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Pewter Report’s Scott Reynolds 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 to answer for this week’s edition.

QUESTION: If Tom Brady retires do we go to Kyle Trask next year? Or do you see Bruce Arians sticking with Blaine Gabbert for a year?

ANSWER: I think Tom Brady returns next year following the Bucs’ 30-27 loss to the Rams on Sunday. I’m sure he’ll want to hear what the Bucs’ blueprint is for Tampa Bay’s roster from general manager Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians before making a decision one way or the other. But let’s speculate and answer the hypothetical question that was posed.

If Brady decides to retire, it’s almost assured that Arians would want to re-sign quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Arians is very high on Gabbert, who has made strides in his offense over the last three years behind the scenes. The 32-year old Gabbert has failed as a starter before in Jacksonville and San Francisco, but perhaps a late-stage resurgence of his career is in order? At the very least, he could provide veteran competition for Trask, who has made strides during his redshirt rookie year.

Trask, the Bucs’ second round pick, is largely unproven and Arians would rather see a veteran under center. But he is talented and the team still believes he is the future starter at some point. Whether that is in 2022, 2023 or later is up to Trask’s development – and ultimately how long Brady decides to play in Tampa Bay.

QUESTION: What does this offseason look like? Do we look to get more weapons and better DBs?

ANSWER: There will be roster changes this offseason. This won’t be like last year where the Bucs try to re-sign all of their free agents – nor should they. This was forecast in an SR’s Fab 5 column around midseason. Tampa Bay doesn’t have to blow up its roster, but it needs to part ways with some players and make some significant upgrades at several positions through free agency and the NFL Draft.

Bucs QB Tom Brady and WR Chris Godwin

Bucs QB Tom Brady and WR Chris Godwin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Having Tom Brady return for one more year would help greatly because the drop off at quarterback would be huge. Unless of course Aaron Rodgers was his replacement if Brady opts to retire. Brady would also be a great lure in free agency as several of the top free agents would love the opportunity to play with the greatest of all time.

Getting Brady – or whoever plays under center – some more weapons will be paramount. The Bucs need to re-sign slot receiver Chris Godwin, who was the team’s franchise player, and then add another starting-caliber receiver in free agency and the draft. Neither Tyler Johnson, Breshad Perriman, Cyril Grayson nor Scotty Miller have shown the talent and reliability to be the Bucs’ No. 3 receiver.

Tampa Bay does need to improve the depth at cornerback, too. The position was ravaged by injuries this year and Sean Murphy-Bunting’s season was a big let-down due to injuries and poor play. He, Jamel Dean and Mike Edwards, who had a terrible playoff game against the Rams, are all entering a contract year. The Bucs need more talent and competition in the secondary heading into the 2022 season.

QUESTION: Two years ago fans just wanted a winning record and a playoff berth. Now, we’re just greedy. Many fans are calling for the firing of our coaching staff after an incredibly successful year. What’s the deal? Will we never be satisfied without another Super Bowl trophy?

ANSWER: Let’s cut right to the chase. The call by defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to call an aggressive all-out blitz and leave free safety Antoine Winfield, Jr. in single coverage against Cooper Kupp was horrifically bad. It was the wrong call as the Rams didn’t have a timeout and needed a field goal to win. The Bucs should’ve played coverage and kept the ball in front of them. Instead Winfield was caught flat-footed and put in a bad position.

The analytics said not to blitz Stafford, who was 85-of-118 (72 percent) for 1,031 yards with 14 touchdowns and zero interceptions when blitzed, as reported by Jon Ledyard in last week’s Bucs Briefing. Blitzing Stafford only produced eight sacks all year. Neither one of Tampa Bay’s two sacks came on blitzes in Sunday’s loss.

Yet when rushing four or less, Stafford completed 319-of-483 (66 percent) for 3,855 yards with 27 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Stafford was sacked 22 times when not blitzed during the regular season.

Bowles likely regrets the call given the outcome, but he can’t take it back. His Super Bowl ring can’t be taken away either, though. Let’s remember that Bowles’ game plan was magnificent in Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl LV championship. The Bucs held the Kansas City Chiefs to nine points. Bowles also had to deal with a rash of injuries in the secondary. Yet the Bucs still managed to win 15 games and the NFC South title.

I’ve seen plenty of bad defenses – and offenses – in Tampa Bay over my 26 years of covering the Bucs. I’m all for wanting excellence over incompetence. But Tampa Bay has a 25-9 record in the regular season and a 5-1 record in the postseason over the last two seasons. That’s better than any two-year span in Bucs history.

