TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (7-9)
CAMP SITE: Tampa, Florida
LAST YEAR: Extended NFL’s second-longest playoff drought to 12 consecutive seasons. Despite leading league in passing yards and throwing for 33 touchdowns, Jameis Winston took a step back with 30 interceptions, including seven returned for TDs. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin established themselves as premier receiving duo, while LB Shaquil Barrett exceeded expectations by leading league with 19+ sacks in first season with Tampa Bay.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: QB Tom Brady, TE Rob Gronkowski, T Tristan Wirfs, S Antoine Winfield Jr., RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn, WR Tyler Johnson.
IMPORTANT LOSSES:QB Jameis Winston, RB Peyton Barber, RT Demar Dotson, WR Breshad Perriman, OLB Carl Nassib, DL Beau Allen.
PANDEMIC CHALLENGES: No team has done more to heighten expectations, with coach Bruce Arians and general manager Jason Licht signing Brady in free agency, trading for Gronkowski and drafting Wirfs to fill huge hole on offensive line. Brady and Gronk were longtime teammates in New England. Wirfs was one of top tackle prospects in draft. Nevertheless, all three would have benefited from getting acclimated to new surroundings in OTAs, minicamps and normal offseason conditioning program.
CAMP NEEDS: Although Brady was able to work with some of his new teammates while club facilities were shut down due to coronavirus pandemic – even ignoring union recommendation that players not gather informally – it will be challenge to perfect timing and chemistry with receivers before season begins. Gronkowski is coming off one year in retirement, and Wirfs will have to be brought up to speed quickly to be immediate starter. Defense that improved in second half of 2019 returns mostly intact entering its second season in coordinator Todd Bowles’ system.
EXPECTATIONS: Brady’s arrival has transformed Bucs, who haven’t won playoff game in 17 years, into Super Bowl contenders. And with NFL title game scheduled for their home stadium in February, it won’t be enough to merely end decade-plus drought of postseason appearances. Brady appeared in nine Super Bowls, winning six, in 20 seasons with New England. Anything short of winning it all will be disappointment for Bucs and rejuvenated fan base.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL