Bud Dupree knows the situation that he is in. No, Dupree has not lived up to his draft status. However, on his fifth-year option, one big year can erase the ups and downs of his mediocre first four and land him a major contract extension that would last through the prime of his career.
Dupree and the Pittsburgh Steelers did not talk extension this offseason, whether by the Steelers or Dupree’s choice, both are incentivized to let this contract play out. Dupree showed up motivated to training camp, and went through his first healthy offseason since 2015 when he was a rookie.
He performed well in the preseason as well, flashy some physical attributes that could suggest a step forward. Now, entering the regular season, Dupree is in a good spot to take advantage of his Week 1 matchup.
When it comes to playing Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, nothing is easy. Brady has a stud offsensive line that can help keep him clean. He gets the ball out lightning quick with precision to hit the correct targets in stride.
By now, every football fan knows the rules. You do not blitz Tom Brady. He will identify it and pick it apart. The only way to beat him is get home with four rushers against five protectors and hope your secondary hangs on. It is not a fun plan, but it is more effective than blitzing the best in the game.
Typically, with his elite offensive line, getting home with four is just as promising as blitzing, though. However, Sunday night will present Dupree with a chance to kick off his season with a bang, and help the defense get pressure on Tom Brady without blitzing.
Dupree lines up on the right side of the defense. That means he will be facing the Patriots starting left tackle on almost every pass rush attempt.
While the blind side of Brady is usually a strength, the team has moved on from Nate Solder and Trent Brown in back to back seasons. Of course, it is the Patriots so they have a back up plan.
That plan is a former first round pick Isaiah Wynn. Wynn was a stud left tackle at Georgia who missed his entire rookie season recovering from an Achilles injury.
This will make Sunday his first career NFL start. Wynn was drafted high because he is a highly technical player who understands angles and can move in space when run blocking.
However, prior to his injury, he had pre-draft questions when it came to his physical skillset. Many scouts wanted to push Wynn inside to guard because he does not have the preferred height, weight and length that comes with playing tackle in the NFL.
Below, you can see how Wynn compares to all offensive lineman in physical attributes at the combine.
So, while it will be tough for Dupree to get to Brady often, the situation he is in sets up for success. He is looking at an inexperienced player, with limited physical ability and coming off a devastating injury that will surely take time for him to get back into peak strength. The Patriots are limited at tight end, which will set up for one-on-one matchups all game.
Due to the circumstances and players around him, the Steelers have to be looking for a big game out of Dupree on Sunday. If he is able to get pressure on Brady early, the Patriots will have to adjust, which could free up other players. If not, it could be the Dupree show all night.
A no-show from Dupree in his season opener could give off a strong vibe that year five will be no different than the rest. Keep an eye on Dupree all night, as the difference he makes in this game could draw the line between win and loss.