In this week’s Bucs Briefing we are going to switch gears from your regularly scheduled tape-breakdown programming to take a step back, look at the Bucs from a wider lens, and offer thoughts on how this season could be everything fans hoped it would be, and how it could end in disaster.

I’ve listed the five reasons to be optimistic about the Bucs’ 2020 season on page one, and the five reasons to be pessimistic about the Bucs’ 2020 season on page two. Most of y’all know I’m predicting big things for the franchise this season, but I always try to step back and evaluate from multiple perspectives, because predicting football is never black and white.

5 Reasons To Be Optimistic About The Bucs’ 2020 Season

1. Tom Brady Is Here

The Bucs’ conceivable quarterback options entering the 2020 offseason were the fourth-best quarterback in the draft, what’s left of of former Chargers great Philip Rivers, another season of Jameis Winston, Saints backup Teddy Bridgewater or the greatest quarterback of all-time. Even if you think age has caused some decline in Tom Brady’s game, he was still easily the Bucs’ best hope for not only stability, but elite play at the quarterback position this offseason – and they got him.

It’s one of the biggest offseason wins in Tampa Bay history, as it not only brings the team some national attention, but also a much-needed offensive leader at the game’s most important position. The cultural and cerebral impact that Brady will have on the Bucs’ young offense should go a long way toward helping the unit reach their exceptionally high peak over the next two seasons.

Bucs QB Tom Brady
Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Contrary to popular opinion, Brady should have very little difficulty fitting into Bruce Arians’ vertical passing game. According to Player Profiler, Brady threw 60 passes of 20 yards or more last season, good enough for 15th most in the NFL. So despite being on an offense with no semblance of a vertical threat, Brady still threw deep at an above-average league rate.

Not only is he not hesitating to throw the ball down the field, but even his raw accuracy numbers are very good, completing almost 42 percent of those attempts, a rate that ranked ninth-best in the NFL. Although Winston threw deep (20 yards or more) at the highest rate in the NFL (113 times), his lack of efficiency and consistent mistakes doomed the team, as he held the league’s 17th-ranked deep ball completion percentage at just over 36 percent.

So Brady’s apathy and inability toward throwing down the field are clearly overstated, and Tampa Bay’s offense is far more than just a bunch of go routes on every play. Brady’s game declined last season when he started forcing things and playing frustrated football due to the lack of talent and creativity around him. He may not be able to make chicken salad out of you-know-what anymore, as the Bucs might have the most talented skill position group in the NFL. Worse quarterbacks than Brady could still have this team in the playoffs this year, and with Brady the Bucs just might be a Super Bowl contender. He’s clearly the biggest reason to be optimistic about the team’s 2020 season.

2. The Return Of Gronk

If you want a reason to be optimistic about Rob Gronkowski’s return to the NFL, the fact that we’ve never seen him on a football field where he wasn’t among the best few players at his position is a good place to start.

Okay, maybe late in 2018 when he was playing through injury, but if that’s the worst tape of Gronk in his nine-year career, I’ll take it. I don’t think he’ll be Kansas City’s Travis Kelce or San Francisco’s George Kittle this season, but I bet he’s still in the Top 5 tight ends in the league. Even if Gronk has a lost a little athleticism, he’s always won with technique and ball skills over raw ability. Coming back fresh after a year away could be perfect for the 31-year old veteran tight end, especially considering the offensive situation he’s walking into.

Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski
Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski – Photo by: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The best vertical threat the league has ever seen at the position due to his 15.1 yard average, Gronkowski now brings that skill set to Tampa Bay where Bruce Arians has been waiting for a tight end like this his entire career. Contrary to popular belief, Arians runs plenty of two tight end sets and would love to get those guys the ball, he just hasn’t had a lot of proven talent to work with at the position over the more recent stages of his career.

