The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went from a middling team to a Super Bowl candidate with two signings. Tampa Bay signed Tom Brady and Brady managed to get Rob Gronkowski out of retirement. The defense was vastly improved in the latter half of the season and Todd Bowles was never given enough credit. The Buccaneers have a mix of young and aging players and are in win-now mode with Brady and the supporting cast around him still intact.
Make sure to check out all of our in-depth power rankings here.
- Overall – 83.172 (8th)
- Offense – 83.73 (8th)
- Defense – 83.395 (7th)
- Coach and Culture – 86.75, (5th)
- Home Field Advantage – 82.5, T-13th (4% Defense, 2% Overall)
Quarterbacks – 85.5, 8th (36% Offense, 27% Overall)
Brady experienced one of the least effective seasons of his career last year. He only threw 24 touchdowns, his lowest since 2006, and threw eight interceptions. His 60.8% completion percentage was his lowest since 2013 and while the offensive line issues and lack of weapons in New England are somewhat of blame, Brady has made it work with less in the past. He will now have two of the best receivers in the game and his former tight end at his disposal. He goes from one great head coach in Bill Belichick to another in Bruce Arians. Brady won’t have as much help in the run game as he did in New England though.
Blaine Gabbert is a solid backup option. Despite being a known bust from his time in Jacksonville, he has carved out a role as one of the best backups in the league. Ryan Griffin has spent a ton of time on the Buccaneers be it the practice squad of the 53-man roster. He has shown that he has some potential but at 30 years old, hasn’t gotten the chance to do prove himself in meaningful action.
Running Backs – 72.5, 31st (4% Offense, 3% Overall)
Ronald Jones finally showed some production last year, posting over 1,000 scrimmage yards and six touchdowns. Jones will be in line for a bigger role as Peyton Barber has left to go to Washington, opening up 154 rushing attempts. The only issue with Jones getting most of those carries is that Tampa Bay selected Vanderbilt’s Ke’Shawn Vaughn in the third round. Vaughn had back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. Vaughn only had 66 catches during his college career and could take a backseat early to Jones. The two will likely battle for snaps all season like Jones and Barber did last year.
Dare Ogunbowale returns this year and will be rotating with Jones and Vaughn for carries but will likely field the pass-catching role out of the backfield after he had 35 catches last year. Raymond Calais has elite speed and will likely be competing for the kick return role. He had almost eight yards per carry during his time for the Cajuns.
Pass Catchers – 88.5, 4th (17% Offense, 8% Overall)
The duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin is one of the best in the league. Both had over 1,000 yards despite missing five games combined and had 17 touchdowns between the two of them. Godwin could very well be the best number two receiver in the league and would be the number one option on a select few teams in the league.
The slot role could very well be Scott Miller‘s to lose. He had a decent rookie season last year where he caught 13 passes for 200 yards and a touchdown as he was buried on the depth chart last year. The third receiver spot will likely be a battle between Justin Watson and Tyler Johnson. Watson had 15 catches for 159 yards and two touchdowns last year. Johnson was one of the most polarizing prospects in the draft. He was potentially a first-round talent but character concerns plummeted his draft stock. Johnson had back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons at Minnesota. He could very well be the steal of the draft if all goes according to plan and Arians can get those character concerns to disappear. Behind those five though, the depth immediately falls off.
Even with two good tight ends in O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, the Buccaneers still managed to get Gronkowski out of retirement. Howard and Brate combined for 70 catches and five touchdowns last season. Gronkowski might not be the same player he once was, but the chemistry with Brady will ultimately be where teams will have problems. Howard might be traded as Arians has become frustrated with him and his drops.
Offensive Line – 75, T-22nd (24% Offense, 12% Overall)
Ryan Jensen and Ali Marpet have both been great on the offensive line but besides those two, the Buccaneers have had issues in protection. Donovan Smith returns at the left tackle spot but is now joined by Tristan Wirfs, who Tampa Bay selected in the first round of the draft. Wirfs put on a show at the combine being surprisingly agile but was one of the better tackles in the loaded class. Alex Cappa hasn’t lived up to his draft pick and could be replaced before the season or after this season.
The offensive line is much better than it was last year with the addition of Wirfs but the left tackle and right guard spots will need to be upgraded for the line to be considered one of the best in the league. The depth behind the five starters isn’t good either.
