things, but I really like where he’s at right now.”

Receiver Mike Evans said he’s been impressed by Johnson’s football intellect.

“He came in as a really smart football player,” Evans said. “A strong guy that can help us in the run game and the pass game. I love being around him; he’s the ultimate pro at such a young age. He knows all of our positions. He even helps me out, out there as well sometimes.”

Protecting Tom Brady

The Bucs offensive line has played well this season, especially in pass protection. Brady has only been sacked nine times.

But a lot of that credit belongs to Brady. He was at his best last week. According to Next Gen Stats, when Brady got rid of the football in under 2.5 seconds, he went 24-of-25 for 179 yards. Only Patriots rookie Mac Jones (2.33 seconds) got rid of the football quicker. Brady has an average time of release on his passes of 2.53 seconds, third best in the NFL.

“Those big guys up front, they really came together this year and had it in their minds to be one of the best offensive lines in the league and they’ve proven that,” Evans said. “They’re keeping Tom safe back there, keeping him clean, giving him time to throw us the rock. We appreciate those guys. (They are) opening up big lanes for the running backs. They’re doing a great job this year.”

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