The PR Bucs Monday Mailbag is where PewterReport.com’s Mark Cook answers your questions from our Pewter Report Twitter account. You can submit your question each week via Twitter using the hashtag #PRMailbag.

Below are the questions we chose for this week’s edition of the PR Bucs Monday Mailbag.

Question: The team learned on the fly this year. Presume there’s a training camp or close to one, in your opinion how can the team take it to the next level? Any stat predictions?

Answer: Even if there isn’t a traditional offseason, with OTAs and mini-camps, this Buccaneers team should be even better in 2021, barring any major injuries. Your point of learning on the fly is a good one and that is exactly what this team had to do as they tried to fit together a bunch of new moving parts. Even for those who were here in 2019, it was just their second year with the new staff brought in by Bruce Arians when he was hired.

Bucs QB Tom Brady and Chiefs SS Tyrann Mathieu

Bucs QB Tom Brady and Chiefs SS Tyrann Mathieu – Photo by: USA Today

As far as taking it to the next level, I don’t expect any drop-off in production from quarterback Tom Brady despite the fact he will turn 44 this year. I also expect the Buccaneers to improve the running back position with an addition of a veteran pass-catching running back, something that lacked from the 2020 offense. This will only make the Bucs offense even more potent and Brady more effective. Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson should be better,  and Mike Evans and Chris Godwin will be their usual dependable and outstanding selves. O.J. Howard adds another dimension to an already talented tight end room and with Rob Gronkowski likely back its almost unfair the amount of talent this offense will have this upcoming season.

Add in another year for a young defensive backfield to improve combined with the fact Vita Vea and Devin White haven’t even maxed out what they can do yet, the defense might be as scary as the offense. Where is the weakness on this football team?

As far as stats go, I won’t get into individual stat predictions but I will say this team has the capability to win 12 or even more games in 2021. They won 11 without the benefit of an offseason and even if this season’s offseason is modified somewhat as the world recovers from COVID-19 there is no reason to think this team won’t be even better. And that is even before they add more talent via free agency and the draft.

A top 5 offense and defense is well within the realm of possibility if they can stay relatively injury free. And there isn’t a team that I would say would be more favored to return to and win another Super Bowl.

Question: Of all our current free agents, which one not named Antonio Brown would you not bring back?

Bucs RB Leonard Fournette

Bucs RB Leonard Fournette – Photo by: USA Today

Answer: I am a “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” kind of guy so for me I would try and retain everyone from the current roster. I also understand that won’t happen. And Brown, of the big names at least, would be the most expendable based on who was behind him on the depth chart. Even then, if it works out for a return, I wouldn’t be upset.

After Brown however, I would say Leonard Fournette, if I had to choose one. It’s not that I think he wasn’t an important piece of the 2020 puzzle, but more because the running back position is such an interchangeable position and one that I think teams can find good value either through the draft or free agency. As mentioned before, I think the Buccaneers will address the position via free agency with someone like James White to team up with Ronald Jones II.

Again, I am not opposed at all to seeing Fournette back in red and pewter in 2021, but the team can be even more potent with a true third-down back instead of just two ground-and-pound guys at that position.

Question: All in for next year or invest in the QB of the future to learn under Brady?

Answer: Well I think you can be all in for 2021 and still invest in a quarterback to sit and learn behind Brady. I even suggested that Florida Gators’ QB Kyle Trask might be a good fit in a column a few weeks ago.

When you win a Super Bowl there aren’t usually any glaring weakness on your football team, and I believe that to be the case for the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay doesn’t necessarily need their first round pick to be an impact starter. In fact, say it isn’t a quarterback, where would the No. 32 pick fit in and even take someone’s job on this current roster? I don’t foresee any open offensive spots, and defensively, other than perhaps defensive tackle or edge rusher if Ndamukong Suh retires or Shaq Barrett leaves via free agency, it’s hard to see any rookie becoming a full-time starter.

Gators QB Kyle Trask

Gators QB Kyle Trask – Photo by: USA Today

So this might be the perfect year to nab a quarterback in the first or second round and let him sit and learn, even if it takes a couple years to become a starter.

