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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org