Short And Sweet

August 13th, 2022

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Get ready to embrace Captain Checkdown.

Tom Brady loves Tampa Bay’s depth at wide receiver, especially if Chris Godwin makes a full recovery, but the guys coming out of the backfield could very well hold the key to this passing game.

New Brady = Old Brady, writes Ira Kaufman.

In talking to SiriusXM NFL Radio analysts Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller this week, they both expect Buc opponents to blitz Brady extensively this fall. And while Brady has a history of thriving against ultra-aggressive defenses, Tampa Bay’s revamped offensive line may struggle to cope with a slew of extra pass rushers.

Let’s not kid ourselves — whoever wins the competition at left guard isn’t going to be as stout as Ali Marpet in pass protection. Whoever starts at center in Week 1 at Dallas will be a step down from Ryan

Shaq Mason should be a solid replacement for Alex Cappa at right guard, but he has yet to take a snap in a Buc uniform.

The continuity up front that has helped forge one of the league’s premier units has been shattered across the interior.

Mike Evans, Godwin, Julio Jones and Russell Gage may be open down the field, but will Brady have the time to find them?

The protection in front of No. 12 has been extraordinary. The Bucs threw 56 more passes than any other team last season – and still allowed the fewest sacks.

That’s a remarkable achievement and give Brady significant credit. Few of his peers can match his rapid release or his skill in processing progressions quickly under duress. But Brady can only do so much.

Jensen, Marpet, Cappa, Tristan Wirfs and Donovan Smith lined up every week and protected Brady like their lives depended on it. In a sense, that was true. Now, 60 percent of that palace guard won’t be there when the games count.  Opposing defensive coordinators will look at the new interior offensive line and see areas to exploit.

The Counter

Brady is masterful at avoiding sacks, but this season will be particularly challenging.

Giovani Bernard battling for a huge and critical role, says Ira.

One logical answer is to burn overly aggressive defenses with screens and flares. He has the weapons to succeed.

Leonard Fournette has earned Brady’s trust as a target. In five playoff games as a Buccaneer, Fournette has caught 27 of the 30 passes Brady sent his way. That’s a staggering 90 percent completion rate.

In eight seasons with the Bengals, Giovani Bernard established himself as one of the NFL’s premier pass-catching backs.

Now the Bucs have added rookie Rachaad White, who averaged a hearty 10.6 yards on 43 receptions for Arizona State last year. In New England, Brady was no stranger to the checkdown, especially once James White arrived. White, who just announced his retirement at age 30, thrived as a pass-catching back. In 2016, he was targeted 86 times and made 60 catches, ranking second on the Patriots in both

During the historic Super Bowl comeback against Atlanta, White caught 14 passes for 110 yards. In 2018, White was targeted 123 times. He caught 87 passes and scored seven times through the air, topping the Pats in all three metrics.

The Bucs easily led all teams last season with 76 completions of 20 yards or more. In 2022, operating without Rob Gronkowski, they might top the NFL in completions of 10 yards or less.

Defenses will try to pressure Brady “up the gut,” as Gene Deckerhoff might say. Brady will stare down these extra pass rushers and calmly unload to his safety valves.

Fournette averaged six targets per game last year. That number could bump up significantly, especially early in the season while Tampa Bay’s new interior line works out the communication kinks.

The Bucs are bracing for exotic blitzes coming from all angles.

Guess what? Brady’s seen them all before.

James White may be retired, but his legacy will live on in Tampa this fall.

Ira loves that lifetime warranty on new and used vehicles!


9 Responses to “Short And Sweet”

  1. D-Rok Says:

    Good points, Ira. Until that line is solidified and cohesive, I can certainly envision a much quicker, and shorter passing game. Hopefully the O can gel and allow Brady to go deep when they want to.

    Even with a projected quicker passing game, especially early on, I still believe the Bucs will be very tough to handle by opposing defenses. Should be a great season barring major injuries.

    GO BUCS!!!

  2. PassingThru Says:

    Sure, downgrades at Center and Left Guard are a given, but it’s fatalistic just to accept Hainsey, Goedeke, Stinnie, and Leverett as the fait accompli. Brady is the master at navigating in the pocket, but if the interior offensive line is inept at pass protection, there won’t be a pocket. Going with checkdowns and running plays ignores the problem; it’s expedient but it won’t carry this team far.

  3. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    That 1st down run up the middle should really soften up opposing defenses….

    Also, the empty backfield will set up our play action….

    Not to mention, the 25 yard downfield pass on 3rd & 3…

    Hey, Byron….let’s knock that $hit off…..

  4. Craig Says:

    If Mason can stay healthy they will come together as a whole. It will take a couple of games, but you will be able to watch them mesh.

    If Mason is only as durable as he always has been it might be a long season, but Brady has seen it all and can process it all very quickly.

  5. Hodad Says:

    Whatever it takes.

  6. Biff Barker Says:

    I see the first few games as the chuck n duck for Brady. The no risk it, no biscuit will be a 25 yard bomb.

    Tommy will have to unload it fast.

    BUT, Evans, Godwin, Julio, Gage and Brate all be possession receivers.

    Byron being able to adapt is the big question mark here Ira.

  7. Defense Rules Says:

    Sage … ‘The continuity up front that has helped forge one of the league’s premier units has been shattered across the interior.’

    I have little doubt that our OLine will gel very nicely as the season progresses, but it’s these initial games (against our toughest opponents?) where I think we’ll feel the loss of continuity from these past couple of years.

    Agree totally Ira that the Bucs are primed to turn to Quickdraw McGraw if the need arises. We certainly have the RBs to do that.

  8. Goatfarmer Says:

    The Toddfense needs to play better than they ever have. Especially in the first four games. The Buccaneer way is, and always has been, to win with stong, dominant defense. Having much better quarterbacks lining up against the Toddfense will pose a huge challenge.

  9. Nick2 Says:

    Great article Sage I love Whites potential. Question, do you think the Glazers are making a mistake to not offer Brady ownership and a role in decisions as the Dolphjns obviously did?? Who wouldn’t want Tom Brady helping to shape the future of this franchise including who will be his successor. It seems the Dolphins have the right idea!