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FAB 1. Brady And Gronk Effect In The Bucs Offense

The Buccaneers had the best offseason of any team in the NFL, landing the top prize in free agency, six-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady, who was the quarterback for New England for the past 20 years, as well luring former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski out of retirement to reunite with Brady in Tampa Bay. So what type of effect will Brady and Gronkowski have within Bruce Arians’ offense? Let’s take a look.

Expect Big Numbers For Bucs’ Passing Game

The offensive-minded Arians loves the passing game, as does his offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, a former NFL quarterback in Jacksonville, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. With Arians landing the greatest quarterback of all-time in free agency, expect Brady to put up some big passing numbers in 2020, especially with a pair of Pro Bowl wide receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin to throw to – in addition to Gronkowski..

Arians can talk about balance on offense and wanting to run the ball all he wants, but the truth is that Ronald Jones II, Dare Ogunbowale and rookies Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Raymond Calais, if he makes the team over T.J. Logan, aren’t the strength of this offense. Brady will throw the ball in Tampa Bay and throw it often.

Hopefully not 626 times like Jameis Winston did last year because the Bucs, who finished 7-9, were often trailing in games, but Brady will likely attempt at least 575 passes in 2020 if he stays healthy for all 16 games. He averaged 577 passes per season over the last decade in New England.

Wherever he’s been as a play-caller – or orchestrator of the offense – Arians has seen his quarterbacks put up big numbers in terms of yardage and/or touchdown passes in the first year of working with them. Here’s how the last four quarterbacks fared working with Arians in the first season.

2007: Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger – 3,154 yards with 32 TDs, 11 INTs
2012: Indianapolis QB Andrew Luck – 4,374 yards with 23 TDs, 18 INTs
2013: Arizona QB Carson Palmer – 4,274 yards with 24 TDs, 22 INTs
2019: Tampa Bay QB Jameis Winston – 5,109 yards with 33 TDs, 30 INTs

Brady completed 60.8 percent of his passes for 4,057 yards with 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions last year without many weapons to throw to. He especially missed Gronkowski, who retired following the Patriots’ Super Bowl season in 2018.

Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski and QB Tom Brady
Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski and QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Getty Images

With Gronkowski on the roster in 2018, Brady completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 4,355 yards with 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. That’s 300 more yards, five more touchdowns and a significantly increased completion percentage with Gronkowski on the team as a target to throw to.

Gronkowski caught 47 passes for 682 yards and three touchdowns while playing in 13 games in an injury-riddled 2018 season. The year before in 2017, Gronkowski was healthier and more productive with 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight TDs.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Brady has yet to take part in a mini-camp or OTA at the AdventHealth Training Center nor has he been able to work with his new Tampa Bay wide receivers, tight ends and running backs. As a 20-year veteran, Brady should be able to pick up Arians’ offense quickly due to his experience, his renowned study habits and his high football I.Q., and he already has a strong chemistry with Gronkowski from their nine years together in New England.

I spoke with ESPN’s Patriots beat writer Mike Reiss this week about Brady and Gronkowski, and their expected impact and outlook in Tampa Bay, and he believes they will make a seamless transition to Arians’ offense despite the shortened NFL offseason, and Gronkowski coming out of retirement at age 31 after missing the 2018 season.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a problem for them at all,” Reiss said. “One story stands out to me. It was when they played Pittsburgh in the season opener in 2015. They were coming off their Super Bowl win over the Seahawks and Gronk doesn’t play in any game that preseason. They were being very cautious in their approach because he’s so important and they didn’t want him getting hurt. Then they get to the first game and it was Brady to Gronk – three touchdown passes.

ESPN's Patriots beat writer Mike Reiss
ESPN’s Patriots beat writer Mike Reiss

“Gronk had five catches for 94 yards and three TDs, and I remember after the game asking Brady, ‘How did you guys flip the switch? You hadn’t even played together in a game since the Super Bowl?’ He looked at me like, ‘Are you serious?’ He said he had more backlog with Gronk, and a lot of history together. I think that’s really important because no matter the system, to me it’s the feel and the chemistry between the two of them. Whatever the system, I feel like they will be able to adapt to it together.”

If Brady and Gronkowski stay healthy it’s not inconceivable to see Brady throw for 4,500 yards and over 30 touchdowns, with the five-time Pro Bowl tight end catching 50 passes for 700 yards and half a dozen touchdowns.

A Seamless Transition For Gronkowski In Tampa Bay

Arians loves to pass the ball down the middle of the field, targeting a team’s linebackers, safeties and nickel cornerback rather than always challenging an opponents’ top cover corner on the outside on a regular basis. That’s where Godwin, the team’s slot receiver, did most of his damage, catching 49 of his 86 passes for 853 yards of his receiving total of 1,333 yards, and scoring five of his nine touchdowns.

