Former USF standout Deadrin Senat’s star on the rise again in Tampa

The Bucs nose tackle is performing his way into the defensive line rotation.
Bucs defensive tackle Deadrin Senat (95), drafted by Atlanta in 2018, talks with former Falcons teammate Keith Smith (40) after Tampa Bay's 21-15 triumph Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
Bucs defensive tackle Deadrin Senat (95), drafted by Atlanta in 2018, talks with former Falcons teammate Keith Smith (40) after Tampa Bay's 21-15 triumph Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Published Oct. 12, 2022|Updated Oct. 15, 2022

TAMPA — In the glistening assortment of free agents purchased by the Bucs this offseason, Deadrin Senat’s name elicited nary a grain of glitter.

The luster that accompanied the former USF nose tackle to Atlanta, where the Falcons drafted him in the third round in 2018, had long since vanished. He certainly didn’t possess the shimmer of Julio Jones or sheen of Kyle Rudolph. He didn’t have the gloss of Akiem Hicks or gleam of Logan Ryan.

But nearly one-third of the way through the regular season, the former USF nose tackle has outshined nearly all of them. Those with a front-row seat to Senat’s recent emergence from Tampa Bay’s practice squad laud his sturdiness and steadiness, his professionalism and power.

“He’s a baller,” veteran defensive lineman William Gholston said. “And he’s consistent, he does the same thing over and over again.”

“Man, he’s a very, very strong player and he’s smart,” second-year edge rusher Joe Tryon-Shoyinka added. “He’s always in position. I never see him out of spot, so he’s always in the right place.”

Promoted to the active roster on Sept. 21, Senat’s seven tackles in three games are more than the combined catch total of Jones and Rudolph (five), who have a combined $8 million coming to them in 2022. Senat’s one sack still is one more than Hicks, whose one-year deal includes an $8 million guarantee alone.

“Senat’s a good football player,” Bucs coach Todd Bowles said after Sunday’s 21-15 win against the Falcons, where the Immokalee High alumnus notched his first career NFL sack against his former team.

“He’s been playing well the last couple of weeks for us. He comes into the ballgame, although height-wise he doesn’t look (like an NFL nose tackle), he understands the game. He’s very strong, he’s a very heady player and he’s proving to be a valuable piece.”

Senat’s sack of Marcus Mariota early in the second half offered a snapshot of his technique and agility. A 305-pounder listed generously as 6-foot-1, he extended both arms on Falcons center Drew Dalman, who gravitated toward Gholston — lined up to Senat’s right — in a feeble double-team attempt.

“And I just went around Will, just trying to keep going vertical,” said Senat, who finished with four tackles on 17 snaps. “And I came around, I saw (Mariota) holding the ball, and then he was about to take off and run, and I got him.”

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The play might have been the most redemptive of Senat’s life.

After three nondescript seasons in Atlanta, in which he appeared in only 22 games, Senat — who boasted a 675-pound squat at USF — was waived by the Falcons last November after tearing a pectoral muscle the previous spring.

Related: USF's Deadrin Senat triumphs over multiple tragedies

The Bucs took a flyer on him, signing him to a one-year deal (for slightly less than $1 million) in April. Despite a solid training camp, he failed to make the 53-man roster at the end of the preseason but was signed to the practice squad. When Hicks sustained a plantar fascia tear in Week 2 against the Saints, Senat was elevated.

He acknowledged he had “checked” the date of the Falcons game.

“You talk about being a professional,” fellow defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches said. “Sometimes you come here, you can get like, ‘Oh, I’m on the practice squad,’ or ‘Oh, I’m this,’ and you kind of lose your mojo and you don’t take the same approach.

“Him, (with) the amount of years he had behind him and just seeing the guys in front of him, it wasn’t, ‘I’m on the practice squad,’ it was, ‘I want to keep learning, keep getting better.’ And when his time was called, look, he made the most out of the opportunity.”

Now, the Bucs might be inclined to increase his role. Senat has logged 47 snaps in three games, roughly 23 percent of the overall defensive snaps in that stretch, and fewest in a tackle rotation that includes Vita Vea and Nunez-Roches.

“Depending on the situation and what (teams) come out in, we have different packages for different people,” Bowles said. “He has some packages that could increase or decrease depending on what they do.”

Senat says he’s simply trying to maintain the defensive front’s energy level when his name’s called, to fill in effectively when a peer needs a breather. At this point, it’s not about being a star.

Though the 28-year-old is getting a bit more luminous with each Sunday.

“We came in together, and I saw his athletic profile when he was a rookie, his ability,” said Bucs receiver Russell Gage, a fellow member of the Falcons’ 2018 draft class.

“And a few injuries here and there kind of brought him back a little ... and to see him out there really showcasing what he’s able to do — and I’ve always known what he’s able to do — it is kind of fulfilling to see that out of him.”

Contact Joey Knight at Follow @TBTimes_Bulls

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