Let’s face it, with the Buccaneers not being that good for a majority of the current decade, prior to last season, most of the national media has greatly ignored pretty much all of the players and the team as a whole.

That all changed last season when the Buccaneers improved from 6-10 in 2015 to 9-7 including a five game win streak from weeks 10-14 that saw two games get bumped into primetime (week 14 vs New Orleans and week 15 at Dallas).

As the Buccaneers slowly make their run back to the playoffs, the national medias like ESPN and NFL Network are slowly starting to notice the play of the team a little more; the personality of Jameis Winston, the skills of Mike Evans, and even the improvement of the defense is getting noticed but not too heavily.

This lead me to compile this list in my inaugural Breaking Football article of Buccaneers players that all of us “stick carrying members” of #StickCarriers all know as great players and important pieces of the Buccaneers current rise, but the national media just hasn’t quite taken  notice or recognized them yet.

 5. Brent Grimes

Some might be a little stunned by this first choice since he and his wife were just profiled in an SI article by Jack Dickey, but at 33 years old and only 5’10” tall Brent “Optimus” Grimes played at an extremely high level last season.

His first season in Tampa he totaled 57 tackles, an NFL leading 24 passes defended, four interceptions with one returned for a touchdown, and one forced fumble.  He was thrown at 73 times with a completion percentage of 47.9 on those passes or allowing just 35 catches with four of them going for touchdowns.

Despite finishing as the fourth best corner per ProFootballFocus (PFF) he did not make the Pro Bowl even though he was the only one of the top five to start and play in every single game last season.  Of the top five only Chris Harris (63) and AJ Bouye (62) had more tackles and only Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had more interceptions (6).

Without his play last season I can’t imagine where the Buccaneers secondary might have been.

 4. William Gholston

Drafted by the Buccaneers in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL draft William Gholston has played in 57 games while starting 36 with 133 of his 188 (71%) career tackles and seven of his ten (70%) sacks coming in games where he started.

In 2016 he started in fourteen games and achieved the tenth most solo tackles in the NFL by a defensive end with 37 and a total of 50 tackles on the season. In 2015 he had the fourth most solo tackles for a defensive end in the NFL with 47 and the sixth most total tackles for a defensive end with 67.

During the 2015 and 2016 seasons while starting in 25 games he led the Buccaneers in tackles by a defensive lineman with 67 and 50 tackles respectively.

Known more as a run stopper, he has some of the lowest sack totals for a starting defensive end averaging just 2.5 per season, but with his large size for a 4-3 defensive end (6’6”/287 lbs) he can jump to the inside and play some defensive tackle in some passing sets.

He was rewarded for his run stopping ability by the Buccaneers prior to the 2016 season signing a new 5 year/$27.5 million deal with $13.5 million in total guarantees.  Proving that having a versatile defensive lineman who can play defensive end or tackle is an important aspect of Mike Smith’s defensive scheme.

3. Keith Tandy

Drafted by the Buccaneers in the sixth round back in 2012 Keith “The Tandyman” Tandy had played mainly as a special teamer and fill-in at defensive back.

While only starting in twelve out of the 70 games (17%) he has played in he has been very productive. Starting five games in 2013 and five games in 2016 he tallied 89 tackles, nine passes defenses, six interceptions, one sack, and four games with ten or more tackles during that stretch.

He has a grand total of 150 tackles, fourteen passes defended, eight interceptions, and one sack.  After being ranked as the highest graded safety during the last five games of last season he is all but a shoe-in to start at free safety next season per James Yarcho’s article at The Pewter Plank.

Last season he played an instrumental part in continuing the Buccaneers five game winning streak by sealing the victory against Philip Rivers and the Chargers with the game-ending interception.

Just maybe now the Buccaneers finally have their free safety that they have been looking for since John Lynch was on the team.

2. Ali Marpet

Drafted by the Buccaneers in the second round of the 2015 NFL draft (part of Jason Licht’s grand slam draft) he has been a rock on the right side of the offensive line starting from day one and playing in 29 games in two seasons.

Last season he was graded by PFF as one of the better offensive linemen in the league finishing as the thirteenth highest rated guard overall, 23rd in pass blocking, but fifth in run blocking while playing in every single offense snap (1134 snaps).

This offseason Coach Koetter decided to officially move him to center per Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times which should greatly improve the offensive line since center is more of a run blocking position and not as much of a pass blocking spot.

After being drafted out of division III Hobart college his stock is definitely on the rise, but as of now he has yet to get the national attention and has not been selected to the Pro Bowl in his brief career.

1. Kwon Alexander

Drafted by the Buccaneers in Licht’s grand slam draft of 2015 in the fourth round he was drafted to backup Lavonte David and newly signed middle linebacker Bruce Carter; but instead he ended up beating out Carter for the middle linebacker starting job and since then has been outstanding.

While playing in 18 career games (never missing a game from injury) he has a total of 238 tackles (including an NFL leading 108 solo tackles this season), sixteen passes defended, six sacks, three forced fumbles, three interceptions, and one touchdown.

He has twelve games of ten tackles or more including a career high 21 against the Cowboys last season with a career average of thirteen tackles per game.

During the 2016 he led the Buccaneers in tackles with 145 tackles (4th most in NFL), seven passes defended, three sacks, and one interception that he returned for a touchdown against the Rams and yet he did not make the Pro Bowl last season.  Also having the most tackles that resulted in defensive stops by a second year linebacker per PFF.

He has been very vocal lately about not getting recognition after he was left off the NFL’s Top 100 (finishing as number 109) and not being chosen along with Lavonte David as one of the top linebacker cores per NFL Network’s Willie McGinest.

So be prepared for a massive year from Kwon and the national media will be forced to take notice.

With my first article for Breaking Football I have covered who I think are the five most nationally underrated Buccaneers so to all you #StickCarriers out there, let me know what you think did I leave anyone out or include a player that you believe is not nationally underrated?

Feel free to leave your comments to me in the comment section or tweet me directly on twitter @ND1Bucsfan and I hope you enjoy the article …. TAMPA!!! ….  BAY!!!

About The Author Jerry Stalheim

Jerry Stalheim has been a huge Tampa Bay Buccaneers Fan since 2000 living way up in North Dakota. Following them through the best of time and the worst of times but never jumping off the ship. Also a Bucs contributor at ThePewterPlank.com (Fansided Network) and Realbucstalk.com. #StickCarrier