With the Bucs likely to operate heavily out of 12 personnel, Gronkowski will be utilized flexed and in-line to exploit mismatches against base defensive personnel. Where Gronk was almost always the undisputed top threat in New England’s passing attack, he’ll now be the third option in Tampa Bay, and defenses can’t cover him like they did before his one-year hiatus. Opposing defenses will need some good luck with their third- or fourth-best cover man in one-on-one situation with Gronk on the backside of 3×1 sets.

3. Young Defense Is Trending Up

Over the second half of the 2019 season, the Bucs got outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul back from injury, benched cornerback M.J. Stewart, cut cornerback Vernon Hargreaves and saw their pass defense finally climb out of the cellar thanks to the rookie contributions of cornerbacks Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting, and the veteran presence of Andrew Adams at free safety, who replaced a not-quite-ready-for-prime-time rookie in Mike Edwards. Dean and Murphy-Bunting, combined with second-year cornerback Carlton Davis, helped boost the Bucs’ defense to the fifth overall spot in Football Outsiders’ DVOA (Defensive Value Over Average) rankings.

The Bucs had the best run defense in the NFL last season, and although a number of factors contributed to that success, Todd Bowles’ scheme was certainly one of them. One of the game’s best defensive minds, Bowles’ decision to lean on his young players on the back end and his studs up front was a big reason why the Bucs balled out down the stretch in 2019.

Bucs S Antoine Winfield
Bucs S Antoine Winfield – Photo courtesy of Minnesota

Everyone who matters from that group returns in 2020, with the important addition of second round safety Antoine Winfield, who should immediately step into a starting role on the team’s worst defensive unit from last season. Assuming Dean, SMB and Davis can all continue to make strides as a cover trio, the Bucs defense should be more than strong enough to withstand offenses that actually have to begin drives semi-deep in their own territory. That’s something they aren’t used to after Jameis Winston’s 30 interceptions last year consistently left them in bad situations.

Across the board, the right pieces seem to be in place. The Bucs’ pass rush is finally back, with outside linebacker Shaq Barrett breaking out to lead the league in sacks last season. JPP is the unit’s anchor, the rugged leader with a nasty edge to his game that Tampa Bay has desperately needed for so long on their defensive line.

MO linebacker Lavonte David, the heart and soul of the defense, might be the best inside linebacker in the NFL. Nose tackle Vita Vea and MIKE linebacker Devin White are the future of the Bucs defense, and ready to break out soon based on the way they finished 2019. The young cornerbacks are an exciting trio with all the potential in the world, and the safety unit could play catch-up fast if Winfield, one of the smartest and most pro-ready players in last year’s draft class, can hit the ground running. This is the season the Bucs defense has been building toward over the past three drafts. Bowles is going to have them ready to deliver.

4. Best Offensive Line In Years

The Bucs’ offensive line isn’t one of the NFL’s best perhaps, but it certainly isn’t among the worst either. Left guard Ali Marpet is an established, dominant player who has become one of the top guards in the game. Center Ryan Jensen bounced back strong after an average first year in Tampa Bay, looking like one of the best centers in the NFL last season.

Even Donovan Smith, much-maligned during his early career in Tampa Bay, has become a solid starting left tackle in the NFL. The occasional ugly reps remain, but Smith has finally started to become somewhat of a more consistent player, even if the word “dominant” will likely never be in his scouting report.

Bucs RT Tristan Wirfs
Bucs RT Tristan Wirfs – Photo courtesy of Iowa

Demar Dotson faithfully gave the franchise a solid starting right tackle for years, but first-round pick Tristan Wirfs offers significantly more upside, especially in the run game. It might take a little while for Wirfs to reach his peak, especially without a rookie mini-camp or any OTAs this offseason due to COVID-19, but he has all the physical and athletic tools to be at least on Dotson’s level as a rookie, if not better.

Right guard Alex Cappa might be the weak link in 2020, but even he took a big leap forward to a league average player last season. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to think he’s above average this season if he keeps getting stronger in the weight room and more consistent technically.

