The Brady Bucs
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Doesn’t matter what sport it might be, one man/woman can’t beat you. Sports is comradery personified. Different fields, different backgrounds, different walks of life. It’s the differences that we should find intriguing. Does it matter if we like each other? Yes. Does it exclude the fact that we might have mutual goals? Yes. Are you a mere fan of the game, or the player? Or merely a fan of the player in the game? Yes.
If a 9-box rubics could describe the current vibe in Central Florida amongst these troubled times, its electric. While kids and millennials are getting kicked off of beaches, the phonelines at One Buc place have been rattling off the hook. Record high ticket sales are a reality for this NFC South team whose acquired a bit of swagger recently. When was the last time a .387 team was considered a favorite to go to the Super Bowl?
With that said, let’s pretend that Tom Brady is the center dot inside of this cube. It’s the parts around him that will shape and mold how this season turns out. Brady hasn’t had friends like this since Randy Moss and Wes Welker. This could arguably be the best offense that Brady has ever played under, considering Bruce Arians form of football. Arians take shots. If you compare his playchart to boxing, prepare yourself for overhand lefts, and right uppercuts. Not afraid to go deep, or take chances. But the focus might just be the defense, who started to figure things out late in the season. Lets meet them.
Some might remember calling Mike Evans and Chris Godwin the “Dynamic Duo.” In the top right square one finds Chris Godwin. The Penn State alum had a breakout season in 2019. 86 receptions for 1,333 yards and 9 touchdowns in his pockets. Injury cut his spectacular season short.
To the top left of the cube, one will find Texas A&M’s own Mike Evans. A consistent 1000 yard receiver his entire career, the 6’5 deep threat had injuries that hampered him during 2019. But that didn’t stop him from putting up monster numbers before he was physically unable to perform. Mike Evans had 67 receptions for 1,157 yards. He had 8 touchdowns in his bag before injury. By the way, that’s a catch average of 17.2; can you say, “Go Deep?”
Cameron Brate in my opinion is the security blanket for Tom Brady. His rubics piece is to the right side. The Harvard graduate has seemed more consistent as of late, and with a newly restructured contract, the sky is the limit as to what he could potentially accomplish. Not only a good choice for a late round tight end fantasy sleeper, but he might be good for at least 8 touchdowns this year. Underutilized last year, Brate had 36 receptions for 311 yards, and 4 touchdowns. From my standpoint, his productivity takes a quantum leap.
When it comes to producing better numbers than the previous year, he didn’t do it. Could one say O.J. regressed due to last season’s injury? Well he did it. O.J. Howard saw more targets than 2018, but didn't make the most of his opportunities. His average catch ratio decreased from 16.6, to a respectable 13.5. He was also the lone primary Buccaneer that didn't go deep. His longest reception was 33 yards. Clearly, he was hampered. Now healthy, and towards the end of his rookie contract, O.J. has never had a friend like Brady. His size and speed could easily make him become the new end-zone threat of the NFL. Ebron, Metcalf, Howard?
Ronald Jones is between Godwin and Evans as the top producers for Brady in this offense. Once he began 2019 in better shape, the numbers started to emerge. Ronald Jones is a poor man's James White. At least he was last year.At 724 yards rushing, he averaged 4.2 yards an attempt. 6 touchdowns is nothing to sneeze at; it just screams inconsistency. People quickly forget that Rojo averaged 10 yards a catch (31 receptions, 309 yards). The opportunity for Ronald Jones to breakout is valid due to the surrounding pieces, and situations that defenders will find themselves in. Jones could potentially have double digit touchdowns.
Vying for a spot on the bottom left of the cube is Bryant Mitchell/ Breshad Perriman. There is much to be said on who covets the wide receiver #3 spot. Though disappointing early into the season Perriman came on late, averaging 17.9 yards a catch. His meager 36 receptions accounted for 645 yards and 6 touchdowns. Bryant Mitchell, a "rookie" from Northwesten State is new to the NFL. He was a standout in the CFL, with over 1400 yards of production. A torn tendon kept him off the field last year, leading to Perriman's production. Could one of these receivers take over the #3 slot, or is that yet to be determined in this time of free agency?
Right below Brady in the cube are the blocking tight ends, Tanner Hudson and Antony Auclair. The blocking tight ends lead to extra protection in the pocket, less pass rush, and open holes for the running game to produce. Tanner Hudson is the best kept secret for this offense, so not only is there a chance of playing time, but production could increase under Brady's signal-calling.
Finally, the final cube in making the offensive pieces fit is Byron Leftwich. The offensive coordinator has to be on the same page as the 20 year vets. His imagination can run wild now that he has one of the best in the business at the quarterback position. Slants, rub routes, screens and deep shots are just the tip of the iceberg when you have an experienced quarterback who still has his 'arm'. Leftwich should test his capabilities as often as possible.
19 free agents is hard to overcome. Even if free agents sign with the team, keeping things in order is difficult for any front office. Every defense in the league has to build upon the pride they left on the field from the previous season. Here are 9 key pieces that fit onto the opposite side of the rubiks of success.
Vita Vea was key against the run stop last year. Tampa led the league in rushing defense due to him, and the unrestricted free agent Ndamokung Suh. Suh resigning could be huge not only for the defense, but for draft purposes. His departure would create a need in the draft to refill. Lavonte David is only getting better, but somehow cannot make his attributes to account for pro bowls. The long time Buccaneer has over 1000 tackles on his resume, 724 of them solo. He had 3 forced fumbles last year, and 1 interception; giving him a total for 11 in his career. Hopefully off-season acquisitions can decrease his tackles from 123 in 2019.
The departure of Carl Nassib will be missed, even if Sam Acho (formerly of the Bears) is there to fill it. But the resigning of JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul) makes the blood pressure of every Buccaneer lower. The USF product signed a 2 year, $27 million dollar deal to stay in the Bay. 8.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles are nothing to take lightly. JPP had 12.5 sacks the year before, and now that he is fully healthy, who is to say he can't turn back time and have a repeat double digit sack performance? Devin White had an all-around good year for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coming out of LSU. In 13 games he amassed 91 tackles and 2.5 sacks. He is more regarded for his speed, than probably anything else. His ascension as one of the best linebackers in regards to forced fumbles (3) and fumble recoveries (4) in the game can't be ignored. The cagey veteran Kevin Minter could help Devin White's versatility on the field with his experience. The 7 year pro out of Arizona grabbed 34 tackles for the Bucs in 2019, and was excellent in relief of White when he was injured.
The last 3 slots on the cube belongs to the secondary. Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamal Dean started to figure it out in the 4th portion of the NFL season. Dean had 2 interceptions, Murphy-Bunting had 37 solo tackles, with 3 interceptions and a forced fumble. Since Vernon Hargreaves departure, Murphy-Bunting's game has raised to another level. The final key cube belongs to the entire group of safeties. From the resigning of Andrew Adams, with his 46 tackles and 1 interception, to Justin Evans and his 59 tackles (43 solo) and 1 pic, the jockeying on who makes a viable square needs to change from week to week.
Hopefully the faces on the cube can be interchanged out from week to week, so the carousel of the 2020 Buccaneers can continue to roll along into something we haven't tasted since 2007; a playoff berth. Stay tuned Bucs fans, as this off-season we stay locked in to the evolving story of , "The Brady Bucs."