2022 Buccaneers Schedule Roundtable: Top Rookie Opponents

There are two big tentpole events coming up for the NFL in the spring: the draft schedule and the release schedule. Until recently, they arrived in reverse order, with the schedule usually falling in mid-April and the draft at the end of the month. A few years ago, the NFL pushed its annual schedule release back to May, which technically means it could tweak a few dates based on what’s happening in the draft.

For example, if the first two picks were quarterbacks and their new NFL teams were to play each other, the league could pit them against each other immediately in the first week. This actually happened in 2015, In front the schedule release move when the league correctly guessed that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would snag Jameis Winston first and the Tennessee Titans would snag Marcus Mariota second. I refuse to believe that it was a fluke that the Titans opened their season in Tampa that year and Mariota got the upper hand with a 42-14 blowout.

There aren’t any obvious parallels this year as the quarterbacks haven’t been included in most of the first two rounds and there isn’t a single one that looks like a very good bet to start Week One. Perhaps the first marquee matchup for high-draft rookies will come in week two when the Giants and edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux take on the Panthers and attack Ikem Ekwonu.

As for the Buccaneers, they don’t have a first-round choice to go head-to-head with another rookie, but as a team they’ll get plenty of exposure to some of the most intriguing rookies in the league. In week two, for example, they’ll find some new faces in the Superdome as the Saints will integrate wide receiver Chris Olave and add Trevor Penning to their offense. In week three, they’ll see just how quickly Georgia rookies Quay Walker and Devonte Wyatt are able to influence Green Bay’s defense.

The list goes on and on, but we’re here to pick out some of the highlights. As Staff Writer/Reporter Brianna Dix, Digital Contributor Amy Schwartz and I wrap up a week of roundtable discussions about the Buccaneers’ 2022 schedule, we turn our attention to the Class of ’22 and see how it could bring some freshness to Tampa Bay Challenges. Today, each of us will name the player who we believe will be the best rookie the Buccaneers will face this season.

This is the last of our five roundtables scheduled for 2022. You can check them all out here:

Friday May 13: What is your*most anticipated game* on the Bucs schedule for 2022?

Monday, May 16: what is*You would change one thing*About the Bucs schedule if you had the power?

Tuesday, May 17: what would you most like to do*Thank you to the NFL schedulers*for this year?

Wednesday May 18: What is the*hardest track of the games*on this year’s schedule?

Thursday, May 19: Who is the top rookie the Buccaneers will face in their 2022 schedule?

In order to get a greater variety of answers, we made the rule that picks cannot be duplicated among the three of us. This makes the order of our entries potentially important, and so we’ve changed that order from day to day. In the end, Amy comes first, me second, and Brianna third.

This means Amy is making the first attempt to identify the best rookie the Buccaneers will face this season. take it away amy

Amy Schwartz: Atlanta Falcons WR Drake London

The Atlanta Falcons have had a busy offseason rebuilding their roster from the top down. A key focus was the Wide Receivers Room, which will look very different when training camp arrives. The Buccaneers brought wide receiver Russell Gage freehand from the Falcons to fill an important need. With the departure of Gage and the indefinite suspension of Calvin Ridley, the Falcons had to add key elements leading up to the 2022 season.

The Falcons currently have nearly a dozen recipients on the roster. But what fascinates me the most is USC’s rookie wide receiver Drake London. Picked eighth overall by the Falcons in the 2022 NFL Draft, London adds key size and ball ability to the list. London was the first receiver off the board in the draft and has experience playing in the slot, but has also had success as a perimeter receiver. The 6-4 receiver’s ability to create separation makes him a threat to any defense.

The Bucs will see London for the first time in week five at Raymond James Stadium. They will then wait until the final week of the season before traveling to Atlanta to face London again in week 18. Atlanta will be interesting to watch this season as quarterback Marcus Mariota takes over offense.

Scott Smith: Kyle Hamilton of the Baltimore Ravens

This year’s draft started with five straight defensive players, including three edge rushers and two cornerbacks, but as it turns out, the Buccaneers will not be drafted against any of their new teams (Jacksonville, Detroit, Houston, and the two New York teams). 2022 regular season. For me, Baltimore’s Hamilton remains as a rookie defenseman most likely to negatively impact Tampa Bay’s season.

The Buccaneers play the Ravens on a Thursday night in week eight, and by then I’d expect Hamilton to be fully integrated into Baltimore’s secondary school. By midseason, the Ravens coaching staff will likely have found several ways to utilize their versatile new defenseman. Baltimore already had a talented group of cornerbacks and now they’ve reloaded with Hamilton and former Saints safetyman Marcus Williams at the back end of their secondary. This might be one of the most daunting defensive backfields Tom Brady and the Buccaneers have faced all season.

On the opening night of the draft, the Ravens characteristically paused and dropped the best view as they picked Hamilton, widely considered a top-five talent, in 14th place. Hamilton didn’t make a big top five because of position value and maybe an overwhelming 40-yard dash time at the Combine, but in a few years he’ll probably look like a steal.

The 6-4, 220-pound Hamilton is a great safety with the ability to be a finisher down the middle, but he also has the coverage skills to play over the top or the opponent’s tight ends out of the picture to delete. He’s a tough hitter with good ball skills and the instinct and intelligence to make plays all over the field. If a rookie thwarts the Bucs’ plans this season, I think it will be Ravens’ Hamilton.

Brianna Dix: Panthers OT Ikem Ekwonu

This might not be the flashiest choice; However, every football guru knows that the battle is won in the trenches. The Carolina Panthers took off the first offensive player, Ikem Ekwonu, with offensive tackle in the 2022 NFL Draft. In years past, quarterbacks have been the coveted position, with an abundance of top-10 spots. However, in 2022, the first round was peppered with an abundance of talent in the offensive tackle/guard positions. Ekwonu is the top rookie the Buccaneers will face this year. He was touted as the top run-blocking lineman in the draft, dubbed “Mr. Pancake”. Ekwonu is powerful at the point of attack and has the speed to pursue and finish off second tier defenders. His tenacity and mean demeanor are traits that will serve him well with the pros.

The Bucs meet the Panthers for the first time in week seven in Carolina, kicking off at 1:00 p.m. ET, giving Ekwonu several games to get used to the NFL. He will have gained continuity with the Panthers’ offensive line and will have a variety of countermoves to combat pass rushers flying off the edge. He’s a blind-side enforcer and Ekwonu will solidify the Panthers’ front line by protecting anyone who competes with Sam Darnold for the gig and wins the job. Ekwonu will boost the team’s run game by providing for Christian McCaffrey.

He sets the tone and upgrades the left tackle spot – a glaring hole for Carolina in recent years. The former North Carolina bulldozer has the intangible to grow into a pro-level Pro Bowl lineman. He’ll be an X-factor on the Panthers’ offensive line and one who could revive their running game in the fall. For the Buccaneers defensive end, he’s a player I wouldn’t ignore. Winning one-on-one matches at the line of scrimmage will be crucial.

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