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Buccaneers Trimester Report: Evaluating Tampa Bay Through Week 6

How have the defending champs fared through the first six weeks of the 2021 season?

Welcome to AllBucs' first of three trimester reports relating to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2021 season! Obviously, the NFL's decision to add a 17th game made the previous quarterly reports obsolete, but don't worry. Being the math wizards we are, we were able to still find a way to divide up the season and distribute three reports after each six-week period. 

So, without further ado, here is the Bucs' first trimester report of the 2021 season!


Offense

Points per game: 3rd
Total yards per game: 3rd
Passing yards per game: 1st
Rush yards per game: 28th
Total DVOA: 1st

Evan: The Bucs are 5-1 through the first six weeks of the 2021 season thanks in large part to a high-flying, record-setting offense. Tom Brady currently leads the NFL in passing yards and is just one touchdown pass from tying Patrick Mahomes for the lead in that category. The 44-year-old quarterback is on pace for a better season (stat-wise) than 2020, which is simply wild to think about. Even if there is an extra game.

He's been as clutch as ever, too, with two fourth-quarter comebacks and two game-winning drives through six games. 

The Bucs' ground game was non-existent through the first three weeks of the season, but it has really picked up steam over the last three weeks. Yes, the opponents haven't been the best when it comes to stopping the run, but you want to see a team produce against a bad opponent when it needs to, right? This offense will be nearly unstoppable if the ground game continues to produce as it has lately.

Overall, the arrow is trending up in a big way for this offense and it should stay that way for the rest of the year as long as everyone is healthy, of course.

Jason: Surprise, surprise: Tom Brady is still playing at an elite level and he's still surrounded by an abundance of talent. In case you didn't read what Evan wrote, Brady is 44 years old. I'll do the math for you as well: That's 6 years removed from 50.

What Brady and the Bucs are doing on offense — recording the most passing yards and third-most points on average — is remarkable to watch, especially when the team they faced in the Super Bowl, the Kansas City Chiefs, this past February is struggling to match its 2020 production and have only won 3 games. 

With all of that said, Tampa Bay has to find a way to further utilize Leonard Fournette and expand on recent success running the ball. Yes, the offense revolves around Brady and his receivers, that won't and shouldn't change. But the Bucs should consider a more balanced game plan and run the ball more.

Zach: The Buccaneers offense is exceeding expectations already this season, and at the same time, I don't think it has hit its full potential quite yet. For upcoming opposing defenses, that is a terrifying thought. 

The Bucs' red zone offense, for one, should get better upon tight end Rob Gronkowski's return from a rib injury. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin have also put up a mix of high and low production games and could become more consistent factors in the passing game down the stretch.

In addition to the air attack, the run game has finally found its form with Fournette leading the way, as he's posted 376 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns in the last three games. 

I'm interested to see Tampa Bay's offense against better defenses than the majority of units that it has faced, as the Bucs struggled to move the ball situationally against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 3 and haven't been tested much otherwise. 

Defense

Points allowed per game: 16th
Total yards allowed per game: 9th
Passing yards allowed per game: 27th
Rush yards allowed per game: 1st
Total DVOA: 16th

Evan: This certainly isn't the same Bucs defense we saw during last year's playoff run, but the unit has been able to stay afloat, for the most part. The Bucs can't catch a break when it comes to injuries in the secondary, which has been a major factor in the defense's struggles. At the same time, teams are just going to pass on the Bucs constantly due to the ever-reliable, dominating run defense.

The pass rush is starting to get home over the last few weeks. The Bucs are tied for the fourth-most sacks (9) since Week 4 after recording just three through the first three weeks. There's little doubt that this development has helped the struggling secondary.

The secondary will also get healthier as the season wears on, but still, the timetable is unknown when it comes to when that will actually happen. The equalizer is the offense. As long as the Bucs are putting up points, the defense should be able to do just enough to keep Tampa Bay in the driver's seat.

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Jason: Tampa Bay's defense has been "boom or bust" this season. Just take a look at the most recent game.

On the opening drive for the Eagles, cornerback Jamel Dean was flagged for pass interference, which resulted in 45 free yards for the offense. Dean, however, made up for the massive mistake a few drives later picking off Jalen Hurts.

The injuries are piling up in the Tampa Bay secondary and teams will continue to take advantage of that. With that said, the Bucs are doing a solid job holding teams out of the endzone despite allowing a high number of yards to opposing offenses.

It's hard to ask the secondary to do much more especially when considering who is being asked to play, but you'd like to see them perform better against the pass, or at least play more consistently in that area on defense.

Zach: Much like my thoughts on the Bucs' offense, I want to see Tampa Bay's defense take on a more challenging offense than the ones it has faced this season - again, other than Los Angeles (and Dallas).

I agree with the sentiments above that Tampa Bay's defense has bent but not broken this year, which is pretty incredible given that seven defensive starters have missed at least one game. But aside from the Rams contest and facing the Cowboys in Week 1 with a near-fully healthy defense, the Bucs haven't played an offense that ranks above No. 19 in the league in total yards per game or above No. 20 in points per game.

Keep in mind, Tampa Bay's defense struggled quite a bit when they were actually tested in Weeks 1 and 3.

The defense is improving, particularly the pass rush which is lending the banged-up secondary a hand. And Tampa Bay's run defense is as dominant as ever, in fact, I believe this is the best the unit has played the run since Todd Bowles was hired as defensive coordinator. But it's tough for me to trust a defense as injury-plagued and untested by tough offenses as the Buccaneers' right now. We're going to have to check back in at the end of the second trimester.

Final word

Evan: As of now, you have to be pleased with the Bucs' 5-1 record, even if the Rams loss was a bad one. The injuries, the inconsistency on defense and in the running game, and the penalties would be enough to sink most teams more than once. But the Bucs have prevailed and amassed their best record since the 2005 season. 

The Bucs are definitely still a playoff team, but the injuries won't stop, which is the No. 1 obstacle this team had to avoid coming in to this season. As of now, it's fair to believe that the injuries will cost them a shot at another Super Bowl, but that obviously remains to be seen.

The Bucs don't get a break over the next trimester, either. They play four 2020 playoff teams in the Bears, Saints, Football Team, and Colts and only two of the next five games (bye week is included in the next six weeks) are at home. The good news is that only one of those teams is currently over .500, but the Bucs will get said teams' best shot(s) due to their defending champ status.

But when it's all said and done, we could very well be looking at a 9-2 or even 10-1 squad by the time the next trimester is done. 

Jason: There's a really good chance Brady and the Bucs return to the Super Bowl, however, there are glaring issues on defense in Tampa Bay. Luckily for the Bucs, their offensive is filled with talent at every position, as long as the defense is average, at best, there's a good chance that will be enough.

Sitting at 5-1, the Bucs have jumped out as a legit contender in the NFC and have a relatively easy schedule over the next six weeks, including two games against NFC East opponents. The next time we write another trimester report, there still could be only one loss listed alongside Tampa Bay's record.

Zach: I'm a firm believer that Tampa Bay is a playoff contender thanks to its offense. But the long list of injuries and a suspect passing defense prevents me from considering the Buccaneers as a Super Bowl contender right now.

Of course, that could change by the time we reach the second-trimester report. The Bucs are expected to be much healthier across their secondary at that point and, naturally, the team's performance in coverage should improve substantially with the full starting lineup available.

Stay tuned to AllBucs for further coverage of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and other NFL news and analysis. Follow along on social media at @SIBuccaneers on Twitter and Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sports Illustrated on Facebook.

Photo Credit: John A. Babiak/@Photog_JohnB