The defending Super Bowl champions aspire to do something in 2021 that hasn't been done since, well, their current quarterback accomplished the feat with his previous team: Winning back-to-back league titles, as Tom Brady and the New England Patriots most recently did in 2003-04.
Tampa Bay put itself in a position to contend for Super Bowl LVI by retaining its entire starting lineup from a year ago - the first team ever to do so after winning the league championship in the salary cap era - paired with a small handful of signings and an impressive draft class. The Buccaneers' coaching staff also only lost one assistant this offseason in Antwaan Randle-El, sticking to the theme of continuity.
Now, the question is, can continuity paired with slight offseason acquisitions get Tampa Bay to where it wants to be: SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. this February? Brady has the Super Bowl pedigree to make it happen and the Buccaneers own a talented roster from head-to-toe, making it hard to imagine any other team as a betting favorite right now.
AllBucs provides its season record prediction and a breakdown of the team below.
With Brady leading the offense onto the field, the Bucs are expected to once again have an explosive offense this year. Tampa Bay features one of the best receiver trios in the league in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown. Not to mention tight end Rob Gronkowski along with running backs Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones II, Brady once again has a plethora of talent surrounding him on offense. And let's not forget one of Tampa Bay's offseason additions in the form of pass-catching third-down back Giovani Bernard.
Evans now stands alone as the only player in the NFL history to open his career with seven straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons. He also caught a career-high 13 touchdowns last year. If he can have a fully healthy season, he will somehow be even more dangerous in 2021.
Then there's Godwin, who finished the regular season with 840 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. He led the team with the best catch rate at 77.4% during the regular season but struggled in the postseason dropping seven passes, which was nearly half of his year total (13) in just four games.
Protecting Brady is one of the strongest offensive lines in the NFL that features a young star, Tristan Wirfs. As a rookie, Wirfs ranked 24th among offensive tackles with 300+ pass-blocking snaps in pressures allowed during the 2020 regular season, which is a ranking that could improve greatly in 2021 by cutting down on just a couple of pressures.
Returning all 11 starters on offense is huge as the oldest quarterback in the league continues to look younger every snap he takes. If Brady can continue to play at an extremely high level and use the talent around him effectively, Tampa Bay's offense will likely be one of the best this year.
One of the most disruptive pass rush units in the NFL got deeper this offseason when the Buccaneers selected Joe Tryon-Shoyinka with the 32nd pick in the first round. Tryon-Shoyinka posted two sacks and six quarterback pressures in the preseason with a third sack removed on an unnecessary roughness call, acting as the Buccaneers' premier edge rusher while Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul only saw limited snaps.
Of course, Barrett and Pierre-Paul made their mark last year by combining for 17.5 sacks and played a significant role in Tampa Bay's league-leading rush defense alongside the likes of defensive end Ndamukong Suh and inside linebacker duo Devin White and Lavonte David. With Tryon added to the mix, the Buccaneers will be able to offer their starters a breather on occasion which could lead to even better production from Barrett and Pierre-Paul.
Add nose tackle Vita Vea into the mix after he missed the majority of the 2020 season with a broken ankle, and the Buccaneers' front seven could be deadly in 2021.
The area of potential concern for Tampa Bay's defense is within the secondary. Although the unit is talented, the Buccaneers ranked No. 21 in the NFL in pass defense last season and saw some inconsistent performances from its starting cornerbacks during the year. However, the trio of Carlton Davis III, Sean Murphy-Bunting, and Jamel Dean played their best ball as a unit in the playoffs and hope to pick up in Week 1 where they left off this past February.
The Buccaneers can rest comfortably with their starters at safety in PFWA All-Rookie Antoine Winfield Jr. and hard-hitter Jordan Whitehead. Depth could be an issue on the backend though as Mike Edwards is the only other experienced, true safety on the roster.
There won't be many new contributors across the Buccaneers' defense, much like their offense, but the addition of Tryon to a fully retained unit raises the ceiling of one of the league's most disruptive defenses from a year ago.
Predicted record: 15-2
Tampa Bay hasn't won the NFC South since 2007, but with New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees retired and in the broadcast booth, the Bucs should be considered the favorite. The first real test comes on the road in Week 3 against the Los Angeles Rams and later in the year, the Bucs host the Buffalo Bills. Outside of these two games, Tampa Bay has a relatively easy schedule. As a matter of fact, Tampa Bay faces the league's fourth-easiest schedule.
Expected depth chart
QB: Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask
RB: Ronald Jones II, Leonard Fournette, Giovani Bernard, Ke'Shawn Vaughn
WR: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Tyler Johnson, Scotty Miller, Jaelon Darden
TE: Rob Gronkowski, Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard
OL (starting five, then depth): Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet, Ryan Jensen, Alex Cappa, Tristan Wirfs, Josh Wells, Aaron Stinnie, Robert Hainsey, Nick Leverett, John Molchon (on injured reserve), Earl Watford (on injured reserve), Sadarius Hutcherson (on injured reserve)
DL: Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea, William Gholston, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Steve McLendon, Pat O'Connor, Khalil Davis
Edge rusher: Shaquil Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Anthony Nelson, Cam Gill (on injured reserve)
ILB: Devin White, Lavonte David, Kevin Minter, K.J. Britt, Grant Stuard
CB: Carlton Davis III, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jamel Dean, Ross Cockrell, Dee Delaney
S: Antoine Winfield Jr., Jordan Whitehead, Mike Edwards, Chris Cooper
K: Ryan Succop
P: Bradley Pinion
LS: Zach Triner
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