Bucs strengths and weaknesses heading into 2022 season

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When examining the state of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers heading into the 2022 regular season, it is an objective fact that this team, like all others, has both strengths and weaknesses.

Determining what exactly these strengths and weaknesses are is a more subjective process. It is also the one that will become easier to do as the season progresses.

But just because this version of the Buccaneers haven’t played a game yet doesn’t mean we can’t discuss their strengths and weaknesses heading into the first week of the NFL season.

Let’s start with the highlights.

STRENGTHS

OFFENSIVE PLAYMAKERS

There’s no denying that the 2022 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are absolutely loaded with offensive playmakers. The team’s top 4 wide receivers – Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Russell Gage and Julio Jones – make up what is arguably the deepest and most talented group of wide receivers in the entire league.

READ MORE: Chris Godwin talks about playing in Week 1

In the backfield, a punishing, relentless workaholic like Leonard Fournette — rejuvenated since joining the Bucs — working in tandem with an explosive runner and gifted passer in Rachaad White, makes for a dynamic couple.

Depending on your definition of ‘playmaker’, Tom Brady may not meet the criteria. Either way, it certainly makes a lot of games. And it’s hard to imagine a better scenario for any collection of offensive playmakers than the one these Bucs find themselves in. It’s like an orchestra full of talented artists, with Tom Brady as conductor.

BEFORE SEVEN

Despite the loss of two cogs in the Bucs’ 2020 Super Bowl-winning season – Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul – it is widely understood that the players taking over those roles in 2022 – Akiem Hicks and Joe Tryon -Shoyinka – will serve as upgrades at those places along the defensive line.

While Vita Vea and William Gholston remain grounded in their roles, the addition of Hicks to the inside defensive line, as well as the Bucs’ first pick in this year’s draft (Logan Hall), adds a new dynamic of depth and youth to this group.

READ MORE: How do Julio Jones and Tom Brady get along?

With talented sophomore rusher Tryon-Shoyinka set to take the starting rusher position against Shaquil Barrett, this defensive line group will not only continue to be one of the best in the league at defending the run , but they’ll also be far fiercer when it comes to rushing the setter.

Add what is arguably the best inside linebacker duo in the NFL in Lavonte David and Devin White, and you’d have to be crazy not to consider that front-7 a major strength for this team and one of the best of the whole league.

CONTINUITY

The Bucs may have a new head coach this year, but he’s not really new. Todd Bowles taking over from Bruce Arians may come with some philosophical changes, but returning players are all very familiar with Bowles, who has been with the Buccaneers since 2019. Thankfully, he will return to his defensive-playing role as well. of the team. -caller, which, in conjunction with Byron Leftwich, means that the two coordinators from last season remain the same.

Despite some changes to the starting lineup this season, the core of this squad remains very much intact. By my tally, of the 22 players slated to start for the Bucs this season, only four are new to the team. These players are Russell Gage, Akiem Hicks, Shaq Mason and Luke Goedeke. And aside from the left guard position (vacated by Ali Marpet), each of these players represents an upgrade to their respective positions.

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Probably the most important example of continuity on this team is at quarterback. As Tom Brady, 45, returns for his 23rd season in the NFL, having ‘retired’ earlier in the offseason, the fact that he is back should be seen as money for the Bucs. and their fans. He is truly the catalyst for continuity. Without Brady’s return, would Carlton Davis, Ryan Jensen and Chris Godwin all have re-signed in Tampa Bay? We will never know for sure.

For the Bucs, having Tom Brady – with several years of experience managing the same offensive system – leading an ultra-talented cast of offensive playmakers into battle, with an underwhelming roster of competitors in the NFC – feels like A blessing. And one that Bucs fans shouldn’t take for granted heading into this season, no matter what happens when all is said and done.

WEAKNESSES

INDOOR OFFENSIVE LINE

It’s not really fair to consider this a weakness for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, especially since they haven’t even played a single regular season game together. But with two of the league’s best linemen no longer in that group – Ali Marpet due to retirement and Ryan Jensen due to injury – it’s not fair to expect dominate the opposition like they did last season.

Despite all of Tom Brady’s assets, being a floater isn’t one of them. Based on his inability to come out of the pocket to create plays, his offensive line’s ability to withstand inside pressure is paramount to his success. Sure, its quick release time certainly helps, but so does a clean pocket to throw away.

Shaq Mason is probably an upgrade to the right guard position, so he shouldn’t be a concern. But Robert Hainsey (C) and Luke Goedeke (LG) will have their hands full this season. Neither has ever started an NFL game before. That said, if the two are able to stay healthy and perform at the level their coaches believe they can, the Bucs should be fine.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Special teams have been an Achilles heel for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for as long as I can remember. Ryan Succop has been a breath of fresh air for the team, as it’s hard to remember a Bucs kicker who showed any consistency in the many years between him and Martin Gramatica. . There’s a lot more to special teams than your field goal kicker, though, and the Bucs’ coverage units have struggled mightily in the preseason.

After a disappointing 2021 campaign, the Bucs were forced to cut ties with punter Bradley Pinion. They decided to sign his replacement (Jake Camarda) in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Bucs fans haven’t had the excitement of witnessing kick return touchdowns very often over the years. Unfortunately, Jaelon Darden was unable to reverse this trend in 2021. Darden struggled mightily as a returning man for the Bucs last season, and sharing responsibility with several other players this pre-season. , he could not show real flashes. . That said, he’s been on the team and it looks like the Bucs believe he’s got what it takes.

With Bucs special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong entering his fourth year on the job, his group is going to have to make more plays this season. Not only to provide some security in the battle for field position, but also to keep his job.

TIGHT END

Let me be clear that the tight end position for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is not a weakness. It’s just not as strong as last year. Every time you lose a player as talented as Rob Gronkowski, it’s going to hurt your football team – at least a little. Gronk’s effectiveness as a line receiver and blocker is not something that can be replicated by a single player. But that’s not what the 2022 Bucs will try to do.

Cameron Brate, while solid as a wide receiver and someone who knows the offensive playbook very well, is not a good tight blocker. Although he’s listed as the starter on the depth chart, the Bucs will try to capture a combination of blocking and passing production to catch the final position tight by the committee. That means veteran newcomer Kyle Rudolph will likely have a pretty big role.

The Bucs also drafted two tight ends in this year’s draft, both of which can be expected to see plenty of shots as rookies. Cade Otton has a ton of promise as an all-around player (blocking and receiving), while Ko Kieft is a blocking specialist. Kieft spent the entire pre-season imposing his will on opposing players in violent ways, and it was a treat to watch. You can expect Byron Leftwich to use this weapon not just in traditional tight end formations, but moving Kieft into the backfield to act as a de facto fullback as well.

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