Protect the Franchise
The Bucs have assembled what appears to be a formidable offense as long as Tom Brady, at the age of 43 in August, plays like Tom Brady while Rob Gronkowski resembles at least a semblance of his All-Pro form. Tom Terrific has the weapons he begged for in New England with the dynamic duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin to stretch the field, along with O.J. Howard as a dual-threat at tight end with Gronkowski.
The aerial attack should be on point, as it was last season when Jameis Winston launched 33 TD passes and led the league in passing with a whopping 5,109 yards. However, his poor decision-making also contributed mightily to his league-leading 30 interceptions which is why Winston was sent packing and Tom Brady was welcomed to Tampa Bay with open arms.
But there are concerns on offense starting with a rushing attack that generated only 95.1 yards per game (24th) last season which would have been much worse had Winston not rushed for over 15 yards per game, reducing that average to a click above 79 yards/game. Lead running back Ronald Jones is still young and could improve but the Bucs did draft Vanderbilt’s Ke’Shawn Vaughn in the third round to compete for the starting spot. If the Bucs can’t threaten on the ground, the passing game will suffer.
But most importantly the Bucs offensive line needs to protect Brady far better than they did Winston last season when the team gave up 47 sacks, the fourth highest in the NFL. To that end, they drafted arguably the best tackle in a class deep in offensive line talent, Tristan Wirfs. As of this writing, he is listed as the starting right tackle, not the blindside protector Brady will need to keep from getting pressured, sacked, and remaining upright. Assuming Brady is playing at a high level this season but gets injured, all bets are off. Blaine Gabbert is Brady’s backup and no team is winning a Super Bowl with Gabbert under center.
Therefore, the spotlight will be fixed squarely on incumbent left tackle, Donovan Smith. Although he allowed only five sacks (26th in the league) in 1,055 snaps in 2019 with a total of nine penalties, the experts at Pro Football Focus have graded Smith near the bottom third of all NFL tackles for five consecutive seasons using their metrics. Perhaps Wirfs’ contributions on the right side will make life easier for Donovan on the left side.
“With the GOAT being back there, obviously the level of play is heightened, and he brings out the best in everybody,” Smith said. “So, we look forward to it as an O-line. For me, I was super excited to hear when we signed Brady (in free agency in March) … and basically me and my guys are going to have an opportunity to block for the greatest quarterback of all-time in NFL history.”
And let’s not forget that Tampa’s left guard, Ali Marpet, is a kid who hails from D-3 Hobart College but was so highly thought of after a college career in which he allowed zero sacks in his four years as a starter that he was chosen by the Bucs in the second round of the 2015 draft. Marpet is universally acclaimed as one of the top five guards in the league. Brady’s hyper-quick release will also reflect favorably on the offensive line in front of him. If TB12 stays healthy and remains one of the elite passers in the game, the Bucs offense will roll this season.
Bettors Bullish on Bucs
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>This matchup is gonna be 🔥🔥 <a href=”https://t.co/a7YCly1mUD”>pic.twitter.com/a7YCly1mUD</a></p>— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) <a href=”https://twitter.com/Buccaneers/status/1262744819362861056?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>May 19, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>
Prior to the GOAT signing with the Bucs, Tampa Bay was listed at odds of 60-1 to win the Super Bowl but if you were late to the party, you will be lucky to get the Bucs at odds even as low as 15-1 at most online sportsbooks. The Bucs season win total is 9 ½ (O-140) which is a long way from their dismal 7-9 season from last year.
If you are bullish on the Bucs and want to go over that total you will have lay $140 for every $100 you want to make and Tampa Bay will have to win at least 10 games, which means a playoff berth would most definitely be in the offing. If Brady plays well, stays healthy, and the running game comes alive while their woeful pass defense improves to something bordering on average, Tampa Bay could be the next stop on Tom Brady’s Super Bowl tour.