Brady heightens expectations for long-suffering Buccaneers
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (7-9)
New faces: QB Tom Brady, TE Rob Gronkowski, T Tristan Wirfs, S Antoine Winfield, Jr., RB Leonard Fournette, RB LeSean McCoy, T Joe Haeg, RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn, WR Tyler Johnson.
Key losses: QB Jameis Winston, RB Payton Barber, T Demar Dotson, WR Breshad Perriman, OLB Carl Nassib, DL Beau Allen.
Strengths: Brady and Gronkowski join offense that led NFL in passing last season, with receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin making Pro Bowl, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate forming one of best tight end tandems in league. Biggest leap, though, could come on defense, where franchise tag was placed on league sacks leader Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh were re-signed in free agency.
Weaknesses: Young secondary played well down stretch in 2019. Continued growth will be key to becoming solid all-around defense. Offensively, look for more production from running backs, especially considering Brady’s history of involving them in passing game.
Pandemic Development: Determined to get acclimated to new teammates and prepare for his first season outside New England, Brady organized group workouts that continued even after NFL Players Association advised players against participating in such sessions.
Fantasy Player To Watch: Can’t go wrong with Evans, who in 2019 joined Hall of Famer Randy Moss as only players in NFL history to begin career with six consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 yards receiving. Another choice may be Godwin, who has sights on long-term contract after leading Bucs with 86 receptions for 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Also had seven TDs in 2018.
Vegas Says: Win Super Bowl: 14-1. Over/under wins: 9 1/2.
Expectations: Bucs signed Brady to two-year, fully guaranteed $50 million contract and are counting on him — at age 43 — to not only end 13-year playoff drought but carry them all the way to Super Bowl, which is scheduled for their home stadium in February.
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