This article is part of our Team Previews series.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski come with both question marks and the talent to eradicate any doubts. If the duo can recreate some of their past magic and Brady quickly establishes chemistry with an explosive group of incumbent weapons, the offense should develop into one of the league's elite units.
- QB Tom Brady (from Patriots)
May be a perfect fit for an aggressive scheme and well-stocked offense.
- TE Rob Gronkowski (from Patriots)
After a year off, a reunion with Brady could lead to a comeback season.
- T Tristan Wirfs (Rd. 1, No. 13 – Iowa)
Arguably the most athletic of a deep tackle class, likely an instant starter.
- RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn (Rd. 3, No. 76 – Vanderbilt)
Deceptively fast, the versatile rookie should have a modest first-year role.
- QB Jameis Winston (to Saints)
Turnovers were unacceptable, but raw yardage isn't easily replaceable.
- WR Breshad Perriman (to Jets)
Excelled in the latter half of last season with elite speed, improved hands.
- LB Carl Nassib (to Raiders)
Offered a pass-rushing presence off the edge the last two seasons.
- RB Peyton Barber (to Redskins)
Power and prowess in short-yardage/goal-line packages could be missed.
A Look Under the Hood
Head Coach: Bruce Arians (Year 2)
Offensive Coordinator: Byron Leftwich (Year 2) - Air Coryell scheme
Defensive Coordinator: Todd Bowles (Year 2) - 4-3 scheme
2020 Vegas Projected Wins: 9.5 (T-5th)
2019 Record: 7-9
2019 Points Scored: 458 (3rd)
2019 Points Allowed: 449 (29th)
2019 Point Differential: +9 (13th)
2019 Run-Play Rate: 37.7 percent (26th)
2019 Situation-Neutral Pace: 30.53 seconds per play (15th)
2019 Offensive Snaps: 1,086 (4th)
2019 PFF O-Line Ranking: No. 7
Projected 2020 Depth Chart
How Does Brady Adjust to a New Setting?
There's little precedent for sure-fire Hall of Fame quarterbacks switching teams, conferences and offensive systems with notable success late in their careers. Coincidentally, Tom Brady's idol Joe Montana is one of the exceptions, and the long-time New England Patriot aims to repeat the feat in 2020. Compounding the challenge is an unusual offseason with significantly less standard classroom and on-field preparation time.
However, if there's one player up to the task, it's seemingly Brady, who has the advantage of walking into an environment highly conducive to success. The soon-to-be 21-year veteran gains a highly aggressive play caller in coach Bruce Arians and an upper-echelon starting receiver duo in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin that already thrived in the vertically oriented attack last season.
Brady also had a pair of talented tight ends (O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate) in the fold upon arrival, but the subsequent trade acquisition of prolific battery mate Rob Gronkowski following the latter's one-year sabbatical affords the legendary signal-caller an invaluable and highly potent familiar target.
An upgraded backfield could benefit Brady, with speedy Ronald Jones having raised expectations by logging 1,033 yards from scrimmage in 2019 and rookie Ke'Shawn Vaughn set to replace the pedestrian Peyton Barber.
Is a More Explosive and Diverse Backfield on Tap?
Peyton Barber consistently defied the odds by sticking on the roster for four seasons as an undrafted free agent, but he just wasn't dynamic in any aspect. His departure and the arrival of third-round pick Ke'Shawn Vaughn could equate to the Tampa backfield taking a step forward.
Vaughn has detractors but also often outperformed his measurables in college. The Vanderbilt alum heads into the NFL on the strength of back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns, which he achieved while averaging 6.4 yards per carry. Vaughn added 28 receptions as a senior and should complement the fleeter Ronald Jones, who supplemented 724 rushing yards and six rushing scores with a 31-309-0 line through the air last season. Team brass talked up Jones' potential as a three-down back this offseason, and he should benefit from the respect Tom Brady commands from defenses.
Seventh-round pick Raymond Calais may bring more to the table than his draft slotting implies, with the Louisiana-Lafayette product boasting 4.3 speed and averaging 9.3 and 7.6 yards per carry, respectively, in his last two college seasons. And don't count out third-down specialist Dare Ogunbowale, who's coming off a career-high 35 receptions and could serve in the check-down role that Brady often has utilized with great success throughout his career.
Ronald Jones has fresh competition for running back reps.
Is the Sky the Limit for this Defense?
After a rocky first half, the back end of the Bucs defense began to do its part more consistently during the latter portion of last season. Meanwhile, the front seven imposed its will from start to finish, with Tampa Bay yielding the fewest rushing yards per game (73.8) by a comfortable margin and tying for sixth-most sacks (47). Focusing most of its resources in free agency on Tom Brady, the Bucs waited until the draft to upgrade the secondary.
GM Jason Licht invested a second-round pick in Antoine Winfield, who bounced back from consecutive injury-shortened seasons at Minnesota to nab seven interceptions, including one pick-six, in his senior 2019 campaign. Winfield should step into the starting role at strong safety and help shore up a group that also saw cornerback Carlton Davis record 19 pass breakups and allow just a 43.6 completion percentage in primary coverage. Justin Evans, a 2017 second-round pick, missed the entire season with an Achilles injury, but he's expected to compete for the other safety spot this summer.
Meanwhile, a trio of key figures in last season's run-stopping and pass-rushing dominance return: Shaquil Barrett, who had a career-high and NFL-leading 19.5 sacks in 2019, received the franchise tag, while Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh re-upped on new contracts.
⬆️ Rising: RB Ronald Jones
Jones proved he can be an NFL-caliber back in his sophomore campaign. A year of experience in the offense and what should be an improved line positions him to take the next step despite the addition of Ke'Shawn Vaughn.
⬇️ Falling: TE Cameron Brate
Brate's outlook is dampened by the presence of Rob Gronkowski and O.J. Howard, with the former likely to absorb many of Brate's red-zone looks. Significant skill-position depth also will make targets sparse overall.
😴 Sleeper: WR Tyler Johnson
Johnson starts his NFL career with a chip on his shoulder after slipping to the fifth round. An established red-zone force in college, he may well push for the No. 3 receiver job in his first training camp.
🌟 Pivotal Player: Chris Godwin
Fresh off a breakout 2019, Godwin could be poised to establish new personal bests just a year later with Tom Brady at the helm. The fourth-year wideout can line up at any spot, but given both his and Brady's extensive track record of success with slot receivers, Godwin might again serve as the Bucs' most prolific pass catcher.
Chris Godwin headlines a star-studded Buccaneers offense.