For a team to win a Super Bowl a lot of things have to go right. The team has to have a talented roster. It needs to have a good scheme. The team needs to be a cohesive unit.
And they need to have a bit of luck.
One area of luck that plays a big role in team success is injury luck. This was something the Bucs enjoyed quite a bit of in their two Super Bowl championship seasons. Tampa Bay only had one starter on injured reserve in each of those seasons. Nose tackle Booger McFarland in 2002 and right guard Alex Cappa in 2020.
Last year, not so much.
How big of a change was there between 2020 and 2021? According to Football Outsiders the Bucs lost just 30.6 adjusted games due to injury in 2020. That means the accumulated games missed by injured players. Per FO’s metrics they were the least injured team that year.
In 2021 that number jumped to 81.3, which ranked 16th in the league. The 50.7 difference game difference represented the third largest year-over-year increase in the NFL, trailing only the Baltimore Ravens and the New Orleans Saints.
Injuries That Impacted 2021
Bucs CB Carlton Davis III – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
And many of the injuries the Bucs suffered were major contributors. While the team enjoyed a very stable lineup along the offensive line for much of the regular season, the offensive playmakers did face their share of missed games due to injury. Between Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, Leonard Fournette, Antonio Brown, and Mike Evans the Bucs lost 18 games due to injury. Add to that injuries sustained to Scotty Miller, Ronald Jones and Gio Bernard and the team lost another 11 games from key contributors.
On defense the team faced more adversity. Starters Shaq Barrett, Carlton Davis III, Lavonte David, Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jason Pierre-Paul, Jordan Whitehead, Vita Vea, and Antoine Winfield, Jr. combined to miss 34 games with another nine games coming from key contributors Dee Delaney and Richard Sherman.
Preparing For 2022
Looking ahead to 2022, it’s important for the team to be prepared for a situation more like 2021 than 2020. Last year, the Bucs were literally picking up street free agents to play in the secondary due to a rash of injuries to that position group. And the team is already preparing.
Free agent additions Keanu Neal, Logan Ryan, Akiem Hicks and Fred Johnson help create more depth. This is to prepare for possible injuries in the new year. Ranking 16th last year means the team about average injury luck. And they should prepare as if they will have about the same luck this year. If they end up with a season more like 2020, all the better.
With each offseason transaction you can see that general manager Jason Licht and his team are trying to strengthen the middle-to-bottom of the roster in order to better weather the potential injury bug. Smart front offices self-evaluate and adapt. It seems the Bucs are attempting to do just that.