There are still question marks, particularly with the line’s depth and on the right side of the starting lineup, but the Bucs have the most talent individually and as a unit that they’ve had in years. The timing couldn’t be better, as Brady’s presence opens up about a two-year window for a Super Bowl run.

5. Bucs Beating The Bucs Might Finally Be Over

Tom Brady has never quarterbacked a team with a reputation for beating itself, and Bruce Arians has never coached one – for a second consecutive season that is. Under Jameis Winston and the former Tampa Bay regime, the Bucs earned one of the league’s most consistent reputations for sloppy, mistaken-laden play.

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

That was still true in Arians’ first season over the team, as the Bucs led the league in penalties and in turnovers. However, as our Taylor Jenkins discovered when he researched penalty trends under Arians during his career as a head coach, his teams are almost always in the better half of the league in penalties, especially now that he’s had a year to instill his culture in the organization.

As for the turnovers, the Bucs are going from a quarterback with a long-standing reputation as one of the game’s most irresponsible passers, to probably the best decision-making quarterback of all-time. Brady was about as reckless as I’ve ever seen him play over the second half of last season, and even that couldn’t hold a candle to Winston’s mistake-riddled play. In fact, over the past four seasons combined, Brady has thrown 29 interceptions – or one less than Winston threw all of last season.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a stat. Whew.

CLICK THE NEXT PAGE FOR 5 REASONS TO BE PESSIMISTIC ABOUT THE BUCS’ 2020 SEASON

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Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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danielob

Very well written, thought out article ( as usual, jon) showing both sides of the issues. The only thing we have going for us on the negative side is that the other teams usually have the same issues with depth if the starters go down, as well as establishing team chemistry with the Covid-19 issues going on. All the teams will have problems getting the rookies up to speed, the only one we really need to hit the field running is Tristen Wirfs, and we have haeg if he is not ready and could ease him into the line up.… Read more »

mjmoody

I like the analysis. On paper I completely agree. In reality, I can’t help but think we are looking at a very unusual season. No fans in the stands. And it’s not who’s on your team, but who isn’t positive on your team that you play with. Lot’s of differing opinions on Covid19, but the one thing we hopefully can agree upon is it is Extremely Contagious. As somebody posted on a different article, “you can’t play football at a distance.” Young men that believe themselves to be invulnerable are a very healthy breeding ground. These men are going to… Read more »

Horse

Good article.

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Greg Abdul

Luv theBucks and agree with you on reasons to be positive. However, call me a know-nothing old school on your pessimism. The biggest weakness the Bucs have is we are depending on a smart accurate guy, but our running game is suspect. Said it before and say it again: we should have drafted Jonathan Taylor. My question of the day is, who were the cornerbacks who played with Lawrence Taylor? I sure as hell don’t know. You watched the Giants and it was like watching a car wreck and waiting for the fatalities. A pass rush is what makes for… Read more »

BigSombrero

So you’re saying that defense and running the ball wins championships?

I agree with that sentiment 100%.

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Dave

It can. As can a team with a great QB, decent defense, with zero running game. Like your defending SB champion Chiefs. They beat the “great defense /great running game” 49er team, because the 49ers didn’t have the elite QB to make plays late In the game when needed. Elite QB is every bit as important in winning a championship as a good defense and running game

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Last edited 17 days ago by Dave
BigSombrero

Chiefs defense was top 5 and it was #1 the last 8 games of the season. Elite QB play can win it. The problem is the Bucs don’t have an elite QB. Brady is not elite at this point. He is probably the 15th best starting QB in the NFL. Solid, not elite.

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BigSombrero

QB Tom Brady is an elite marketing story for the NFL and now the Bucs. He will draw national exposure and attention. That guarantees nothing in the W/L column.

