Why the Buccaneers are a Legitimate Contender for the Super Bowl
Since Tom Brady left for Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers haven't been talked about near enough as Super Bowl contenders. Whether it's believing Brady's play is declining, or that the Bucs simply don't have enough talent to compete with other NFC powerhouses, many in the media are writing them off in the NFC. I happen to disagree with those beliefs. In this article, I'll give you four reasons the Bucs are legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
(NOTE: All stats come from Pro Football Reference.)
Until Brady retires, it's hard to ever count him out. It's clear his production dropped off some last season, but why? Was it because of Brady or the weapons around him? I would argue the weapons around Brady last season were some of the worst in his career. The Patriots got virtually no production at tight end, and besides Edelman, the receiver position lacked a true weapon. Brady still threw for 4057 yards, 24 touchdowns, and only 8 interceptions. He likely has one or two seasons left playing at a high level. Let's not forget Brady plays his best in the biggest moments. Being doubted and cast aside will motivate Brady to prove everyone wrong.
Not only is Brady still a high-level quarterback, but the culture shift he brings will improve everyone around him. A six-time Super Bowl champ brings a different kind of mentality to an organization. Everyone around Brady will need to practice and play up to his level of intensity.
Unlike the Patriots weapons last season, Brady will be playing with superstars in Tampa Bay. The running back is the weakest skill position, but there are some promising young players at the position. Entering his third season in the NFL, Ronald Jones II will have a shot at a breakout season. He showed promise last season rushing for 724 yards and six touchdowns. The Bucs also addressed the running back position in the draft. Ke'Shawn Vaughn was selected in the third round. Both Jones and Vaughn should be enough to carry the load at running back.
At wide receiver, the Bucs have two superstars: Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. Both will have tremendous years with Brady at the helm. Godwin and Evans might be the best receiver duo in the NFL. On top of that, the Bucs added one of my steals in the draft when they selected wide receiver Tyler Johnson in the fifth round. With his impressive route running skills, Johnson should be able to play the slot for the Bucs.
As if the wide receiver group wasn't enough talent for Brady to play with, the Bucs also have one of the best tight end groups in the NFL. The Bucs made a splash when they traded for Rob Gronkowski earlier in the offseason. Gronk will join talented tight end O.J. Howard and veteran red-zone target Cameron Brate. Because Brady loves throwing to tight ends, all three have a good chance to produce. This offense will be one of the best in the NFL.
The Bucs defense has had its struggles in the past but there's reason to believe they'll improve this season. For starters, the turnovers by the offense last season constantly put the defense in bad situations. When your quarterback throws 30 interceptions, it's going to result in some short fields for the defense. It's not just the turnovers, the Bucs defense is also very young. As the season progressed, the Bucs defense continued to improve. I expect the same growth to continue this season.
The Bucs will have another strong defensive front after re-signing Shaquil Barrett, Ndamukong Suh, and Jason Pierre-Paul. Both the pass rush and the run defense will be solid. The Bucs could use some depth at the position, but it's a good group.
The linebacker position is also set with underrated star linebacker Lavonte David and up-and-coming linebacker Devin White. The biggest concern for me is the pass coverage. The secondary is extremely young. Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean, and Sean Murphy-Bunting all have shown promise, but remain inexperienced. The safety position is more of a concern, which is why the Bucs drafted Antoine Winfield Jr. I like Winfield and I think he'll produce right away, but the depth at strong and free safety is lacking. I don't think the Bucs defense will be top 5 in the NFL, but a top 15 defense is a realistic expectation.
Lastly, the Bucs have a strong coaching staff. Bruce Arians, an offensive mastermind, was a big reason why Brady decided to sign there. Add Byron Leftwich to the mix, and the offensive playcalling will be some of the best in the NFL. Both coaches will be able to figure out how to best utilize an offense with Brady and a bunch of weapons. Defensive coordinator, Todd Bowles is also very good at what he does. Bowles will get this young defense on the right track.
Let me know what you think of the Bucs chances for a Super Bowl.