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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

53-Man Roster: Three Questions on Offense 

The Buccaneers have announced the initial regular season 53-man roster, but many questions still remain on the team’s retooled offense, including the reshuffled offensive line

3 Questions Offense_

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers cutdown the 90-man camp roster to 53, with 24 of those on the offensive side of the ball. Starting Wednesday, the Bucs will begin shaping a 16-man practice squad, which means that several of the players who did not make it through initial cuts will be back in the building. Now that the roster is currently solidified, forming clarification on the depth chart, evaluation begins. Some questions still permeate.

In addition to a new implemented system under Offensive Coordinator Dave Canales, Tampa Bay will have a new starter under center, a diverse rushing attack with an emphasis on outside and mid zone, a rearranged offensive line and a deep transformation at wide receiver behind Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.

Many unknowns persist across the Bucs' offense heading into the 2023 slate and will remain until the team produces a small sample size on the field during the regular season. Let's take a closer dive into three of those questions regarding the Bucs' revamped offense:

How Will the Reworked Offensive Line Fare?

In Week One against Minnesota, this frontline will be without Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen, who was placed on injured reserve. That seemingly makes Robert Hainsey, who opened all 16 regular-season games at center last year, the starter. The Bucs drafted North Dakota State's Cody Mauch in the second round, to bolster the line after the departure of Shaq Mason via free agency. In his rookie campaign, Mauch will start at right guard and free agent acquisition, Matt Feiler, will start at left guard. Additionally, All-Pro veteran Tristan Wirfs has transitioned from right to left tackle, manning the blindside. Second-year player Luke Goedeke will move to right tackle, where he played at Central Michigan, after primarily working at left guard in 2022.

With new faces on the interior and incumbents in new roles along the line, questions abound. The unit will likely need several games to build continuity and synergy, while building muscle memory at new positions through repetition. In the Bucs' new play-action and outside/mid-zone centric attack, the offensive line will set the tone. This will be a unit to monitor.

Can the Run Game be Revitalized?

A new season ushers in optimism for every NFL club. The Bucs yielded the worst-ranked rushing output last season, and the group enters a new league year with one goal: Rewriting the narrative. Dave Canales has installed a system with roots similar to that of the NFL's evolutionary trends, with an emphasis on outside/mid-zone, pulls, counters, power and duo in a revamped rushing output. Rachaad White, the club's featured back, will take the reins. With his vision, balance, patience in block development, ability to create, balance through jump-cuts and second gear in the open field, he is a tailored fit for the new system- one he excelled in at Arizona State.

White looked impressive in Saturday's preseason finale against Baltimore (his only action during the preseason slate), and is the focal point in the backfield. Chase Edmonds was unable to play in the last two preseason games due to a minor injury, but the Bucs believe he has the potential to be an effective change-of-pace, pass-catching back. Veteran Ke'Shawn Vaughn is heading into the last season of his rookie contract and Sean Tucker showcased lateral elusiveness and sharp downhill cuts in camp to snag the last roster spot at the position. In 2023, the Bucs' run game will dictate the flow of the offense. The new system is predicated on the productivity of the run game, in order to set up play-action, bootlegs and play-fakes.

Defenses have to fear the run, allocating resources to the line of scrimmage in order to create advantageous matchups for the Bucs' playmakers in space. Last season, Tampa Bay was forced to become one-dimensional with a pass-heavy script and in 2023, the run game is a priority to take pressure off the quarterback, the offensive line and to wear down opposing defenses. Against the Ravens in the preseason finale, the unit boasted over 150-yards on the ground and although the exhibition matchup was a low-stakes contest with no bearing on the final outcome of the season, the signs were encouraging.

How Does Baker Mayfield Look at Quarterback?

The greatest question entering the offseason for the Buccaneers that occupied countless headlines, was the head-to-head battle between Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask for the starting quarterback gig in Tampa Bay. Mayfield won the job with an impressive performance throughout training camp and the preseason, but the Buccaneers were also very pleased with the ascension of Trask in the arms-race. The Bucs released John Wolford, so the club will either look to bring the former Ram back on the roster/practice squad or will seek a third passer on the waiver wire.

Mayfield, the former No. 1 overall pick by the Cleveland Browns and Heisman Trophy winner, does not lack experience, having started 69 regular season games and two playoff matchups during his career. As the starting signal-caller for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2023, Mayfield will command an offense with similarities to the previous systems he thrived in at Oklahoma under Lincoln Riley's tutelage and Kevin Stefanski's scheme in Cleveland. Both created a system around Mayfield's strengths, utilizing the outside-zone-turned-naked-bootleg concept to stimulate explosive plays downfield. The Stefanski concept, similar to that of Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan, is centered on building a robust run game through outside zone to ignite the drop-back passing game and play-action to generate bootleg designs out of similar disguised pre-snap looks. The addition of play-fakes and motions are geared towards creating confusion for the defense and keeping the opposition off balance. As a result, Mayfield became proficient at delivering passes from a non-traditional launch point.

Throughout the offseason during OTAs and training camp, Mayfield displayed improvisation skills, command of the huddle, accuracy at all three levels and poise under pressure. Mayfield is striving for resurrection in 2023, as a new post-Tom Brady era begins in Tampa Bay.

On Sundays – the question remains - how will all of this translate to the field? Time will tell but as of now, the Buccaneers are confident in their starting quarterback guiding the team to new heights.

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