QUESTION: Are the Bucs special teams the worst in the NFL?

ANSWER: No, I believe that distinction goes to Green Bay, especially after allowing a blocked punt to be returned for a touchdown in San Francisco’s upset playoff win on Saturday night. But the Bucs special teams are far from special, and something has to be done. The coverage units were improved this year, except for allowing the Rams to average 20 yards per punt return on three returns on Sunday, including a long of 33 yards.

Bucs WR-KR Jaelon Darden

Bucs WR-KR Jaelon Darden – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Kicker Ryan Succop had a good year, but not as good as last year. He connected on 83.3 percent of his field goals in 2021 after nailing 90.3 percent of his kicks last year. Succop was 2-of-3 on Sunday, yet he missed a 48-yarder. That came back to bite the Bucs in a three-point loss to the Rams.

Punter Bradley Pinion really faded down the stretch, perhaps due to a hip injury. Pinion averaged 53 yards per punt, but had a net of just 33 yards, in addition to a touchback. None of his four punts were downed inside the 20. To make matters worse, he was flagged twice for kicking the ball out of bounds, which gave the Rams the ball at their own 40-yard line twice.

Tampa Bay’s return game has been lackluster, and rookie Jaelon Darden was not nearly as good as Jaydon Mickens was. Darden averaged 15.5 yards per kick return on Sunday, and returned one punt for five yards. He’s not the answer in the return game.

QUESTION: I would like to hear about some of the questionable decisions this season, including Jaelon Darden as a returner and the love of Sean Murphy-Bunting. Any others come to mind?

ANSWER: Rookie receiver Jaelon Darden impressed in the OTAs and in training camp. But once the pads came on and the bullets starting flying for real, Darden was awful. Darden logged just six catches for 73 yards and had a pass bounce off his hands and turn into an interception at Washington.

He also failed to make an impact in the return game. Darden averaged just 7.5 yards per punt return and slipped and fell down way too many times. He was equally unimpressive on kick returns, averaging just 19.9 yards per return with a long of just 34 yards. The Bucs traded up in the fourth round to grab Darden, but he’s not as fast as advertised and lacks the size to slip or break tackles at 5-foot-8, 174 pounds. Darden will get a chance to earn a roster spot next August, but he looks like a bust right now. He can’t be considered a lock to make the 2022 Buccaneers.

Sean Murphy-Bunting is highly regarded by the defensive coaches. But outside of a nice postseason run in 2020, he’s done little to impress. Murphy-Bunting seems to lack the “it” factor and has had a slew of injuries over the past two seasons. Don’t be surprised if the Bucs draft a cornerback early to compete for Murphy-Bunting’s spot on the depth chart.

The other questionable decision by the coaching staff was allowing Jason Pierre-Paul to play as much as he did in the regular season. Pierre-Paul should be commended for trying to play through pain and be a good teammate and leader. But the reality is that he put an awful lot of bad film out there in the process. On too many snaps it seemed like the Bucs were playing with 10 players because of Pierre-Paul’s ineffectiveness. And the Bucs coaches were stunting Joe Tryon-Shoyinka’s development in the process.

At age 33 and with neck, knee and shoulder injuries each of the past three seasons, it’s time to turn the page. Tampa Bay needs to draft another young edge rusher to add to the rotation and eventually line up opposite JTS when Shaq Barrett’s playing days are done.

QUESTION: Have we seen the last game of O.J. Howard?

Bucs TEs Rob Gronkowski and OJ Howard

Bucs TEs Rob Gronkowski and OJ Howard – Photo by: USA Today

ANSWER: Yes, Sunday was likely the last game in Tampa Bay for tight end O.J. Howard, the Bucs’ first-round pick in 2017. He just hasn’t been the same player since tearing his Achilles tendon in the 2020 season. A fresh start for Howard elsewhere in free agency seems probable.

The tight end position needs to be retooled in 2022. Bringing back Rob Gronkowski for one more seasons seems wise if Tom Brady returns. But the Bucs have a decision to make regarding 30-year old Cameron Brate, who is set to make $6.5 million in 2022 and can no longer separate in coverage.

Although he didn’t play, Sunday was also the last game in Tampa Bay for running back Ronald Jones II. The former second round pick fell out of favor with coaches over his lack of progress in the passing game. Jones’ development as a receiver stalled, and he never improved as a pass protector. He was a liability on third down as a result.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 27th 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 coordinator/defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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Emilio
Emilio
5 months ago

And we also need a good #2 receiver for when Goodwyn gets injured.