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Dave

Top 5? wrong. Check again bud

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Last edited 17 days ago by Dave
Dave

15th best? Lol. So who are the top 14? And believe me, we ALL wanna hear this

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BigSombrero

At this stage I would rank these QB’s ahead of Tom Brady…
Aaron Rodgers, Pat Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson, and Deshaun Watson are top 5. Matt Ryan, Ben Rothlisberger, Matt Stafford, Dak Prescott, Carson Wentz are 6-10. Josh Allen, Ryan Tannehill, Kyler Murray, Jared Goff, Tom Brady are 11-15. Drew Lock, Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers, Teddy Bridgewater, and Cam Newton are 16-20.

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Dave

Lmao. Matt Ryan ahead of Brady. Big Ben ahead of Brady. Josh Allen ahead of Brady lol. Ryan Tannehill ahead of Brady. And Jared Goff ahead of Brady. Well there ya have it. Ladies and gentleman, this is what it looks like when someone who’s CLEARLY biased and has hatred for Brady, ranks Brady in a list of current QB’s. I don’t know whether to laugh or shake my head

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Dave

Now here comes a very unbiased list of the top 15 QB’s, based on 2020 projections. Taking into account current health, last season, playoff success, and doing it at a high level for multiple years. Not salary, and not a projection for the next 10 years.

1: P.Maholmes
2: R.Wilson
3: D.Watson
4: L.Jackson
5: T.Brady
6: A.Rodgers
7: D.Brees
8: D.Prescott
9: M.Stafford
10:C.Wentz
11: M.Ryan
12: K.Murray
13: B.Roethlisberger
14: D.Carr
15: J.Garroppolo

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Last edited 16 days ago by Dave
Dave

And let me be clear. To me, after Brees, you can rank 8-11 in any order, and 12-15 in any order. That’s just my order. But I think the top 7 are easy picks. It’s just preference in which order you have them in

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Last edited 16 days ago by Dave
nybuccguy

Brady belongs on both lists. Yes, he’s the GOAT. He’s also 43, switching teams for the first time, with no off season. He fell apart at the end of last season and ended up with the same QB rating as Jameis Winston. There’s reason to be optimistic, but there’s also a huge chance the QB position is STILL a problem.

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Dave

No he didn’t. Check again. Brady’s rating was 88.5 and JW’s was 84. And when comparing the 2, make sure you mention the fact that one QB had Julian Edelman, James White, Phillip Dorsett, and Mohammed Sanu as his 4 best pass catchers, the other QB had Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, OJ Howard, and Cameron Brate as his 4 best pass catchers. You need some talent at WR, and TE to be able to pass effectively. Pats pass catchers were complete garbage. Bucs top 2 WR’s and TE’s are arguably the best in the NFL. The Pats WR’s were ranked… Read more »

Last edited 17 days ago by Dave
nybuccguy

So you ignored the fact that hes 43, o a new team, with no off season. Just glazed right over that. NEWS FLASH! Great QBs dont need elite targets. Brady became the GOAT without having any. What he did have was the best coach of all time, playing behind the best offensive line coaches unit of all time, w il th an elite defense. Your ONLY argument is that there are better targets here, and that argument is weak as hell.

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Dave

So he’s 43, and playing for a new team. That’s your argument? Also pretty weak. He was 40 when he won the MVP, and threw for over 500 yards against a top 10 defense in the SB. Peyton Manning had 2 neck surgeries and nobody thought he would ever play again. He went to a new team, with an off-season spent rehabbing and getting healthy. With a new system that was completely different than what he ran in Indy. Didn’t stop him from having the greatest season ever from a QB. Brady is completely healthy. Brett Favre was nearly 40… Read more »

Last edited 16 days ago by Dave
buccaneerNW

Article should be prefaced with “If there’s a season.” And it doesn’t appear there will be one. Guess we can start planning for the 2021 draft.

