The Pewter Report staff answers your questions from the @PewterReport Twitter account each week in the Bucs Monday Mailbag Submit your question to the Bucs Monday Mailbag each week via Twitter using the hashtag #PRMailbag. Here are the questions we chose for this week’s edition of the Pewter Report Bucs Monday Mailbag.
QUESTION: How has Tom Brady looked in camp? Any chance his play declines this year?
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ANSWER: At some point in time Tom Brady’s play will no longer be spectacular. Brady will go from great to good. It’s inevitable. But I don’t think it’s going to happen this year – even as Brady turns 44 in August. He’s in his second season in Bruce Arians’ offense and with the Buccaneers playmakers. If there is any decline, it won’t be that noticeable because of Tampa Bay’s wide array of weapons.
Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Brady has had a good training camp so far. It’s not been perfect, but he’s fared well so far. He’s thrown a few ill-advised interceptions, and Friday and Saturday weren’t his best practices. Sunday’s practice was a better showing for Brady and the offense in general.
But Brady is a gamer and I think the best is yet to come from him this year after throwing 40 touchdowns in his first year in Tampa Bay. Brady has averaged 29 touchdowns per year in his 21 years in the NFL. Last year he threw the second-most of his career (he threw 50 in 2007 in New England) while he was learning Arians’ offense on the fly.
I wouldn’t be shocked if Brady throws between 45-50 touchdowns this year as long as he stays healthy. In fact, I would be surprised if Brady doesn’t throw for at least 40 TDs this year, especially since his knee is back to 100 percent after offseason MCL surgery.
QUESTION: If the Bucs were to make a trade before the deadline, do you think it’d be for a player or more likely draft capital?
ANSWER: That’s a great question, but it’s simply too early to tell. Injuries often dictate trades at the trade deadline, and the 2021 season hasn’t even started yet. Even if the Bucs had a completely healthy roster I don’t think the team would part ways with any depth players this season because they are in the hunt for another Super Bowl.
Bucs GM Jason Licht – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Injuries can strike any position at any time, and both Bruce Arians and general manager Jason Licht remember having one of the deepest wide receiver positions in the league in 2019 before losing Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Scotty Miller over the last three to four weeks of the season. Those injuries played a role in Tampa Bay finishing 7-9 instead of 9-7 without that weapons available. That prompted the Bucs to sign Antonio Brown at midseason last year – to provide some insurance at a very deep receiver position.
The Bucs had to weather the storm last year with big injuries to tight end O.J. Howard and nose tackle Vita Vea. The team’s depth at tight end allowed Tampa Bay to get by. Licht had to trade for Steve McLendon to help the depth up front with the loss of Vea. Licht won’t be afraid to pull the trigger again on another trade if injuries strike in 2021.
QUESTION: How is the depth looking at ILB? We know Lavonte David and Devin White are all world, but with 17 games, I’d like to see some snaps cut back for the starters when possible.
ANSWER: The Bucs are blessed to have two of the best starting inside linebackers in Devin White and Lavonte David. The team also has veteran Kevin Minter in reserve. He filled in for two games last year when White was out with COVID-19. Minter knows the defense inside and out and is solid, but not spectacular at age 30. He seems like a lock to make the team as the third linebacker on the depth chart this year with the Bucs loading up for a repeat run.
Bucs rookie LBs Grant Stuard and K.J. Britt – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
As for the four inside linebacker spots on the team, it’s too early to tell. K.J. Britt has the higher draft status (fifth round) than fellow rookie Grant Stuard (seventh round), and might have a slight edge right now. Britt and Stuard are both running with the second-string defense lately. Bucs head coach Bruce Arians has repeatedly said that the four linebacker spots will come down to performance on special teams. Not just in practice, but also in the preseason games.
Newcomer Joe Jones is a veteran and is also in the mix for the last linebacker spot. Raven Greene, who was signed as a free agent in the offseason, is a safety but can also play nickel linebacker. Greene, like Jones, is known for his special teams prowess and might get some looks at linebacker in August, too.
QUESTION: How has Jaelon Darden been looking since the pads came on? He’s not Kenny Bell 2.0 is he?
ANSWER: Bucs rookie receiver Jaelon Darden has been a standout in training camp so far. Darden’s speed and ability to separate are noticeable, and that’s why he was working with the starters on field one during the first week of training camp practice. The fourth-round pick has created some buzz dating back to the rookie mini-camp due to his deep speed and short area quickness.
Yet Darden has had plenty of rookie moments, too. He had a false start at the line of scrimmage, a few drops and didn’t finish his routes a couple of times as well. Darden has also caught the ire of head coach Bruce Arians, too.
One of the things the Bucs liked about Darden in the pre-draft process is his toughness despite his smallish frame. Darden is plenty tough at 5-foot-8, 174 pounds and there hasn’t been any fall off in play since the pads came on over the weekend. Darden has a ready-for-the-NFL mentality and it’s been so far, so good.
The Bucs have had a few receivers in the past that created some buzz in the offseason, but didn’t live up to the hype once the pads came on. Former second-round pick Dexter Jackson (2008) and former fifth-round pick Kenny Bell (2015) come to mind. So far, Darden isn’t in that class – thankfully.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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