As teams head to training camp and the NFL season approaches, The 33rd Team asks its experts to preview every team’s outlook for the 2023 season. In this installment, Rondé Barber takes a deep dive into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Buccaneers Team Preview
What To Know: Offense
It’s a no-brainer here. The Buccaneers will have a new scheme under first-time offensive coordinator and play caller Dave Canales; the “no risk it, no biscuit” offense that survived under Byron Leftwich after Bruce Arians’ retirement is gone.
Canales will be much more modern in his approach. The offense will be built around simple concepts with the illusion of complexity, similar to what other new, young coordinators in the league are running. His scheme will incorporate more mid-wide zone concepts, making it more quarterback-friendly and allowing for pocket movement that better suits their newly signed quarterback, Baker Mayfield, assuming he wins the job.
So Canales’ ability to get this offense implemented 100 percent will determine how well this team does in 2023.
What To Know: Defense
Devin White is an extremely talented player. However, he is equally inconsistent, completely negating his potential for a huge payday. White said he wanted to be traded in the offseason, which was huge news in the Tampa area. Now, the Buccaneers were never going to make that an option for him. They are more than content to make him play out his fifth-year option and evaluate him at the end of the season.
The hope is that he puts all this behind him and returns to the dominant level of play he showcased early in his career. If he does, his reward will follow, whether in Tampa or elsewhere.
Biggest Off-Field Storyline
Is this even a question? It’s quarterback. The G.O.A.T. has retired to greener pastures. Tampa Bay signed Mayfield as Tom Brady’s potential replacement, indicating they can still win while retooling their roster. Of course, the Buccaneers have second-round draft pick Kyle Trask from three years ago, but I think this job is Mayfield’s to lose right now.
Breakout Player Prediction
The breakout player for the Buccaneers is RB Rachaad White. Without a guarantee at quarterback and with a hand-picked offensive coordinator with an emphasis on balance in the run and pass games, a lot of the load this year is going to look to fall on White. Leonard Fournette is gone. So the onus for success in the run game falls squarely on the new RB1. Literally; he’s wearing No. 1.
I like White’s running style and breakout ability since he was drafted last year in the third round. He does everything well. He’s expected to shine in his new starting role, and I can’t wait to see if he is what he says he is.
Move Buccaneers Should Make
The Bucs signed Ryan Neal in the offseason as an upgrade at safety to play alongside Antoine Winfield Jr. Currently, there’s no quality depth behind them, and Todd Bowles likes to play with multiple safeties at times. Nolan Turner got some meaningful snaps in 2022, but he, like the other three players on the roster, is an undrafted free agent.
So don’t be surprised if this team starts scouring the bottom of other rosters for vets who could fill a need in terms of some quality depth at the safety position.
2023 Season Expectations
The best possible outcome for the Buccaneers is that Mayfield proves he is the gamer this team needs and eliminates all the questions about his career.
Hopefully, he can help Mike Evans continue his streak of 10 1,000-yard seasons. (He’s only two seasons behind Jerry Rice.) If that happens, Tampa Bay might not be looking to draft Caleb Williams in the first round of the draft next year.
Many pundits think the Buccaneers will be the worst team in football. However, I’m not sold on that for any team in the NFC South. They’re at least playoff long shots.
This team mortgaged themselves to make the playoffs for three years. They won a Super Bowl and went to the playoffs two other years. This year’s team is a very different team, but they still have some of the best individual players in the NFL.
That being said, everything needs to go as planned, especially on the offensive line. There are some big, difficult questions up there because the entire offensive line is reshuffled. Most notably, Tampa Bay moved on from Donovan Smith and is moving All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs to left tackle. In reality, they have four new starters in different positions — and that’s assuming Ryan Jensen comes back at center.
There are a lot of questions about this team. The expectations in Tampa are a little higher than they are outside of this town.
Rondé Barber is a former NFL cornerback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers whose resume includes a Super Bowl title, three All-Pro teams, five Pro Bowls and a spot on the NFL’s 2000’s All-Decade Team. Follow him on Twitter at @rondebarber.