The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made arguably the biggest splash of the offseason by signing future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady. It’s not often a team signs a 43-year-old quarterback and becomes an instant title contender. With the NFL playoffs expanding from six teams to seven, Tampa knows they have a legitimate chance to get into the postseason and make some noise. Will Brady, who threw his lowest total yards and touchdowns thrown in a full season since 2006, prove he can beat Father Time and win his seventh Super Bowl? Their odds on 32red sports look promising, but lets look beyond the odds for a closer look.
A Hall of Fame Offense for a Hall of Fame Quarterback
The last time Brady had two receivers get over 1,000 receiving yards was 2009. This year Brady has Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, who are both in their prime and got over 1,000 yards receiving with a QB that threw 30 interceptions last year and is now third-string with the Saints. Tampa Bay was third in the league in total offense, averaging 398 yards per game. The Bucs proved that they could succeed with an okay quarterback behind them, but having an accurate QB like Brady, even at age 43, will make the receivers better. Tight end OJ Howard is a former first-round pick who has never quite lived up to his potential in the passing game. However, now that he has one of the most consistent QBs in the game, Howard will have a more dominant role in the offense and turn into one of Brady’s more reliable weapons.
View this post on Instagram
Bucs, Take 1
Gronk Spike is Back!
Brady’s favorite target, Rob Gronkowski, came out of retirement this offseason to head down to Florida. During their time together in New England, Brady threw 79 TDs to Gronk, the most by a single Patriot in the decade. When we last saw Gronkowsk on the field, it was Super Bowl LIII against the Los Angeles Rams, where years of injuries and wear and tear finally caught up to him.
After taking a year off to recover, Gronkowsk is looking to regain his dominant form, even if he’s in the latter part of his career. Unlike in New England, Gronk will not be asked to carry the offense in Tampa and might even get to take a couple of games off so that he’s healthy in January. Even half of Gronk is still a safe option for Brady and someone who will get plenty of targets in the red zone.
The offensive mind of Bruce Arians
Head coach Bruce Arians has a prolific list when it comes to players he has worked with in the past: Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, Carson Palmer, Jameis Winston, and now Brady. All of these quarterbacks improved their offensive production while under his tutelage. In Arizona, Arians revived the career of Palmer, another quarterback who many thought was done after getting hammered in Cincinnati and Oakland. With Arians as his coach, Palmer threw a career-high in TDs and yards thrown at the age of 36. If Arians can do this with a less talented QB, imagine what he can do with a future first ballot Hall of Famer. Arians and Brady have enough weapons and schemes to lead the league in offense again.
Defense wins championships and this defense is good enough to win
The Bucs were 15th in total yards allowed and 28th in points allowed in 2019. But when your quarterback is throwing 30 interceptions as Winston did, it will put your defense in some bad spots. The defense will be a top ten unit this year because they will no longer be put in bad situations due to the offense. The front seven will take over this year, as they had 47 sacks in 2019. Nineteen of those sacks came from linebacker Shaquil Barrett, who led all NFL players. While it is unlikely that Barrett will duplicate this type of defensive production, just the threat of him rushing the passer will cause offensive lines to double Barrett and allow holes for other players. Linebacker Lavonte David has been consistent on the defensive end throughout his entire career and second-year linebacker Devin White is expected to step up this year and elevate his fifth overall pick status. The defense will perform better because of an aggressive pass rush and less time spent on the field.
Who is going to run up the middle (and who'll block for him?)
Tampa’s running game last season was far from impressive. However, help is on the way as the Bucs signed former first round and All-SEC running back Leonard Fournette, who was recently cut from Jacksonville. Fournette's durability was often questioned, only playing 36 of a possible 48 games. But when Fournette was on the field, he has averaged 4.0 yards a carry and had over two 1,000-yard rushing seasons in his three years. While Fournette has had his issues with health and following the rules of management, he is only 25 and has proven he can produce when healthy. If Fournette can replicate his best self, the Bucs will not only have their starting running back for this season but for the next 3-5 seasons as well. Fournette already seems overjoyed to be joining the squad, as he mentioned earlier this week that for the first time, he has a real QB.
With an elder statesman behind center, there will be even more pressure on the offensive line and he will need protection in the pocket more than ever. In 2019 alone, Winston was sacked 47 times. Brady, meanwhile, was sacked 48 times in two years. Tampa is returning the same offensive line from 2019 with the exception of rookie right tackle Tristan Wirfs. Given the boom-or-bust potential of tackles in the past, Wirfs’ adaption to the game will be even more important. If the offensive line cannot protect Brady, the offense will not be able to run effectively and Brady will not make it through 16 games.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a Super Bowl contender. Tom Brady is a quarterback who has conquered every challenge that has come his way and finally has the offensive weapons and offensive mind he needs to get the job done in a tough NFC. With Carolina in a full-on rebuild and Atlanta seemingly a wild card, competition in the NFC South appears less difficult than in the past. Tampa Bay can win the division because they will play just six teams that finished with an above .500 record last season (five of those are at home). With not too many difficult road challenges, lack of travel, and the addition of players with winning experience, the season is set up perfectly for the Bucs to succeed.
Born in Piedmont California, Russell is a Gonzaga alum and likes all Bay Area sports teams. Follow him @JangRussell on Twitter for more content.