Run Defense – 89, 1st (6% Defense, 2% Overall)
Tampa Bay ranked first against the run last year led by Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea on the interior and both return this year. The two were great against the run and combined for 14 tackles for loss. William Gholston is great against the run too on the interior, while Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul helped as well off the edge combining for 34 tackles for loss. Khalil Davis was an excellent day-three selection during the draft and will factor into the interior rotation with Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Jeremiah Ledbetter, and Patrick O’Connor.
The linebacking core is excellent and is another reason why the run defense is the best in the league. Lavonte David is one of the most underappreciated players in the league and him teaming up with Devin White put the run defense to the top.
Pass Rush – 83.5, T-8th (21% Defense, 10% Overall)
Barrett exploded onto the scene last year on his prove-it deal earning 19.5 sacks and being slapped with the franchise tag. With another year of tape on him, teams will hope to diagnose his different pass-rush moves. With another solid year, he could earn himself a new contract extension either from Tampa Bay or elsewhere. Pierre-Paul had 8.5 sacks in ten games and if he stays healthy, he and Barrett could be a lethal combination off the edge.
The Buccaneers need to find the third option off the edge as Carl Nassib went to Las Vegas during the offseason. The trio of Anthony Nelson, Kahzin Daniels, and Quinton Bell will battle for that role and could find themselves with a bigger role than most expected as a lot of the depth at pass rusher has been removed. Vea and Suh had five sacks combined from the interior last year and look to wreak havoc again this year.
Linebackers – 86, 5th (15% Defense, 4% Overall)
David and White are two of the better linebackers in the league. The two combined for 214 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 10 pass deflections, 3.5 sacks, and two interceptions. White missed three games this last year as well. They are the leaders of the defense and the two of them combined with the two on the interior make the defense great, especially against the run. The two are excellent in coverage as well and have had to be as the secondary has had issues in the past.
Kevin Minter is the veteran depth and had 34 tackles last year. Jack Cichy will need to step it up in his third year to carve a role behind the two superstars or he may be cut. Kendell Beckwith hasn’t played a snap in two years after a promising rookie campaign and could be cut due to an ankle injury altering his career.
Secondary – 80, 17th (26% Defense, 17% Overall)
Bowles completely turned around the secondary and Carlton Davis was a major factor. Davis had 19 pass deflections and will be the number one cornerback this season. Tampa has put a lot of draft capital into the secondary and that includes Sean Murphy-Bunting who had an excellent rookie season where he had three interceptions. Jamel Dean was also a great addition last year where he had 17 pass deflections and two interceptions of his own. The young trio of cornerbacks will be the spot to watch to see if the defense can take that next step. M.J. Stewart is another young piece they have added and will play into the rotation as well. Ryan Smith, Herb Miller, and Mazzi Wilkins round out the depth at cornerback.
The two safety spots are a bit of a mess. Andrew Adams and Mike Edwards were the starters at the end of last year. Edwards was thrust into the lineup when Jordan Whitehead went on injured reserve. Justin Evans showed promise as a rookie but has been plagued with injuries and might be on his way out. The Buccaneers drafted Antoine Winfield Jr. in the second round, who was my top-rated safety in the draft. The plan might be to have Adams and Edwards start the season but if Adams struggles, put Winfield in. The Buccaneers have a great young secondary and Bowles is one, if not the best coach for them to have.
Coach and Culture – 86.75, 5th (19% Offense, 28% Defense, 15% Overall)
Arians is one of the best offensive coaches in the league and has been grooming Brian Leftwich to potentially become another bright young mind. The weapons are great and Arians combined with Brady might be something the league isn’t ready for. Arians has worked with Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer before as veterans and now has turned to Brady in another long line of quarterbacks. Tampa Bay comes in fifth for offensive coach and culture.
Bowles was run out of New York too early. Now, he is turning around the Buccaneer offense which was one of the worst in the league. The young secondary could potentially push the defense over the top and become one of the best in the league. The defense has two stars on the interior, as well as two superstar linebackers and the sack leader from last year. The Buccaneers are ranked tied for fifth in defensive coach and culture.
Tampa Bay’s title hopes are well deserved. The addition of Brady and Gronkowski puts the offense over the top, but the offensive line and running game are concerns. The offense might not light up the scoreboard as much as people expect. The defense has a ton of potential and could rank as one, if not the best in the league if the secondary continues as it did at the end of last year. The defense could push the Buccaneers deep into the playoffs, not the offense.
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