The NFL and the NFL Players Association have come to an agreement on how to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, and NFL training camps have opened up across the country, including in Tampa Bay. PewterReport.com offers up its analysis of each position on the Buccaneers as new quarterback Tom Brady and his teammates prepare for the 2020 season.
Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo By: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady was the free agent signing of the offseason in Tampa Bay, and his arrival makes the Buccaneers an immediate threat to the New Orleans Saints for the NFC South title. Brady is a better fit in Bruce Arians’ vertical offense than one might think, as his arm strength hasn’t declined as much as some critics might suggest. Where Brady will help the Bucs the most is his 20 years worth of NFL experience and his penchant from avoiding turnovers.
Brady has never thrown for more than 14 interceptions in any of his 20 years. Brady threw eight interceptions in 2019 in New England, while Jameis Winston tossed a league-high 30 INTs in Tampa Bay. In fact, the highest amount of interceptions that Brady has thrown over the past nine years was 12 in 2011.
There is a concern for Brady as he transitions to Arians’ offense, which features an arsenal of talent, including Pro Bowl receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, in addition to a familiar target in Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski. That concern is the option routes found in Arians’ playbook.
Option routes allow receivers to run different routes based on either man or zone coverage. The problem is that both the receiver and the quarterback need to be on the same page and read the defense the same way. Otherwise an errant throw – and the potential for an interception – can occur. Two of Winston’s interceptions at Tennessee and another INT against Houston occurred by not being on the same page on option routes with his receivers.
Winston led the league in passing in 2019 with 5,109 passing yards while throwing 33 touchdowns, which was second in the NFL, in addition to a league-high 30 interceptions, including an NFL-record seven pick-sixes. Last year in New England, Brady had 4,057 with 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and OC Byron Leftwich – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Arians and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich love to throw the ball, and that makes sense with weapons like Evans, Godwin and Gronkowski among others for Brady to throw to. Look for Brady to reach 4,500 passing yards this season if he plays in all 16 games, and pass for at least 30 touchdowns, which he’s done seven times in his 20-year NFL career.
The biggest difference will be fewer turnovers coming from the quarterback position, and likely fewer sacks, too. Winston was sacked 47 times in 2019, with team officials suggesting that he was responsible for 15 of those sacks by holding on to the ball too long. Brady was sacked just 27 times last season, and part of that is because he gets rid of the ball much quicker. But with the vertical nature of Arians’ passing game, more time is needed for routes to develop down the field, so it will be interesting to see how long Brady hangs in the pocket and how many times he gets sacked in 2020.
The Bucs have the benefit of having two backup quarterbacks that know the system in Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Griffin.
Camp Battle To Watch: Backup QB – Gabbert vs. Griffin
Bucs QB Blaine Gabbert – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
For the second year in a row, Gabbert will battle Griffin for the right to be the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart – backing up Tom Brady this season. Gabbert, a former first-round pick of Jacksonville in 2011, has two years in Arians’ system, as well as 48 starts under his belt. Due to his extensive playing time, Gabbert has the immediate advantage over Griffin, a seven-year pro, who just saw limited action in the regular season for the first time in one game last year.
Yet Griffin shined last August after Gabbert suffered a shoulder injury in the preseason, which caused him to go on injured reserve. Griffin passed for a league-high 744 yards and four touchdowns, which was the second most in the NFL preseason in 2019. He won over Arians, Leftwich and quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen, and the Bucs didn’t add another QB to the mix this offseason – outside of undrafted free agent Reid Sinnett – as a result.
Without a preseason to show more growth in Arians’ offense, look for Gabbert to seize the backup job behind Brady due to his on-field game experience in the regular season. But Griffin will stick around as the No. 3 QB this year due to potential injury or a positive COVID-19 test to Brady or Gabbert.
The Sleeper: Sinnett
Bucs QB Reid Sinnett – Photo by: University of San Diego
Sinnett won’t make the team, especially due to the fact that he comes from San Diego where he was just a one-year starter, and he won’t have the benefit of a rookie mini-camp, OTAs or preseason games this year to help his growth. But Sinnett, who is 6-foot-4, 225 pounds with good arm strength, has a chance to make the practice squad, and that’s important this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
An injury to Brady or either backup – or a positive COVID-19 test – could lead to Sinnett being activated from the practice squad at a moment’s notice during the season. Assuming he impresses enough in training camp with limited reps to wind up on the practice squad.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
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