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Baker Mayfield's Excitement Builds for 2023 Slate, Breaking Down Minnesota's Offensive Weapons & More | Brianna's Blitz 

Looking ahead to the Week One matchup with the Minnesota Vikings, here are key topics from the podium this week

BM Bri's Blitz Sept 7

Scouting the Opponent 

The Vikings have a myriad of offensive weapons at Kirk Cousins' disposal. Minnesota's offense posted the sixth-most passing yards in the NFL last season, with Justin Jefferson serving as the beneficiary. Jefferson led the league in targets (184), receptions (128) and receiving yards (1,809). Additionally, he led the NFL in catches of 20 or more yards (28). He has become a nuisance for defenses around the NFL with his savvy route running and yards-after-catch prowess. However, when opponents aim to prevent Jefferson from taking the top of the defense with a two-high shell, that creates opportunities for teammates to exploit the underneath area of the field. T.J. Hockenson signed a four-year, $68.5 million deal with Minnesota during the offseason, resetting the market with the largest tight end deal in NFL history. He finished fifth in the NFL last year in third down receptions, and is adept at working voids in coverage. The addition of Josh Oliver, a predominant inline blocking tight end, will help achieve versatility in two-tight end sets, cultivating mismatches for Hockenson. Then, there is rookie receiver Jordan Addison, who blends immediate acceleration, crafty routes and twitchiness to generate spacing. The Buccaneers' defense will have a steep challenge on Sunday afternoon. 

"They have a ton of them [weapons]," Head Coach Todd Bowles remarked. "They've got a ton of them. Obviously, the first-round pick (Jordan Addison) comes in. He did a lot in college. We know what he can do – we scouted him pretty good. [T.J.] Hockenson – when he got to Minnesota – he made a heck of a bunch of catches. They've got two running backs who can play and they've got a third receiver, '17' (K.J. Osborn), who is maybe the most dangerous of them all because he can block, run and catch. He does a bunch of things. And, they've got three tight ends, so you're going to see different guys at all times. It's not just Jefferson, if you try to take Jefferson away, the other guys will kill you, so it will be a slippery slope."

Ground Game Emphasis 

The execution has yet to manifest on the field, but one thing is certain about the Bucs' reimagined offense, the club will not be passing the ball 60-plus times. In 2023 under the direction of Dave Canales, there is a heightened emphasis on the ground game, featuring wide and mid-zone, duo and power concepts. That will work to stimulate play-action, bootlegs and jet motions. Rachaad White, the Bucs' featured back, will have a heavy workload in 2023. 

"It's only his second year and his first year really starting," said Bowles. "The maturity in which he has handled things has been great. You can have a second-year guy be a rookie mentally because he hasn't played. Rachaad hasn't been like that. He is always trying to learn new things. I think he is a tough back. I think he is itching at the opportunity to get the chance to run the ball and we like where he is at… Well as long as the offensive line blocks, it will help him a great deal. That's in any system, but he is a sharp guy. He can play in any system. Rachaad is just one of [those] backs – he can go outside and inside; he can catch the ball and he can block. We just look forward to him having a healthy and good year."

White, who played in a similar rushing attack at Arizona State, has a natural feel for a variety of blocking schemes. He is tailored for the revitalized system, where the offensive line moves laterally in mid and wide-zone to tire out the defense, and White – with vision and patience – lets the blocks develop and hits the hole. He is also an underrated receiver, able to run complex routes not traditionally established for rushers. Last season, White accumulated 469 snaps (38.57%) and finished his rookie campaign with 481 yards on 129 rushes and a touchdown for an average of 3.7 yards per attempt. In the passing game, White contributed 290 yards on 50 receptions and two touchdowns. His improvement in pass protection allowed him to stay on the field for third downs, when defensive coordinators often dial up blitz packages. White's versatility elevates the Bucs' offense and does not provide a 'tell' to opposing defenses when he lines up. 

Following the draft, the Bucs found a hidden gem with undrafted rookie running back Sean Tucker. The former Syracuse product went through the three-day draft festivities without hearing his name called after a pre-draft physical at the NFL Scouting Combine revealed he had a heart condition. Tucker, who was expected to be drafted - some pundits considered him to go as high as the second round - signed with the Buccaneers following the draft. As he underwent a plethora of medical tests, he had to sit out of rookie minicamp, OTAs, and mandatory minicamp for the Bucs but took part in meetings and installs. Tucker was cleared prior to the start of training camp where he made his mark. 

"He is a very talented guy," Bowles described. "I mean, he earned it. We didn't give it to him. You sat there and saw the same preseason we saw. We go by production around here and Sean came back and came to camp with a purpose. He practiced like that, and he played in preseason like that. He has continued to play like that, and he has earned it."

Tucker earned the No. 2 spot on the depth chart behind White, after he showcased his one-cut ability and open-field burst. He will add another dimension to the Bucs' ground attack in 2023. 

Fresh Slate for QB1 

The Buccaneers closed a chapter when Tom Brady announced his retirement in January. In an ensuing move, Tampa Bay brought in former Heisman Trophy winner and number-one overall draft pick Baker Mayfield to compete with 2021 second-round pick Kyle Trask for the starting signal-caller duties. Following the team's second preseason game, Todd Bowles named Mayfield the starter. The former Oklahoma product displayed his command of the huddle, grasp of the offense, accuracy, arm talent and moxie. The staff believes Mayfield's skillset will be maximized in Dave Canales' system; one Mayfield has familiarity with. The outside-zone-turned-boot-action will work to his benefit and Mayfield expressed what he is looking forward to most in Week One. 

"To see everything that we've been working on [and] to see it come to life," Mayfield stated. "I think our group truly understands the system that we've put in [and] what we're trying to get accomplished. To see them fly around and enjoy it and play for each other – that's the best part. Preseason, you've got guys rotating in quite a bit. Now, it's just about getting our guys in, getting them on the same page and letting them have fun. We'll know what to do come time for the game, but it'll be fun when it hits."

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