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captain ahab

The offensive line has a long way to go, they were terrible at opening holes for the running game and gave up 47 sacks. I understand that Arians offense is about down field passing which means the QB has to hold the ball longer and lineman have to hold blocks a bit longer. Old man Brady won’t be able to take the beating that Winston endured so the O’line needs to substantially improve in my opinion. To suggest this is the best Offensive line the Bucs have had in years is a reach and pure speculation, we need to see… Read more »

Dave

Old man Brady is 10x the player Jameis is. And Old man Brady isn’t allergic to getting the ball out quick, checking it down, or throwing it out of bounds. Something we never saw in 5 years with Jameis. So old man Brady has ZERO chance of coming close to the 47 sacks that Jameis took last year. The line is immediately better simply by subtracting #3 and adding #12. Its that simple. Brady had 35 combined sacks and INT’s. Jameis had 77. SEVENTY SEVEN. And that’s not even mentioning the 7 pick sixes. Like good god man. I can’t… Read more »

Last edited 17 days ago by Dave
BigSombrero

If the defense surrenders big plays and long touchdowns, then Brady will be forced into shoot-outs just like Winston was. Expect the same results as last season if the secondary doesn’t grow up fast and the pass rush doesn’t remain healthy. No viable rushing attack also means the Bucs are forced to pass-pass-pass, which puts more pressure on the line and the QB. More passes mean more sacks, injuries and turnovers, plain and simple. If the kicking game is about the same and the coaching blunders are about the same, expect that to cost the Bucs 2-3 wins. Wide receivers… Read more »

Last edited 17 days ago by BigSombrero
Dave

No Jameis was forced into shootouts because the first 6 drives would go as follows: Punt, INT for TD, Punt, TD, missed FG, punt. When you’re constantly starting games with punts, TO’s, and defensive TD’s, it’s pretty hard to win that way in this league

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Last edited 17 days ago by Dave
surferdudes

They may be in the twilight of their careers, but the fact remains, we added two future HOFer’s. Perhaps the best QB of all time, and one of the best ever to play the game at TE. Bucs are going to be something to see this year, I’m as optimistic in this season as I was when Gruden came aboard. The only thing to be pessimistic about is if we’ll have a season.

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sunshineben

Some fans defend Winston like he was the 2nd coming while saying Brady is only average ….huh??

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Dave

Seriously dude. I feel like I’m in the twilight zone. It’s unbelievable. Yet these are all the same ones that have been trashing him for the past 5 years. Gotta love the irony though

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Last edited 17 days ago by Dave
plopes808

Bucs fans in 2019: “Jameis is horrible, he is the reason we’re losing with all his turnovers” Same Bucs fans in 2020: “Brady will be in the same situation Jameis was and we will see the same results” Glass is 1/2 empty I guess As long as the secondary keeps growing as they did late last season (which I think they will) we will be just fine. Turnovers will be cut in 1/2 or maybe less which means they’ll have much less pressure on them. Likewise, the offense won’t be chasing points for 3 quarters. We will see lower offensive… Read more »

Dave

Well apparently we can add another to the list of negatives. Shaq did an interview yesterday with the NFL Network and dropped a bomb that he’s 50/50 on whether or not he’ll sign his franchise tender or not. Definitely not a good sign. This isn’t the year for this. There probably won’t be many fans in the seats this year, which would lower the cap quit a bit. So signing anyone to a long term deal this year, just isn’t reasonable. Hopefully he has a change or heart and signs Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please… Read more »

Last edited 16 days ago by Dave
surferdudes

Dave, he was hinting last night that he might have a long term deal done soon. That’s why he hasn’t signed the tag yet. Relax, Shaq holding out, and not playing day one, whenever that is, should be the least of our worries this season.

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Dave

Yeah completely disagree that him holding out and not playing day 1 isn’t at least a minor concern. And unless you know something I don’t, I haven’t heard a single word about any progress being made on a contract extension. Not saying it’s likely he holds out, but If he did, yeah that would be a major blow to our defense

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Last edited 16 days ago by Dave
cgmaster27

Just curious where our resident clown Bill went? Remember when i said book it well have a season? Where did you go Bill?

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