Gronkowksi worked the seam effectively for Brady and New England for a decade and should thrive in Arians’ offense, which often gets criticized for not using the tight end position enough in the passing game.

According to ProFootballFocus.com, out of Winston’s 5,190 passing yards, 2,750 of those yards came from the middle of the field in 2019. Winston threw 14 of his 33 touchdowns across the middle, but also saw 20 of his 30 interceptions come from that part of the field, too.

Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Brady has thrived throwing down the middle of the field, earning PFF grades of 90.6 on throws within 10 yards, 93.4 within 20 yards and 83.5 on middle throws beyond 20 yards in 2018 with Gronkowksi on the team. Even without the talented tight end last year, Brady was able to earn grades of 75.4 on middle throws less than 10 yards, 91.9 on throws from 10-20 yards and 91.7 on throws beyond 20 yards.

By comparison, Winston struggled throwing across the middle effectively underneath, earning a PFF grade of 44.1 on throws less than 10 yards, but improving to 78.5 on middle throws between 10-20 yards and had an outstanding grade of 95.1 on middle throws beyond 20 yards.

In his final season in New England, Gronkowski caught 35 of his 47 passes for 504 yards out of his 682 and caught one of his three touchdowns down the seam.

“The seam route was the biggest one, and when you think back to the last connection they had it was against the Rams in the Super Bowl up the left seam,” Reiss said. “It set up the only touchdown in the game. If you go back and watch that throw – are you kidding me? And then the catch – Gronk has these huge mitts. The seam route was definitely the one – and if you ask anyone in New England those were often times ‘hold your breath’ plays.”

Godwin and Gronkowski working the middle of the field together will create some double trouble for safeties in coverage, and it should create more one-on-one coverages on the outside that Evans can exploit. But Gronkowski working the seam routes against linebackers underneath and safeties over the top does come with some peril for a tight end that has suffered a plethora of injuries over the years.

Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski
Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski – Photo by: Getty Images

“Gronk had been through so much physically with the back, the forearm, the knee – anytime he was going up the seam there was a vulnerability to him with that route,” Reiss said. “But they just created some phenomenal connections on those plays. The thing with Gronkowski is that he’s legitimately open even when he’s covered. No matter what offense you are in, and that’s so powerful. In addition to the system, what else is going to help Gronk is that surface [at Raymond James Stadium]. That natural grass is going to be a little softer for him – and the weather will help him, too.”

Brady Has An All-Time Arsenal To Work With

While Brady should have an instant connection with Gronkowski, the six-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback will also have a slew of other weapons to throw to in Tampa Bay, starting with a pair of Pro Bowl receivers in Evans and Godwin, each topping 1,000 receiving yards in 2019. According to Reiss, the only time Brady had a similar arsenal in New England was back in the 2007 season when the Patriots went 16-0 in the regular season, only to lose to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.

“I think the one that would come to mind was the 2007 season when they were undefeated and it was Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Donte Stallworth, Jabar Gaffney, Ben Watson and Laurence Maroney was the running back,” Reiss said. “He was a first-round pick. You knew on the first day of training camp it was going to be special because Tom was so fired up. He and Randy just put on a show. That was one of the craziest, special moments ever for me.”

The 30-year old Moss caught 98 passes for 1,493 yards and a career-high 23 touchdowns in 2007, which was his first season in New England. Welker worked the slot that season, and led the team with 112 catches for 1,175 yards and eight TDs.

Bucs QB Tom Brady
Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Getty Images

“Tom was so excited to have a player the caliber of Randy, and I think in fairness to Randy there is nobody in the discussion now that could measure up to him – the full body of work,” Reiss said. “Wes in the slot was pretty special. That would be the year, but I sort of like what I’m seeing down there in Tampa Bay with some of those pieces if everyone stays healthy.”

Brady’s receiving corps last year was lackluster compared to the arsenal he had to work with in 2007 at age 30. The Patriots failed to land wide receiver Adam Humphries or tight end Jared Cook, who was sought after to be the replacement for Gronkowski, in free agency. The trade for Mohamed Sanu was a bust due to an injury he suffered – likewise for first-round draft pick N’Keal Harry, whose rookie season was stymied by injuries. Free agent signings Antonio Brown and Josh Gordon were short-lived, and therefore ineffective.

Julian Edelman caught 100 passes for 1,117 yards and six touchdowns, but the Patriots didn’t have another receiver even top 400 yards in 2019. That lack of production led some to question whether Brady’s play was slipping at age 42. Reiss disputes that notion.