Horse
Horse
5 months ago

Okay, here I go again fans. I have had it with white as our middle LB. He’s above fair at the middle linebacker spot, but would be better if we move him to the left or right side. I’m serious here. Anybody else see it the way I see it. He actually gets in the way of others at times because he is slow to act backing up or side to side in pass coverage.
Just my opinion.

BigSombrero
BigSombrero
Reply to  Horse
5 months ago

Just think…the Bucs could have drafted DE Josh Allen at #5. Instead, they got the horse whisperer. It’s ironic that he isn’t whispering to you Horse! I’m just horsing around. Lol.

The Wall
The Wall
Reply to  Horse
5 months ago

Absolutely right. White is a loose canon.

liquidmuse3
liquidmuse3
Reply to  Horse
5 months ago

Devin is a LOLB in a 4-3. We, however, don’t run that.

surferdudes
surferdudes
Reply to  Horse
5 months ago

He’s really been a big disappointment this season. Maybe moving him over would help, but he doesn’t have it between the ears to be QB of the defense. Right now he sure isn’t playing up to his draft status.

toofamiliar17
toofamiliar17
Reply to  Horse
5 months ago

You want him to play edge rusher?

twspin
twspin
5 months ago

Buc fans had better pray Brady returns. I can guarantee all of you Gabbert nor Trask is our answer. We will lose many games with either of them under center. Many teams already have their QB’s for the future. We do not. I sorta laughed at a lot of our peeved fans. We got so use to winning. The Rams were a much better team. Anytime a team takes a 5 hr plus plane ride, comes into your house and wins? Us ole timers call that an A..Whippin..period. Their defense reminded me of the one we had with Sapp and… Read more »

drdneast
drdneast
Reply to  twspin
5 months ago

If Brady leaves so does drdneast, especially if they are thinking of starting Trask next season. I have watched enough bad football as the Bucs try to groom a college football player to play at the pro level. Doug Williams, Vinny Testaverde, Trent Dilfer, Shaun King, Josh Freeman and finally th very immature Jameis Winston . They all played enough bad football here to last me a lifetime. The only time this team has ever had success was when they put a veteran in the position,i.e. Brad Johnson, Jeff Garcia and Tom Brady. So I’ll turn my season tickets in… Read more »

toofamiliar17
toofamiliar17
Reply to  drdneast
5 months ago

What a loyal, true fan you are. Don’t let the door hit ya on the way out.

scubog
scubog
Reply to  drdneast
5 months ago

Sure you will.

bucballer
bucballer
Reply to  twspin
5 months ago

Not only were they the better team yesterday, I pick them to win it all! That defense is stout and tough! The Rams r like an All-Star team! We came close, but we did not deserve to win that game with the way we played!

toofamiliar17
toofamiliar17
Reply to  bucballer
5 months ago

There’s no chance any of these remaining teams is beating Mahomes and the rest of that KC squad this year. Once we went down, that BUF/KC game was the Super Bowl. It’s over.

fredster
fredster
5 months ago

Please draft a CB! Tired watching these always hurt clowns blow coverages left and right when they are on the field! We also have no tackle depth and needs addressed. I won’t trash Bowles but that call was just retarded. I honestly think we would be better off with fresh approach on defense. Good luck to him and thanks for the Super Bowl last year. Same for Lefty is someone wants him for head coach I wouldn’t be heart broken. Good not great imo. Hope Brady gives it one more year. This team also needs to look at LB. White… Read more »

BigSombrero
BigSombrero
Reply to  fredster
5 months ago

MJ Stewart looked great in Cleveland this year. He was good in coverage and physical against the run. I wonder how good Davis, Dean, or SMB will look in other uniforms/schemes that match the scheme to the talent instead of the other way around? Bowles is unlikely to be going anywhere. The loss and defense rankings with all the talent may prevent him from getting hired as an HC. On the flip side, I would say the fact that there are too few AA HC’s at the NFL level will likely get him a number of interviews and strong consideration… Read more »

drdneast
drdneast
Reply to  BigSombrero
5 months ago

AA, Alcoholic Anonymous?

BigSombrero
BigSombrero
Reply to  drdneast
5 months ago

Funny. No, in this context AA is short for African American.

