An Outlook on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offense for 2023
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are embarking on a new era this upcoming season. After quarterback Tom Brady retired for the second and final time during the offseason, the Buccaneers offense now look to find their identity ensuing the seven-time super bowl champion under center.
The Buccaneers won the NFC South division title last year despite finishing the regular season with an 8-9 record. They hosted the Dallas Cowboys in the wild card round of the playoffs in a losing effort, thus ending the Tom Brady era in Tampa.
Even with the subtraction of Brady, the Buccaneers still have a chance to be competitive with formidable talent on offense.
The 2022 NFC South division champions signed 2018 number one overall pick Baker Mayfield in free agency. Mayfield has had stints with the Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers and the Los Angeles Rams.
Mayfield, who spent four seasons in Cleveland, led the Browns to a road playoff win over division rivals Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild card round of the 2020 playoffs. It was Cleveland’s first road playoff win since 1969.
Since then, Mayfield played inconsistently along with injuries and his play suffered. Mayfield was traded to the Carolina Panthers prior to the 2022 season. He started five games before being benched. After being released from Carolina, Mayfield finished the 2022 season with the Los Angeles Rams.
One would think that a former number 1 overall pick would easily win the starting job, but the Buccaneers are giving their 2021 second-round pick Kyle Trask a chance. Trask played college football at Florida, where he broke the school’s single-season passing touchdown record (43) in the 2020 season. He was also a Heisman trophy finalist that year.
Mayfield should get the start if the Buccaneers want to be competitive in the NFC South. Even though he hasn’t exactly lived up to his draft stock, he has shown flashes of being a competent quarterback. Mayfield has more experience, the better athlete, and can keep defenses honest with his legs. Mayfield garnered over 100 rushing yards in four of his five seasons(’18-’21).
Since coming into the league in 2018, Mayfield has thrown the most interceptions in the league than any other quarterback(64). Fortunately, under the new Tampa Bay regime, the frequency of his interceptions should trickle down this season.
Mike Evans is one of the most consistent and productive receivers today. Evans was drafted in 2013 by the Buccaneers, and since then, he has garnered over 1000 yards each season. Evans managed to garner high production despite catching passes from Josh McCown, Mike Glennon, an inconsistent Ryan Fitzpatrick and a turnover machine in Jameis Winston over the course of his career.
The former Texas A&M Aggie stands at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds and is known for his leaping ability to gain leverage over defensive backs. Evans will definitely make life easier for Mayfield.
Wideout Chris Godwin is another target that is at Mayfield’s disposal. Godwin amassed 1000 plus yards three times in his six year career thus far. Godwin also was a second-team all-pro selection in 2019.
Tight-end Cade Otton is looking to improve from his solid rookie season last year. Otton, a fourth round pick out of Washington in 2022, posted 391 receiving yards and averaged close to 10 yards per catch in his first year.
Wide receiver Russell Gage will probably fill out the three-wideout set that features him, Evans and Godwin.
Gage is a solid receiver that can work in the slot and stretch the field. If Gage can stay healthy(played only 13 games last season due to hamstring injury), he can produce adequate production for the Buccaneers as the third receiving option.
Tampa Bay also drafted speedy wide receiver Trey Palmer in the sixth-round. Palmer recorded a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash at the combine and was an integral part of Nebraska’s passing attack in 2022. Palmer posted 1,043 receiving yards (most in Nebraska history in a season) along with 71 catches. The Buccaneers pass-catching group is satisfactory enough for Mayfield to thrive.
Running back Leonard Fournette was released during the offseason after spending three seasons in Tampa Bay.
Since Fournette is out of the picture, this is the time for 2022 third-round pick Rachaad White to become the lead man in the backfield for Tampa Bay.White played all 17 games last season for the Buccaneers while garnering 771 total yards with 129 attempts.
The former Arizona State Sundevil will carry a heavy workload being the starting running back in the offense. White will be essential in being a safe check-down option for Mayfield, who led the league in check-down rate in 2022 (11.9 percent).
Tampa Bay finished last in rushing yards in 2022. It’s likely that with a more battle-tested White and former Arizona Cardinals halfback Chase Edmonds(averages 4.5 yards per carry for career)behind Mayfield, expect the rushing attack to be better than last years.
The Offensive Line
The Buccaneers’ offensive line last year went through turmoil to say the least. There was a reason why Tampa Bay’s rushing attack was last in all the NFL.
Tampa Bay had to endure the loss of starting center Ryan Jenson, as he suffered a knee injury before the 2022 season began. Jenson is the anchor for the offensive front and his absence was felt all season long. Fortunately, reports are saying Jenson is “impressing” at minicamp and will be ready to go for 2023.
The Buccaneers are going into next season without veteran guard Shaq Mason, who was traded for a sixth-round pick to the Houston Texans during the offseason. Offensive tackle Donovan Smith was released after spending eight years in Tampa Bay(’15-’22) and started all but six games in his tenure.
Smith, Jensen and the offensive line was key in the success during Brady’s tenure in Tampa Bay, which led them to a Super Bowl victory in 2021.
In the three-year stretch that Brady was in Tampa Bay (’20-’22), the offensive line allowed 67 regular season sacks which was a league low.
Tampa Bay drafted guard Cody Mauch out of North Dakota State in the second round of the 2023 NFL draft in hopes to try and fill the void of Smith, who is now a member of the Kansas City Chiefs.
The projected starting offensive line for Tampa Bay will feature Jenson at center, two-time all-pro Tristan Wirfs at left tackle(missed three games due to ankle injury last season), Matt Feiler at left guard(started 73 games out of 78 in his career, brought in in April), Mauch at right guard and Luke Goedeke at right tackle(played left guard last season but struggled).
If Mayfield and the Buccaneers will have any chance at competing for the NFC South title, it starts with the offensive line.
Offensive Coordinator Dave Canales
The Buccaneers signed former Seattle Seahawks quarterbacks and wide receiver coach Dave Canales to be their coordinator on offense.
Canales was the quarterbacks’ coach for the Seahawks last season, as he is accredited for helping Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith turn his career around for the better. Smith served as a backup for the last seven seasons of his career after being drafted by the Jets in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft. Under the guidance of Canales, Smith led Seattle to the postseason last year while garnering 4,282 passing yards and completing 69.8 percent of his passes(led the league). Smith won the 2022 NFL Comeback Player of the Year award along with his first pro-bowl selection.
Similar to Smith, Mayfield was a franchise cornerstone starter turned into a journeyman. Smith played for four different teams in a three year span(Jets ’13-’16, Giants ’17, Chargers ’18, and Seahawks ’19-present). Mayfield will have to fill Brady’s footsteps, the same way Smith had to fill former Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s.
Canales has the opportunity again to change the trajectory of another underwhelming quarterback career with Mayfield at the helm.
Nobody expects Mayfield to be Brady, but with the help of pro-bowl studded pass catchers, a young running back tandem, and a proven offensive personnel coach, Mayfield should have the Buccaneers vying for an NFC South title.