“I lean more towards the lack of weapons, and it’s tied to trust,” Reiss said. “That was one of the things that stood out to me during that Howard Stern interview. Tom said, ‘If I don’t trust you, I’m not going to throw you the ball.’ There were more times this past season where he was dumping the ball off or throwing it away, and I don’t want to say that it was in fear, because that’s disrespectful. It wasn’t in fear because he doesn’t fear anything. It was reflective to what he was saying about a lack of trust. He didn’t go in feeling good with what they had, and I think that more than anything affected his performance in my view.”

Bucs WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin
Bucs WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Brady completed 68.9 percent of his passes for 4,806 yards with a career-high and league-high 50 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2007. Is it possible that Brady could a similar-type season in Tampa Bay with Evans, Godwin, Gronkowski, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate to throw to?

As Reiss told me, don’t bet against Brady.

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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: [email protected]
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Naplesfan

The effect of Brady and Gronk will be a lot more touchdowns. Look for this offense to lead the league in scoring, but not in yards. As for “the Arians offense”, forget that. This is now the Brady-Arians offense. It will be a mix of what both Arians likes (long passes downfield and very little play action and screen passes) combined with what Brady does best – a mixture of long passes and shorter passes, but lots of play action passes at medium range to tight ends and running backs. So no, Brady is not going to get sacked like… Read more »

Captain Sly

Real Student of the QB position!!
Only when there’s a blown assignment will Brady get sacked. Offensive Line has been good enough to allow Brady to make his reads and deliver the football…
Brady is master at unmasking your coverages so there’s not a lot that you can throw at him. You may fool him once but after that he just going to Carve You Up!

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Except if you’re the Giants

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danielob

Great Read, Scott, I always look forward to the “Fab 5” each week, breaks the monotony of being a captive in your own home( and no, I’m not wearing an ankle braclet!). I can remember going to the Bucs game when Dungy first started as head coach and Alstott was a rookie, I remember telling the guys at work who were Bucs fans that we weren’t going to be too good this year but Alstott was going to be good. I can remember him giving great effort in a losing game that year and could see the talent.My wife and… Read more »

ScottC543

I predict Godwin will become TB12’s favorite target and have a monster year. By the end of the year, Godwin will be in everyone’s top receiver in the league conversation.

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plopes808

I know right? I’m picturing Welker on steroids…not literally but a bigger, stronger, faster version with hands that are just as trustworthy. Big things coming for CG14 this season, I just hope he doesn’t price himself out of Tampa.

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Spitfire

Everyone keeps talking about Arians vertical offense and Brady fitting. As many have already said, I don’t think there’s any way Arians in his final couple years will acquire the GOAT at 42 and force him into some hold onto the ball, sack ridden offense and waste his final chance at a Super Bowl as a HC. This Offense will be whatever it needs to be for the Bucs and Brady to succeed.

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Horse

I’m not sure how Brady or Gronk will do this season. The virus is impeding the progress of any veteran player or rookie player new to a team.

I usually don’t pay much attention to the past history of a veteran player performances, because it’s all about this present season.
I do expect them to play somewhat better than the player they are replacing though.

I enjoyed the Fab 3, 4, 5 comments. Go Bucs!

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Spitfire

I would think we will be eying for Brady’s successor unless we finish close to the top and end up having a major need to push for a ring in Brady’s last year. I can see OTackle if Smith doesn’t improve, RB if Jones and Vaughn aren’t it, or definitely starting to look for a replacement for JPP and Suh. A WR may be in the mix if we can’t afford to keep Evans and Godwin together or if we still need a WR3. We should not need any MLB yet, David has got at least 2-3 more top flight… Read more »

FireLichtMovement

I said that in the comments a day or 2 ago how realistic expectations for Brady were 4500 yards and 30 tds or better. Can’t argue there. This high flying passing attack will be great. We hopefully can get a complimentary rushing attack. If Rojo can get 1200 or more all purpose yards and Vaughn can get 700, I think we’re in business as the highest scoring offense in the NFL. We dont need the rbs to be the stars. They need to be good enough for the defense to respect the run. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No… Read more »

BazookaChip

Excited to have Brady and Gronk on the team and can’t wait to see them on the field in a Bucs uniform! However, my focus in on Michael Divinity. That highlight tape is terrible. Not PRs fault, it just doesn’t provide a “Coach/Scout” view. Nonetheless, my first thought is OLB/Edge rusher… went back and pulled Shaq Barrett’s measurements and you’d be surprised by the similarities. Divinity’s Vitals Ht: 6’2″ Wt: 242 lbs. 40: 4.85 Bench: 14 reps Vertical: 31″ Broad Jump: No data Shaq’s Vitals Ht: 6’1″ Wt: 251 lbs. 40: 4.73 Bench: 16 reps Vertical: 29″ Broad Jump: 9’5″… Read more »

surferdudes

How long will Gronk, and Tom play? If we get two good years out of both of them it’ll be a good thing. How long does any player have when you consider a career can end on one play. I wonder more what Brady will do when he finally does hang it up. Brees has a broadcast gig waiting, other greats have gone that route. Our own Lefty has gotten into coaching. Peyton Manning is a commercial whore, does a bit of every type of media. Other greats, like Montana, Farve just go about life not looking for another career.… Read more »

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danielob

I know alot of people are hurting but $3.00 aint gonna kill me, I love Pewter Reports and thats the least I can do. If you can’t donate no big deal, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. I would hate to see Pewter Reports go away.

