Repeat as Super Bowl champs?
Aaron Rodgers got his revenge on Tom Brady in “The Match,” but the Buccaneers 2021 NFL season preview looks better than Brady’s golf game. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a nearly unprecedented offseason. Almost all of their pieces remain from the championship team. In fact, all 22 starters return for 2021. What could that mean for the upcoming season?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2021 season preview
The schedule couldn’t be much easier for a defending Super Bowl champion. They tie for the fourth-easiest schedule in the NFL thanks to sneaking into the playoffs as a Wild Card team. The Falcons and Panthers don’t project as successful teams, so those four divisional games should be relatively easy wins. They also benefit from playing the NFC’s weakest division — the NFC East. A lot can change from year to year, but they should be sitting pretty between the NFC East opponents and their roster.
The Buccaneers have four games against projected 10-win teams: Colts, Rams, 49ers, and Bills. They also have to play the Cowboys, and the division rival Saints twice. The Dolphins are no slouch, either. The Buccaneers’ other interdivisional matchups include the Patriots, Bears, and Jets.
Offseason additions and losses
As one may imagine, there aren’t many losses to speak of in Tampa Bay. The only real loss was swing lineman Joe Haeg, who signed a two-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Their additions are actually just addition by retainment. Coming off a Super Bowl victory, it doesn’t get much better than that. The big ones are easy. Lavonte David hangs around on a two-year, $25 million deal. Not a bad price to pay for one of the top five linebackers in the NFL.
That’s just getting started, too. They signed Shaquil Barrett to a four-year, $68 million contract. Barrett is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. In 2019, he exploded to the tune of 19.5 sacks. In 2020, that number declined to 8 sacks, but his tape exemplified a great player.
The Buccaneers kept Chris Godwin around as well. They used the franchise tag to secure the stud receiver for another season. Godwin is one of the most complete receivers in the league — there isn’t an aspect of his game where he struggles. Bringing him back to complement Mike Evans was essential for their offensive production.
Furthermore, Tampa Bay returns veterans Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski, adding savvy to one of the best offenses in the league. Ndamukong Suh and Leonard Fournette round out the rest of the notable “additions.”
2021 NFL Draft
How do you attack the NFL Draft as a team that really doesn’t have any pressing needs? Well, you draft a high-upside pass rusher to eventually replace Jason Pierre-Paul and a quarterback you hope to develop behind the 43-year-old Brady.
Pass rusher Joe Tryon is an explosive athlete who is still developing his rush repertoire. However, he’s already athletic enough to drop into space in coverage or peel on backs releasing. If the Buccaneers could use anything, it was a third pass rusher and offensive line depth.
Speaking of adding offensive line depth, they did so by drafting Notre Dame’s Robert Hainsey. He’s a versatile lineman who can play up and down the offensive line. Kyle Trask stays in Florida, but he has a long road toward success at the NFL level. He was highly productive at UF, but he lacks the mobility and arm strength required of most successful NFL quarterbacks in the modern game.
Jaelon Darden is a lightning rod slot receiver who should make an immediate impact as a return man. He’ll battle Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson for reps as the fourth receiver.
Where do Tampa Bay players rank in PFN’s Top 100?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers certainly don’t lack high-end star power on their football team. They boast eight players on Pro Football Network’s Top 100.
83) Chris Godwin & 70) Mike Evans, Wide Receivers
Godwin might be an even better overall receiver than Evans, but draft status and seven-straight 1,000-yard seasons are difficult to argue against. Godwin posted a 1,300-yard season in 2019 in just 14 games, averaging almost triple digits on average. He and Evans saw their production dip in targets per game last year, but that certainly wasn’t because either had a dip in talent. They simply found a quarterback that wasn’t a chucker.
69) Ali Marpet, Guard & 58) Tristan Wirfs, Offensive Tackle
Ali Marpet is one of the best interior linemen in football. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers guard and former Hobart Statesman is one of a trio of interior linemen coming from non-Division I football. Both Ryan Jensen and Alex Cappa are Division II blockers. Tristan Wirfs is a freak of nature at right tackle. The Iowa Hawkeye is the early favorite to be the best tackle from what was quite possibly a historically good tackle class.
60) Devin White & 45) Lavonte David, Linebacker
Devin White and Lavonte David pair to make the best linebacking duo in the league. White is still developing as an all-around linebacker, but he can be one of the best in the league. David has been continuously underrated throughout his career. It’s good to see he’s finally receiving the credit he’s long deserved.
40) Shaquil Barrett, Outside Linebacker
We already discussed the merits of Barrett and what he brings to the Buccaneers. His high-impact performances have been a big part of why the Buccaneers defense has become one of the very best. With some questions in their secondary, the Buccaneers need another big season from Barrett and his fellow pass rushers.
25) Tom Brady, QB
Tom Brady took a team that was close and immediately elevated them to Super Bowl champions, thus further cementing his status as not just the greatest quarterback of all time but as the best player in NFL history.
Buccaneers 2021 prediction
If the Buccaneers’ 2020 campaign was a preview for the 2021 season, they’re in perfect shape. They have the most complete depth chart in the league. Their only offensive weakness is at running back, but that’s not even a major need. They don’t have a shutdown cornerback, but they have three that do a darned good job as a unit.
Head coach Bruce Arians now has three Super Bowl rings. He’s won one as a head coach, been to another, and won two as the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator.
Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich might be one of the hottest head-coaching candidates going into the next offseason if his offense continues to shine. In 2020, Tampa Bay generated the second-most efficient offense in the league.
The Buccaneers were also in the top 10 in defensive efficiency. As we’ve seen over the years, winning the big game usually requires teams to finish in the top-10 in both. Todd Bowles might also get another chance of being head coach if the Buccaneers perform well defensively.
They have one of the best offensive lines in the league, while their wide receiving corps is the best in the NFL. Their quarterback is the greatest of all time, and unless Father Time finally catches up with Brady, this offense will be humming just as it did in the 2020 NFL season.
Conversely, defense is a much more volatile entity year to year. Still, with the easy schedule the Buccaneers face in 2021, there is a greater chance of repeated success. The secondary is arguably the weakness here, but as a group, they play well together.
2021 Buccaneers record prediction
There couldn’t be any more optimism surrounding the Buccaneers 2021 season preview. It would be easy to look at every game on Tampa Bay’s schedule and chalk it up as a win. They should be favorites in every game they play. However, we know that’s not realistic. They’re projected to win 11.5 games, and a 12-5 or 13-4 record should be the expectation.
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