Of course the same could be said for most positions on the team. Even if Barrett comes back, the Bucs do have to look to the future at outside linebacker as a player like Jason Pierre-Paul is likely done after one more season. But with quarterback being the most important position on a football team, it should also be the one that team are always looking to the future for when they have an aging veteran starter.

Question: What was the biggest factor in the improved offensive line play this year? Wirfs, coaching, or was it the difference between Jameis Winston  and Tom Brady?

Bucs HC Bruce Arians, run game coordinator Harold Goodwin and OC Byron Leftwich

Bucs HC Bruce Arians, run game coordinator Harold Goodwin and OC Byron Leftwich – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Answer: I don’t think we can put your finger on just one thing, but I also don’t think we should underestimate the importance of good coaching. I love Harold Goodwin and think he is a tremendous teacher. He and Joe Gilbert did a masterful job improving the offensive line this year after a lackluster 2019 season. Sometimes it takes a year or two to re-train guys and get them acclimated to buy into what they are teaching. And the offensive line more so than any unit on a football team must be a cohesive unit, working in unison and communicating.

Goodwin and Gilbert deserve a ton of credit this season for the team’s success. As good as the skill positions were this year for Tampa Bay, without time to throw and without some holes to run through, it really doesn’t mattered how good the quarterback or receivers were if not for the excellent play of the offensive line.

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About the Author: Mark Cook

Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at mark@pewterreport.com
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Pete Wood
5 months ago

The Bucs are in great shape. They don’t have any glaring needs and can go for BPA in the draft. Plus, many free agents will sign with the Bucs for less money to get a chance at that super bowl ring. If I were GM, I’d use the picks to shore up our lines and get a good RB. One thing we should remember from our first super bowl win is that it’s not hard for a great team to gradaully fall apart if a team doesn’t have good draft picks. Using those picks to get Gruden worked out quite… Read more »

Theydidwhat
Reply to  Pete Wood
5 months ago

Your right, giving up 2 first round picks for Keyshawn Johnson and then Jon Gruden really left the team hurting after the 2002 super bowl win. This team is poised to repeat, continue to improve and build for the future. Great job by the GM and financial guys!

ScottC543
5 months ago

I have to believe that the Bucs will be the favorite in every game they’ll play this year. It will be fun season for us Bucs fans (if we stay relatively healthy).

PewterPose
5 months ago

Credit to Licht and his team for finding enough talented, young players on this roster who don’t cost too much (yet). Ledyard’s podcast with his cap guy laid it out well: a little creativity and this team can remain virtually intact – and be back better than ever.

lambeau
5 months ago

I think taking it to the next level meant evolving a new offense–alot like Brady’s old offense. In the SB, the majority (16/29) of the passes were under 5 yards, with 90% completed; three over 20 yards with no completions; 5/8 completed 5-20 yards. This is not “no risk it, no biscuit.” Maybe this was just the game plan, but I think it evolved the second half of the season, and we’ll see more of it. It led to no third and long until the end of the third quarter–a good way to matriculate down the field.

Naplesfan
5 months ago

Wow, just wow … Mark, terrible answers and opinions. Bring in a pass catching veteran running back? Are you nuts? That’s exactly what Leonard Fournette is. The most expendible FA on the team is Fournette? Are absolutely freaking nuts, man? Playoff Lenny came in off the street, literally, at the beginning of the season, not having played with anyone on the team before, not knowing the playbook, shunted to a backup role. And then by December, Playoff Lenny took over as our bell cow, and continued that through the entire playoffs including Super Bowl, leading the entire team in all… Read more »

Naplesfan
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 months ago

Playoff Lenny did not just lead the Super Bowl Champion Bucs in all purpose yards during the playoffs. He lead the entire league in all purpose yards in the playoffs.