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seat26

I wonder how Brady performs after being sacked 47 times? I wonder how he will perform after sitting out for a year with 30 million in the bank and playing a final year at 44 years of age? If we do have a season, we better have an exceptional backup. Cause he is going to get hit like a pinball machine.

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Dave

And what evidence in his 20 year career hints at that being even remotely accurate?

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Dman

Arians and Lefty will change the offense, not going to be all those 5, 7 step drop downfield pass plays. Will be more slants, short passes with deep balls thrown in to keep D honest. Favorite target will emerge as Godwin on run after the catch balls in the Larry Fitzgerald role.

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Dave

100% agree dman

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Theerealdiehl

I’ve said this once and I’ll say it again, Divinity Jr.’s only shot to make this team (either active roster or practice squad) is at 3-4 OLB. @BazookaChip made the comparison to Shaq Barrett and while physically, I think it’s a good one, mentally and emotionally I’m not so sure. Barrett didn’t have the character issues (as far as I know) and he came here pissed off trying to prove himself after being passed up and underpaid for years. Does Divinity have that same chip on his shoulder? IDK. Some people have that “dog” in them and some don’t. We… Read more »

plopes808

I agree, we should see a good 2-3 seasons out of Brady. A lot of people overlook the things he does to keep himself ready with his diet and things he does off the field in addition to avoiding unnecessary damage on it. Gronk should be revitalized after the year off and will benefit greatly from not being the only weapon on the offense. He can take all the time off he needs with OJ and Brate also available and 2 pro bowl receivers. I’d imagine we get 2-3 years out of him as well barring any serious injury or… Read more »

scubog

The script I’m hoping for is Brady throws a TD pass to Gronk to win the Super Bowl over my hometown Steelers in our “home” stadium and immediately announces his retirement on his way to Disney World. Now that would be a “happy ending” that would be even better than the one Robert Kraft experienced.

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The Bucs (Winston) led the league in passing attempts, passing yards, and was second in touchdowns. I don’t know how much better in yardage and touchdowns your going to get, after all looking at the list above Winston was the only QB over 5,000 yards. One other thing to remember is there is only one football and a drive can only end in one touchdown. As the franchise saviors Brady and Gronk bring the New England magic to the Bucs….men among boys some might say….and as they connect on 70 or 80 touchdowns this season…. that means Evans, Goodwin, Brate,… Read more »

The only quarterback with 30 interceptions and 7 pick sixes, leading the entire league by humongous margins in both categories.

The joke on New Orleans is that New Orleans players have caught more passes from Jameis Winston than from their other higher paid backup quarterback.

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Dave

Winstons 5100 yards and 33 TD’s were meaningless, seeing as they were a product of his constant lousy TO filled starts, and his pick sixes ever other game. When your 1st quarter drives go TO, punt, punt, punt, and you’re down 10-0 going into the second, you’re forced to throw for most of the final 3 quarters. I’d much rather 4250 yds 30 TD’s vs 8 INT’s, and 10-6 vs 7-9. Protecting the ball and getting a lead early are so important. And with Winston, those 2 things were not even humanly possible Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No… Read more »

Dman

My take is Gronk stays as long as Tom’s here. Our TE’s will give him enough breaks to extend his career unless he has another one of those season ending injuries. I still shake my head at the hype over Howard. Brady made it clear trust is key to a QB’s decision to throw to a receiver. Any wonder why Howard had an off year? How about bobbling a ball over his head, down his back and into an INT. All Brate does is catch TD’s. But he wasn’t a RD1 pick, so he’s gotta go. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb… Read more »

Naplesfan

There’s a great post on ESPN by Jenna Laine interviewing former teammates of Tom Brady about what it means for him to be on your team. Great stuff all around. My favorite recollection was the following from Donte Stallworth: Stallworth said Brady loves picking on safeties in practice, and unlike other offenses, where receivers run decoy routes with no intention of actually being a target, there is no such thing with Brady, a lesson he learned the hard way in a preseason game against Carolina. “I remember during a [preseason] game, I was running one of those routes and Brady… Read more »