As training camps remain just a few weeks away from opening across the NFL, the title defense for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will soon begin.
Finding their stride late last season, the team saw quarterback Tom Brady establish a groove late in the year. Routing the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl, the franchise was able to bring back all 22 starters from their championship team. Highlighted by the returns of pass rusher Shaquil Barrett and wide receiver Chris Godwin, the Buccaneers also re-upped with veteran tight end Rob Gronkowski.
With a running back by committee philosophy still intact in Tampa Bay, the group brought in Giovani Bernard. Set to join Leonard Fournette and fourth-year man Ronald Jones in the team’s backfield, look for the two returning backs to handle most early-down carries. Furthermore, the Buccaneers will also welcome back tight-end O.J. Howard. He suffered a season-ending Achilles injury after appearing in just four games in 2020. Adding to the arsenal of weapons at Brady’s disposal, the former first-round pick still projects as the franchise’s tight end of the future.
Is Antoine Winfield Jr. poised to make his first trip to the pro bowl in 2021 after being snubbed for defensive rookie of the year a season ago?
True. Winfield Jr. was a monster for Tampa Bay last year after they selected him in the 2nd round of the draft. He earned a grade of 67.1 from Pro Football Focus. The 22-year-old recorded 94 tackles, two forced fumbles, six pass breakups, and three sacks in 16 starts for the team. Furthermore, the University of Minnesota alumn continued his strong play in the postseason by picking off Patrick Mahomes in the Super Bowl.
Snubbed for the defensive rookie of the year award after Washington’s Chase Young ultimately won it, Winfield Jr was a member of the all-rookie team. Destined for a more prominent role in Todd Bowles‘s defense in 2021, look for the young safety to have an uptake in interceptions as he plays both deep safety and in the box. With the short-area quickness and burst, expect him to also hunt down opposing quarterbacks next season en route to his first-ever pro bowl nod.
Can Mike Evans record his 8th straight 1,000-yard season?
True. Evans has been the model for consistency at the wide receiver position as he heads into his 8th NFL season. Surpassing the 1,000-yard mark each year, the 27-year-old led Tampa Bay with 20 receptions and 13 touchdown grabs in 2020. Highlighted by a strong late-season stretch, the former first-round pick hauled in ten passes for 181 yards and two scores in week 16 against Detroit. He is expected to be even more dangerous next season in his second year catching passes from Brady.
Ranked by many as the best group of pass-catchers across the league, the team will have back his running mate in Godwin. Furthermore, with both Howard and Antonio Brown looking to play more prominent roles, opposing defenses will have their hands full in trying to slow down the high-powered Buccaneers’ offense.
Should Brady’s offseason knee surgery be a cause for concern for Buccaneers fans?
False. Reportedly playing his entire 2020 campaign with a torn MCL, Brady recently underwent knee surgery. Expected to be a full participant in the team’s training camps, the 43-year-old initially suffered the injury during his final season with the New England Patriots. Leading Tampa Bay to their second-ever Super Bowl title, he threw for 4,633 yards and 40 touchdowns.
Never overly mobile as he heads into his 22nd NFL season, look for the seven-time Super Bowl to maintain his success in his second year with the team. Returning all five members from one of the league’s best offensive line units a year ago, Tampa Bay was also able to retain all of their skill position players. Continuing to defy age while producing into his 40s, he recently re-upped with the Buccaneers on a one-year extension that ties him with the team through the 2022 season.
Will Brown surpass his 2020 numbers in a full season for the team?
True. Appearing in just eight games a year ago, Brown inked a deal with the team in October. He was forced to miss the first eight games of the season due to a suspension. This led the veteran wide receiver to enter into Bruce Arians’s’ offense behind the eight ball after missing out on offseason workouts and having limited practice time. Posting just 45 receptions for 483 yards and four touchdowns, Brown averaged just 10.7 yards per catch.
Now with the franchise for an entire season, he still maintains the ability to produce at a high level. Developing a quick rapport with Brady during his brief stint in New England and Tampa Bay, look for him to blow past his 2020 numbers next season. Averaging nearly 6.4 receptions and 85 yards receiving per game during his 11-year career, he can still separate and run away from opposing defensive backs at the age of 33.
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