Captain Sly
Captain Sly
Reply to  BigSombrero
5 months ago

Correct! Bowles’ scheme far too often puts these young inexperienced DB’s on an island with no help. look no further than the final drive with Winfield matched one on one against Cooper Kuup you send an all out blitz. Ridiculous! His scheme is broken & outdated for the way the game is played today and it’s time to move on.

drdneast
drdneast
Reply to  fredster
5 months ago

You wouldn’t have to worry about those clowns blowing coverage if there was more of a pass rush. The team needs to put pressure on the QB before he throws, not after. Aww what difference does it make, Licht will blow the draft pick anyway.

surferdudes
surferdudes
Reply to  fredster
5 months ago

I’m wondering how good is our secondary coach? We look like crap on the back end no matter who’s starting. Like our special teams, our seconary sucks just as bad. Players change, but the coaching is the same, and we’re always bad. Hmmmm.

Eddie
Eddie
Reply to  fredster
5 months ago

Finally some one see the same DBs at work as I do. Slow and looks like they have on skates when trying to cover slightly faster receivers one on one.

BigSombrero
BigSombrero
5 months ago

Is it a guarantee that Godwin will be back? How about Fournette? What about Brady? How much will those guys cost?

If Brady goes, does he take everyone with him? I’m pretty sure he will. After all, it was NEVER the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that won a SuperBowl, just Tom Terrific and Gronky. That’s how the whole world views it anyway.

The Wall
The Wall
5 months ago

I was at yesterday’s game. Our punt coverage was awful. There were at least two punts where there wasn’t a tackler within 15 yards of the returner. The hang time on the punts appeared to be fine. Though Darden was terrible (like he was all season) the Rams were all over him. No excuse for Pinion kicking the kickoff out of bounds twice. Darden was terrible on kickoff returns as well. Why can’t our coaches just move on from a player when they need to?

drdneast
drdneast
5 months ago

Listening you list all of the players that won’t return next year just reminds me of how truly bad that Licht is in judging and evaluating college talent. And if it’s not Licht, then it’s someone else who has got to go.

cobraboy
cobraboy
5 months ago

1) Darden was so bad, the Rams opted to short-kick to him, and gained 10 yards of field position almost every time. No team has *any* fear of Darden. He’s a waste of a roster spot. 2) It’s sad to see a talented guy get injured and fail to reach his full potential. Howard is gone. 3) If Brady chooses to leave, I’d rather see Russell Wilson as Buc QB over Rodgers, but I doubt either would happen. 4) The problem with Bowles blitz scheme is it is predictable. A blitz only really works works when it is unexpected. I… Read more »

warren
warren
5 months ago

I agree with all the comments in the article. One thing to remember is that the Bucs played 20 games last year, and Sunday was their 19th this year. Considering the number of games played, it was almost inevitable that a host of injuries would happen eventually, and the same players played the vast majority of snaps both seasons when healthy, and some are a bit older. This team has never had good backup players (ex., Wells was horrific every time he played). When we had backups, opposing coaches zeroed in on our weak links. It’s up to coaches to… Read more »

scubog
scubog
Reply to  warren
5 months ago

Me too Warren. We all know that, in the end, only one team’s fans will be happy. The other 31 will be doing the same thing as the residents of Bucville are doing now. They will second guess, criticize, want players cut, coaches replaced, heck maybe even the team colors and logo tweaked, and in the case of DrD…….threaten give up their season tickets. “Get rid of Bowles!” “Let that idiot Lefty go!” OK, then what? So here’s what happens then. Those 31 disgruntled fans will essentially exchange coaches with the other teams. Once fired coaches will become the new… Read more »

liquidmuse3
liquidmuse3
5 months ago

Great column, Scott.

Buc stops here
Buc stops here
5 months ago

Please stop with firing the coaches. The stat mentioned by Scott Reynolds says it all: “Tampa Bay has a 25-9 record in the regular season and a 5-1 record in the postseason over the last two seasons. That’s better than any two-year span in Bucs history.” Why in the heck would you fire them now? Firing the other horrible coaches in their past history is one thing. Firing the best coaches the franchise ever had? Insanity.

The Wall
The Wall
Reply to  Buc stops here
5 months ago

What would the two year record without Brady? Just sayin

JSW
JSW
5 months ago

A Fox Sports headline says, “Antonio Brown Rubs Salt In The Wound”… Not worth reading the article. Anyone who writes that trash totally doesn’t understand team sports. Brown was insulting himself with his post. His team could have used another talented receiver yesterday. But where was he? He quit on his team and his teammates! The Bucs went down fighting – something Brown doesn’t know ANYTHING about. What a quitter!

Eddie
Eddie
5 months ago

And while we are talking about changing coaching staff, need to replace the strength and condition coaching staff too. Just horrific injuries the entire season. Need to help make our players more durable.