In the last couple of days, reports have continued to come in that Tom Brady is leaving New England for a new challenge. After their shocking exit to the Tennessee Titans in the Divisional Round of the playoffs last year, people believed it was realistic that the quarterback could leave the Patriots.
This came as a shock to all involved in New England, as the elite duo of Brady and head coach Bill Belichick had plenty of success together capping it off with six Super Bowl championships. With Tom Brady becoming part of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, what can the NFC South team do with the Hall of Fame quarterback at the helm?
First, let’s start with looking at the lack of success from the Buccaneers in recent times. The last time the Buccaneers made the playoffs was in 2007, so the team is desperate to be in contention. Last season was much of the same for the mediocre team with an average 7-9 finish for third in the division.
Jameis Winston struggled to put a winning product on the field in his time with Tampa Bay, as he only had one winning season in his five years with the team. Tom Brady will give the team plenty of winning experience, which can go a long way for a Buccaneers team that has not been in playoff contention in a very long time.
In 2019, the Buccaneers showed plenty of firepower on offense even with a league leading 30 interceptions from Winston. This talent offensively was highlighted by receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, who each had 1,000 yard seasons. Mike Evans has been one of the most underrated receivers in football having 1,000 yards in each of his first six seasons with Tampa Bay.
Godwin, who has been with the Buccaneers for his entire three-year career, had his breakout year in 2019. Chris Godwin had 86 receptions for 1,333 yards and 9 touchdowns showing that Evans and Godwin can be a dynamic duo for Tom Brady in 2020. With Tom Brady doing so much in New England without a true number one receiver for most of his career, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin can become even better with an elite quarterback like Brady.
Something that will be very important to watch is how well the offensive line protects Tom Brady this season. Tom Brady is 42 years old, and it will be extremely important to keep him off the ground and limit the sacks as much as possible. If the offensive line fails to do that, this entire experiment with Brady will not turn out well.
Last season, Jamies Winston was sacked 47 times, which ranked for the 5th most in the league. On the other hand, Brady was only sacked 27 times, which ranked 23rd in the league. The team has already addressed the depth of line, as they signed offensive tackle Joe Haeg on a one-year deal.
Last season, Haeg appeared in all 16 games in a reserve role for the Indianapolis Colts. Haeg will be joining a line that already includes some very talented lineman including center Ryan Jensen and guard Ali Marpet. If the Buccaneers want to be in contention for a playoff spot, the offensive line will need to keep Tom Brady upright and limit the damage to their QB.
When I reflect on the 2019 season for the Buccaneers, one of the first things that comes to mind was the excellent season for OLB Shaquil Barrett. Last season Barrett led the league in sacks with a career high 19.5 sacks in 16 games. Before 2019, Barrett only had 14 career sacks in his four seasons with the Denver Broncos.
In 2020, I expect Shaquil Barrett to regress, but still have another productive season in Tampa Bay. Besides Barrett, the Buccaneers have some other elite playmakers on the defensive side of the ball. 30 year-old Lavonte David has spent his entire career in Tampa Bay, and led the team in total tackles with 123.
Also, the Bucs re-signed Jason Pierre-Paul, who can be a sensational playmaker when healthy. In the secondary, Tampa Bay has two young corners in Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting, who combined for 104 total tackles and 27 pass deflections. If the defense can continue to improve from last year when they finished fifth in takeaways, I think the Buccaneers have a great opportunity to get to the postseason.
When taking a deeper look into the Buccaneers going into 2020, I think the biggest X-Factor has to be O.J. Howard. Throughout his career, Brady has been known to heavily use his tight-ends especially when there was a lack of receivers to work with. I believe this will be no different in Tampa Bay, as Brady will certainly look to use the talent of 25 year-old Howard.
The first-round pick back in 2017 has not lived up to the hype in his first three seasons by only having 94 career receptions for 1,456 yards. With Brady excelling with guys like Rob Gronkowski and Ben Watson early in his career, I expect O.J. Howard to have a breakout season in 2020.
Going into 2020, there’s certainly a lot of attention on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with Tom Brady at quarterback. For a fanbase that has not seen their team in the playoffs in over a decade, it is certainly exciting times in Tampa Bay. For a team that lost a ton of close games behind the turnovers of Jameis Winston last season, I believe this team has the ability to get back to the postseason this year.
With plenty of playmakers for Brady to utilize, I expect this offense to find a way to fit the quarterback’s playstyle. If the team is able to perform up to their expectations, I expect the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to not only be in contention for a playoff berth, but also for a chance to win the NFC South.