The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may not be a finished product, but they’re getting there.
While the Buccaneers’ 21-15 win over the Atlanta Falcons wasn’t the most impressive win, it made it abundantly clear that Tampa Bay’s offense is starting to at least resemble what we’ve seen over the past two seasons.
The passing game continues to improve thanks to the healthy returns of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Additionally, the continued emergence of Leonard Fournette as a leading receiver combined with the potential of Cade Otten helps replace some of the firepower Tampa Bay lost this offseason with the departures of Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown.
Offense has been a major concern through the first three weeks of the season as the Buccaneers defense has kept this team afloat. Tampa Bay averaged just 17 points per game through the first three games of the year, ranking 22nd in the league. Meanwhile, the defensive unit had allowed just an NFL-leading nine points per game.
However, the offense continues to pick up steam as the season progresses and the receivers get stronger.
The Buccaneers are still not at full strength. They were without Julio Jones because of his severe PCL sprain, and Cameron Brate, who started at tight end, was sidelined with his injury from last week.
However, Tampa Bay is quickly deploying younger arms in Otten and Rachaad White to make up for the absences of their key veterans.
Otten had his second straight receiving game, finishing the day with six receptions on seven targets for 43 yards, ranking second on the team in receptions and targets. He quickly emerged as the reliable safety blanket that Brady missed through the first three games of the season due to Gronkowski’s withdrawal. By comparison, Brate had just seven receptions for 68 yards through the first three weeks.
“He’s doing a good job,” Tom Brady said after the game. “He’s had a good start to his career. We all have great confidence in him. Especially when Cam goes out.
Meanwhile, White continues to be used in the passing game and on third down conversions. A week after catching his first touchdown pass in a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, White finished the game with three receptions for 28 yards.
“Rachad caught some balls and came up the field,” head coach Todd Bowles said after the game. “I thought he did a good job and he looked fast.”
While the running game continues to be an issue — Tampa Bay is averaging just 3.0 yards per carry while running the ball just 23 times compared to Brady’s 52 pass attempts — it continues to be offset by Brady’s playmaking efficiency with short passes.
Fournette quickly established himself as Brady’s most reliable receiver, leading the team in receptions (10) and targets (11) in the win over the Falcons. It was his second straight game with at least seven receptions.
Despite being forced to replace three of their five offensive linemen from last season, the Buccaneers are making up for their lack of elite pass blocking — entering Week 5, Tampa Bay had 58.5 pass blocking averages, ranking 21st in the league – relying heavily on the short passing game.
There is obviously more work to do. Tampa Bay goes through stretches where they stagnate. After going up 21-0 late in the third quarter, the Falcons actually outscored the Buccaneers 144-15, cutting the deficit to 21-15. Tampa Bay actually had three straight drives in which they went three and out in the fourth quarter before their final drive to close the game.
“We just had a lot of three-and-outs,” Brady said. “We just weren’t very good. Poor execution, not our best game in the second half. I have to learn from it and get better.”
While the Buccaneers will obviously need to create a little more flexibility by developing their running game and getting better in pass protection to give Brady more time for his deep throws, the execution of their offense is improving each week.
The Buccaneers may still have a ways to go before being considered an “elite” team, but like the 2020 team, this team is improving every week and the offense’s potential remains limitless.