2021 Stats (Rank)
Total Offense: 6,901 yards (2nd)
Offensive Touchdowns: 61 (1st)
Offensive Plays: 1,139 (4th)
Pass Attempts + Sacks: 754 (1st)
Rush Attempts: 385 (31st)
Unaccounted for Targets: 190 (12th)
Unaccounted for Carries: 110 (14th)
Todd Bowles will get his much-deserved second chance to be a head coach in the NFL. After compiling a 24-40 overall record with the Jets from 2015-2018, Bowles inherits a great Bucs team whose identity he helped create. Bowles will forever be known for orchestrating a dominant defensive performance over Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in Super Bowl LV. As usual, he’ll have his hands on the defense. Offensively, this will be the Byron Leftwich and Tom Brady show. The two have fit each other like a glove since TB12 arrived in Tampa Bay. Once Bruce Arians stepped down (or was pushed out), this opened the door for the Brady/Leftwich duo to completely make the Bucs’ offense what they wanted. You could make the argument that the offense will operate even better now, which is hard to imagine considering the success they’ve already had. With Arians out of the way, that’s one less cook in the kitchen.
Leftwich has said that much won’t change in offense. It shouldn't be a problem considering no team had more offensive touchdowns than the Bucs in 2021. The biggest difference will be that when it comes down to it, it'll be Brady and Leftwich calling the shots. Since Leftwich has come into the fold as offensive coordinator in 2019 (including the year with Jameis Winston at quarterback), the Bucs’ have been a top-three scoring offense. The beauty of this offensive scheme and play calling is it allows running backs, tights and (multiple), and wide receivers to be valuable in fantasy. In the Leftwich era, we’ve been able to enjoy fantasy assets from this offense and it should continue.
Make no mistake, the players are good, but Leftwich will continue to dial it up to get the most out of his players. Any Bucs skill player on offense could be featured in any given game.
QB: Tom Brady
WR: Mike Evans, Jaelon Darden, Breshad Perriman
WR: Chris Godwin, Cyril Grayson, Scotty Miller
WR: Russell Gage, Tyler Johnson, Vyncint Smith
TE: Cameron Brate, Kyle Rudolph, Cade Otton, Ko Kieft
The passing game was the Bucs’ bread-and-butter last season as Tom Brady led the league with a whopping 719 attempts through the air. That number is the second-most passing attempts ever in a season (Matthew Stafford, 727 in 2012). The wide receivers will continue to play their best football with Brady. To start out the season, it’s unclear when Chris Godwin will be able to return to the lineup after suffering a torn ACL in 2021. There is a slight hope that he returns Week 1 to man the slot. Regardless of who’s in the lineup, Mike Evans will command red zone targets and present a high touchdown probability. In 2021, Evans caught nine of his 14 touchdowns in the red zone and had a 75% catch rate inside the 10-yard line (per Pro Football Reference). Furthermore, in each of his two seasons with Brady, Evans has eclipsed 70 receptions, 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns. Russell Gage will get a big boost now that he’s a Buc. Over the last 12 weeks of the season, Gage went 61/742/4 which was good for WR17. Despite playing more as an outside receiver in 2021, Gage can slide into the slot role if need be while Godwin recovers. Last season, Gage lined up in the slot on 43.6% of his snaps (PFF). We know Brady loves his slot receivers. At the end of the day, Gage will prove to be the biggest and best value on the Bucs’ offense.
The biggest question will be who will start as the team’s WR3 in the event that Godwin misses some time? I would say Tyler Johnson is your best bet. Coming off a 55-target, 36-catch season where he totaled 360 yards, he’s gotten the most love from the remaining Bucs’ receivers. His main competition will be Breshad Perriman, Jaelon Darden and Cyril Grayson who came on late last season. The speedy Scotty Miller, who caught a big touchdown pass in the 2021 NFC Championship game, will be fighting for his life to make the roster. Cameron Brate will fly under the radar, but he shouldn’t be taken lightly. He’s proven he can be a back-end TE1 when given the chance. The last time this occurred was the 2016 and 2017 seasons when he finished as TE7 and TE10 respectively. Don’t count out a Brady-to-Brate connection; the latter has been reliable. The Bucs’ signed Kyle Rudolph to tighten up the depth. Rookie tight ends Cade Otton and Ko Kieft would have to perform brilliantly in camp to get into the rotation.
The Bucs’ running backs will be good and versatile again in 2022. Leonard Fournette returns on a new three-year deal after he finished 2021 as RB5. People might talk trash about his weight, but he will be ready to go. What helped boost his value last season was racking up 69 receptions for 454 yards (and two touchdowns), both the second-best of his career. Lombardi Lenny’s play made it impossible for coaches to take him off the field. Coming into 2022 he figures to hover around another RB1 season should he stay healthy. Ke’Shawn Vaughn seems to already be behind rookie Rachaad White on the depth chart of public opinion. He had some good runs in the last quarter of the season but didn’t do enough to make you feel like he could hold off White. Despite this, he comes into camp more knowledgeable of the offense than his rookie teammate. White is looking to establish himself as a force early. He’s certainly worth targeting in the late rounds of redraft leagues as Fournette's handcuff and/or stand alone value. As a senior, he ran for 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns while adding 43 receptions, 456 yards and a TD. White is an every down back. Fournette is the guy, but White isn’t a player you want to give an opening to. He will take the chance and thrive.
Last season, the Bucs’ offensive line finished second in PFF’s OL rankings. The unit allowed Brady to be pressured on less than 20% of drop backs while each starter had at least 70 overall run blocking grade. Although they lost Ali Marpet to retirement and Alex Cappa to the Bengals, they’ll be fine and should be considered a top-five unit again. The Bucs traded for Shaq Mason (Brady’s teammate in New England) to man one guard spot. At the other guard spot, Aaron Stinnie will compete with rookie Luke Goedeke, who was drafted in the second round. Donovan Smith and Tristan Wirfs return at tackle (both graded out over 83) and Ryan Jensen is back at center.
11.5 wins is a high number for a team that has the Cowboys, Packers, Chiefs, Ravens, Rams, Browns (maybe with Watson), Bengals, Cardinals and 49ers on the schedule. Like some of these teams, however, the Bucs are elite. At worst they’ll split these games and maybe lose a game against the Saints. It’s a tough schedule, but a weak division should give them the boost they need in the win-loss Column. After securing 11 regular season wins in 2020 and 13 in 2021, I’ll settle in the middle and say that the Bucs finish the regular season with 12 wins. Watch out for the Saints though.