For the first time in the history of the NFL, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are about to make history. The Buccaneers are the first team to return all 22 starters from a winning Super Bowl team. Every single starter that started in 2020 is back to start for the Bucs in 2021. That is unprecedented.
And that is one of the many reasons the Bucs are one of the favorites to get back to the Super Bowl in 2022.
Another reason is the Bucs have the greatest quarterback to ever play the game back for his second year with the Bucs.
This season will be different from last season. The offense had an entire off-season together and a preseason. Ditto for the defense
When camp opened in July, Bruce Arians said that this offense was light years ahead of where it was last season. Tom Brady has had an entire off-season and a whole training camp to continue to master the offense. That can only mean trouble for the rest of the league.
The Buccaneers finished seventh in total offense last season, averaging 384 yards a game, a look to be even better this season. The Bucs finished second in passing at 289 yards a game but struggled in the run game as they tied for 28th averaging 94 yards per game.
The Bucs averaged 30.8 points per game, good for third in the NFL.
Once again, Brady will have the best wide receivers on the planet to work with. This season, two Future Hall of Famers, Mike Evans and Antonio Brown, will add to their impressive resume.
Evans will be going for his eighth straight 1,000 yard season, while Brown will look to get close to that 100 catch mark for the seventh time in his career. Brown had 48 catches in eight games last season, so 100 catches are not out of the question.
Chris Godwin begins his fourth NFL season, ready to break into that top ten groups of receivers in the NFL.
At tight end, Rob Gronkowski is back in what could be his final season in the NFL. The Bucs also have a healthy OJ Howard and an always reliable Cam Brate to round out the tight end room.
The Buc’s most significant off-season need was to add a pass-catching running back. They did that by signing Giovanni Bernard to a one-year contract. Bernard has excellent hands and will be used primarily in third-down passing situations.
Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette should once again split time equally at running back. Neither one has great pass-catching ability, although Jones did show some improvement last season.
Jones also led the league in most yards after initial contact.
The biggest improvement offensively last season came along the offensive line. The often criticized Donavan Smith had his best season as a Buccaneer. Rookie tackle Tristan Wirfs was one of the best tackles in the league last season and should be an anchor on this line for years to come.
Ali Marpet has developed into a top-ten guard. Center Ryan Jensen has been a top center in the league for years, and Alex Cappa continues to improve every season at guard.
The Bucs defense didn’t come together defensively and become a strong unit until late in the season. The unit gave up 327 yards a game, good for sixth in the NFL. The Bucs finished number one against the run, giving up 81 yards per game. The secondary allowed 247 yards a game, good for 21st in the league.
The defense allowed 22.2 points, a game good for eighth in the league. The Bucs defense had 48 sacks and had 15 interceptions.
It’s the same person as last season, with all 11 starters returning. Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh will anchor the defensive line. With Vea out most of last season, the defensive line had trouble getting pressure on the opposing quarterback.
Just watch the tape of the playoff game against Washington and then the three subsequent games against New Orleans, Green Bay, and Kansas City to see what a difference he made in the defense.
At linebacker, there are some new faces. Joe Tryon-Soyinka, the rookie from Washington, is going to be a superstar in this league. He was impressive every time he was on the field during preseason. He is already being compared to defensive end Jevon Kearse. If he comes close to the caliber of play of Jevon Kearse, the Bucs are set at linebacker for the foreseeable future.
KJ Britt and Grant Stuard also made the team at linebacker. They will see most of their playing time on special teams.
The starting four of Shaq Barrett, Devin White, Lavonte David, and Jason Pierre-Paul is one of the best foursomes in the NFL. Name another team that can roll out four starting linebackers the caliber of the four that play in Tampa? I’ll wait.
In the secondary, the Bucs welcome newcomers Dee Delaney, Chris Cooper, and Ross Cockrell. Delaney made the team off his strong performance in the final preseason game against Houston. No stranger to the Buccaneers, Cockrell has been on and off the Bucs roster for a couple of seasons.
Carlton Davis, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jordan Whitehead, and Antoine Winfield Jr will start for the Bucs in the secondary.
This is a young group that got better and better as the season went along in 2020.
Mr. Reliable Ryan Succop is back at kicker. Succop converted 28/31 field goals and 52/57 PAT’s. Bradley Pinion will once again handle the punting duties.
Jaelon Darden will start the season as the number one returner returning both kicks and punts. The Bucs will also use Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson in the return game.
The one knock is this Buccaneers team is their age. The Bucs are the oldest team in the NFL, led by 44-year-old Tom Brady.
The Bucs are also a bit long in the tooth on the defensive side of the ball. Suh, Pierre-Paul, and David have been in the league a combined
The depth is decent in all positions except the defensive line. If Suh or Vea go down like last season, you have bodies with which you can plug the holes, but how effective will they be?
The Bucs are set for another successful Super Bowl run this season. The only way this team will be stopped is if they stop themselves. There is too much talent on this team for it not to win another Super Bowl.
The LA Rams are the only team that could potentially derail the Bucs from their goal. Green Bay has the better talent, but That team always chokes at some point during the playoffs.
The 49ers, Cardinals, Seahawks, and Cowboys will all be good, but not yet in the Bucs class.
Next February, I am picking the Bucs to win another Super Bowl by defeating the Cleveland Browns in Los Angeles.