How will Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski fit into the Buccaneers’ offense?
It’s one of the many questions looming over the NFL ahead of the 2020 season. Tampa Bay, which hasn’t made the playoffs since 2007, thrust itself into the Super Bowl conversation this offseason by signing Brady and trading for Gronkowski, only it’s fair to wonder whether the longtime Patriots superstars will enjoy continued success in a new system outside of New England.
Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians explained Thursday during a Zoom conference that while 12 personnel (one running back and two tight ends) typically has been his base offense, dating back to his days on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ coaching staff, it’s possible Tampa Bay will mix things up this season.
The Bucs, of course, have no shortage of weapons. So, we might also see both 11 personnel (one running back and one tight end) and 13 personnel (one running back and three tight ends) depending on the matchup.
“We’ve always been a huge 12 personnel team, even since Pittsburgh. That’s our base offense. If those are the best matchups, then that’s where we’re headed,” Arians said. “Each week is finding out the best matchups. I love 13 — I love three tight ends out there. We have the package. If you don’t know how to stop it, it can hurt you.”
Tampa Bay, unlike most teams, has three legitimate tight ends in Gronkowski, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Bucs use that luxury to their advantage, particularly since Gronkowski’s blocking prowess should improve Tampa Bay’s rushing attack, led by third-year running back Ronald Jones II.
Still, Arians loves to throw the football downfield, for better or worse. While Gronkowski, Howard and Brate all are viable pass-catching threats, the Bucs could look to spread the field more frequently with their wide receivers, led, of course, by two Pro Bowlers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
“I think I’d like to see us use some more four-wide receiver sets,” Arians said. “If you have a really good fourth wide receiver, there are very few good fourth corners and nickels and dimes who can come get them. That was an area I didn’t think we could do much last year.
“I think we can get better at using all of our personnel groups. Eleven is kinda the standard in the league now. I’m really anxious to see the third and fourth and fifth receivers fight it out for that spot, but the 12 personnel we’ve got, we’ve got that for sure.”
Basically, the Bucs have both the talent and depth to be creative, opening up a whole bunch of possibilities for Arians, a highly regarded offensive mind. Ultimately, however, Tampa Bay will need to take better care of the football this season after totaling an NFL-worst 41 giveaways in 2019, 30 of which were interceptions thrown by Jameis Winston.
“That is going to be a huge point of emphasis for us — that turnover ratio and field position — and Tom’s always been very, very great at it,” Arians said. “So I would hope that we would have great improvement there.”