Are Brady and Gronk enough for Bucs?

Are Tom Brady and Gronk really enough for the Bucs to right the ship?

  • Ben Roethlisberger
  • Bruce Arians
  • Chris Godwin
  • Mike Evans
  • NFL
  • O.J. Howard
  • Peyton Manning
  • Rob Gronkowski
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Tom Brady
  • Tristan Wirfs
By Nick Holz June 13, 2020 0 Comment

New-look Bucs will chase Lombardi, but is it all doomed to fail?

For most NFL franchises, the addition of  an offensive minded head coach, a franchise quarterback and an elite offensive weapon can shape a generation. The league’s most accomplished quarterback ever, and his most dominant weapon joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has made headlines. However, relying on a 43 year-old quarterback and his aging sidekick to lead a franchise to heights never seen before will take an awful lot of luck. The Bucs will set sail on a new journey in 2020, but this ship may quickly teeter on the edge of disaster.

Tampa Bay under head coach Bruce Arians is a different unit. Arians, the cap-wearing quarterback whisperer, is notoriously aggressive. The gruff 60 year old made his name developing the likes of Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. His schemes stretch the field vertically, and attack the seams. Crucially for Brady, Arians’ scheme forces defenders to play on their heels all game long, which will open up the middle of the field Tom so loves to attack. On paper they are an interesting match. However, the question remains, does Brady still have the arm to make defenders think?

Can Brady re-ignite his deep arm in Tampa?

ESPN Stats & Info credited Brady with tying former Bucs starter Jameis Winston for the highest completion percentage on deep throws into tight windows. League average on passes 20 or more yards downfield in 2019 was 38%. Brady completed nearly 43% of such throws. Albeit, in a far smaller sample size than Winston. Additionally, Pro Football Focus has even suggested that in 2018 and 2019 “Brady threw the ball 10+ yards downfield, far more often than the Patriots routes run would suggest.” All of this bodes well for his future in Tampa.

However, over the past two season in New England, the man who seemingly doesn’t age has shown signs of decline. Most concerning, are Brady’s struggles in areas where he has perennially dominated. For much of his career, Brady decimated those foolish enough to blitz the Michigan product. In 2019, he ranked just 27th in ESPN’s QBR, and passer rating, when team’s sent an extra man. Additionally, in the red zone, Brady struggled to find open windows, while often forcing the play. From 2016-18 “Tom Terrific” threw just two red zone interceptions. Last season, he equaled that total in just ten weeks.

Weapons and ammo are no problem for these pirates

Granted, Brady’s supporting cast will be far more dangerous in Tampa. Mike Evans is legitimately one of the top ten receivers in football. If Evans played for a winning franchise, his name would already be in the conversation with NFC South peers Julio Jones and Michael Thomas. Chris Godwin is, himself, no slouch. A big-bodied slot weapon, the Penn State product could turn into a target vacuum with Brady at the helm. Adding Gronkowski to the mix at tight end, with former Alabama star O. J. Howard waiting to breakout, and the new Bucs offense is downright scary.

Todd Bowles Defense will need to step up

Tampa Bay was the league’s number one defense against the run in 2019, allowing just 73.8 rushing yards per game. However, Todd Bowles defense was absolutely atrocious when opposing quarterbacks dropped back to pass. The Bucs allowed 449 points, good for third most in the league. Even with 2019 breakout star Shaquil Barrett, mercurial sack master Jason Pierre-Paul, and the always controversial Ndamukong Suh returning, Tampa’s defense leaves a lot to be desired.

Is the defensive secondary capable of shutting down the likes of Drew Brees and the Saints in order to win the NFC South? Bowles did a wonderful job in his first year in Tampa. However, going from also-ran to contender in the blink of an eye brings heightened expectations. Are the Bucs truly capable of slowing the high-flying offenses of the Eagles, Cowboys, Vikings, 49ers, Seahawks and Packers?

Can Brady and Gronk stay healthy?

Additionally, Gronkowski has played a full season just once in his decade in the league. Seeing the behemoth on the field for more than 10 games would be a victory in and of itself. As has been reported by ESPN, opposing defenses just aren’t as concerned about his impact in 2020. After a year on the sidelines, can the 31 year-old return to form a lethal duo with his 43 year-old quarterback?

A big reason for Brady’s decline in 2019 was the failure of the running game, and the blocking around him. According to Football Outsiders’ offensive line rankings for the 2019 season, the Bucs finished with the 23rd rated run blocking unit. The men up front in red and pewter were rated a paltry 30th in terms of power and just 22nd in pass protection. Teams were successful blitzing Brady last season like never before. He may be in for a rude awakening in Tampa. Every defensive co-ordinator will be working to hit, harry and harass the elder statesmen. In a nutshell they’ll be looking to put an end to his reign of glory. Introducing first round draft pick Tristan Wirfs will help with Brady’s protection. Nonetheless, even the most talented offensive lineman in this years’ draft may not be enough.

Brady will look to make history in South Florida

The Buccaneers haven’t made the playoffs in over a decade. Since 2007, Brady has led the Patriots to 18 playoff victories, and three Lombardi trophies. History is hardly on the Bucs side. If the GOAT is somehow able to will his team to victory in Superbowl 55, the Buccaneers will become the first team in NFL history to win the big game in their own stadium. Brady has rarely missed any opportunity to secure his legacy as the Greatest of All-Time, but this hurdle is too large to climb at the age of 43.

Ultimately, Tampa Bay is relying on a 43-year old quarterback to bring them back to glory. Bringing back his injury riddled friend for one “Last Dance” is intriguing, but the Lombardi trophy will be a bridge too far for these swashbucklers. These pirates may sail deep into the sea in search of plunder. In the end, the team’s secondary issues, and offensive line woes will leave them in the battered and broken graveyard of super-teams who won the off-season.

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