Spitfire
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 months ago

I appreciate Fournette bust aside from bumping and spinning off of guys at the line he does not evade or break tackles as well as Jones and is only slightly better at catching passes. I think Jones can improve in pass catching enough to match him and is a more dynamic runner, they need a back that has hands like Brate and can be the consistent nail out quick pass guy for Brady which will extend drives and leave us with 3rd and long far less. You also gotta recognize the point of RBs being more easily interchangeable. Also, to… Read more »

RW
RW
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 months ago

“it is not in the least bit debatable that Leonard Fournette is the best running back and backfield pass catcher in the NFL for the last two months, in the games that always matter the most – in December through February.”
Wow that is debatable. Fournette played well in the playoffs but let’s not pretend he is Derrick Henry or Dalvin Cook. If he wants to come back after signing a reasonable contract great but please remember he did not play well for most of the regular season.

Last edited 5 months ago by RW
bucballer
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 months ago

It’s not that he is expendable, he will more than likely be gone as he will want more money and years than the Bucs can afford. And yes, it would be nice to have a 3rd down back that is CONSISTENTLY able to catch the ball out of the backfield. Shady is gone for sure.

Naplesfan
5 months ago

The first question was about what it takes to get the Bucs to the next level??? Jayzus, man, what level is higher than best team in the NFL, crushing the defending NFL champ, destroying the other top teams in the conference in the playoffs? This is the highest possible level. Nope – the question is, how can the Bucs sustain the highest possible level in the NFL in 2021? And the answer is to keep this roster together. And the Bucs are going to do just that – including keeping Playoff Lenny, the best pass catching running back in the… Read more »

SenileSenior
5 months ago

That we can field another great team in 2021 is a slam dunk. Winning another Super Bowl is not guaranteed, though. Continued hard work and perseverence is the ticket.(Just stating the obvious. 👴 😏)
I’m sure we are on the look out for Tom Brady’s replacement already. A solid, smart young QB with a strong arm is in order. A natural born leader who can learn game management under TB would be ideal.
With proper coach replacement and personnel handling we can sustain a high performance level and be perennial contenders for many years into the future!

compewterpirate
5 months ago

I am amazed at how quickly some observers and pundits are willing to dismiss certain players as replaceable. The salary cap dude on the podcast last week seemed to think that a kicker, like Ryan Succop, could be found on the street, he was openly dismissive, as if ‘clutch’ kickers were ‘a dime a dozen’! The same joker by the way who last week suggested that Chris Godwin was worth around $18 mill a season, while suggesting that Gronk would play for $3.5 million next year??? Now we have Mark saying that Leonard Fournette is the ‘next most expendable’ free… Read more »

Last edited 5 months ago by compewterpirate
bucballer
Reply to  compewterpirate
5 months ago

It’s not that they r replaceable, it’s just that if they choose to go n to another team for more money. They will be replaced! No one or two players will hold this team for ransom. This team is built to win now. And it will do so with “replacements” if need be.

e
e
5 months ago

I’d love to see some more depth on the OL in ’21. Other than that, keep pouring the resources into the defense.

Theydidwhat
5 months ago

I think there is still a lot of room for improvement in all 3 areas, especially special teams kick coverage. More bonding, player development and better execution will help. The free agency market will determine who we keep and who we get for a good mutual fit with $, their role and attitude. Barrett and Fournette are likely to be offered more $ and years elsewhere. No more early round QB’s! Freeman & Winston = 9 wasted years! Cappa, Wirfs, more time and coaching in the system. What a great job they did! Stinnie is good, but we need better… Read more »

SappAttack
5 months ago

Question: What was the biggest factor in the improved offensive line play this year? Wirfs, coaching, or was it the difference between Jameis Winston and Tom Brady?

Simple. Who would you try harder to block for… the guy who throws almost 3 INTs a game or the GOAT.

bucballer
5 months ago

I think the Bucs r in a position to get value or best player available at the end of first round. If not, trade back for more picks!

bucballer
5 months ago

R.I.P. former Buc WR. Vincent Jackson.

scubog
5 months ago

Our “team” was good enough to end the season holding up…….and tossing……..the Lombardi Trophy. That’s what counts the most. Yet, surprisingly, only one player, J.P.P. was named to the Pro Bowl while teams that the Bucs left in their wake had multiple players recognized. As I recall there were only two or three players considered to be in the top 100. How does our roster compare to the somewhat dubious Pro Bowl roster and list of top players? Would any of those individual players be an upgrade? I suspect in a few cases it would. We learned after the Indy… Read more »