By Carmen Vitali
To all those in New England telling the Buccaneers to 'take care' of new quarterback Tom Brady via social media and a farewell ad in the local paper: meet Ryan Jensen.
Jensen is Brady's new center on the Bucs and will be the one blocking for Tampa Bay's new quarterback. He's coming off the best season of his six-year career, two of which have now been with the Bucs. Known for both his fiery hair and attitude on the field, Jensen was graded as one of the best centers by Pro Football Focus in 2019 and is looking forward to taking another step forward with his new signal caller.
"When I first heard the news, I was pretty excited, having 'The GOAT' sign down here," Jensen said. "To be able to protect [Brady] and be his center, it's a pretty big deal."
The excitement comes from the chance to play with a guy that has been an NFL staple for two decades. He also happens to be the winningest player currently in the league with six world championships to his name and four Super Bowl MVP awards. With all that experience, his teammates are bound to be able to learn a thing or two from him.
"The guy has played in the NFL for 20 years at that high of a level, there's a lot of things that he can teach you," said Jensen. "I think that'll be good for the team and offense as a whole to tap into that knowledge and experience. He's seen pretty much everything so there's nothing that's really going to catch him off guard."
But what about what the Bucs can do for Brady? Specifically, the line? Jensen anchors an interior that includes left guard Ali Marpet, who is one of the best at his position, and right guard Alex Cappa, who made big strides in his second year in the league. Left tackle Donovan Smith is there to lock down Brady's blind side and the team just signed versatile former Colt Joe Haeg, who has played both tackle spots and all along the interior. In them, Jensen sees a unit that is ready to complement Brady and his playing style.
"When you watch Tom, he gets rid of the ball on time," said Jensen. "Statistically, he's getting rid of the ball sometimes a half second sooner than a lot of quarterbacks. That helps the line. With us, that allows us to be a little bit more aggressive at the line of scrimmage in passing downs - to jump set and keep the pocket a little bit firmer."
It sets up the line with a responsibility that they don't take lightly. The relationship between center and quarterback, especially, isn't one to be taken lightly, either. Both players have to be on exactly the same page to make the offense hum along seamlessly.
"There's a lot of communication that goes on between a center and his quarterback as far as protections and MIKE points and audibles, all that kind of stuff," Jensen explained. "It's important to have that relationship and make sure you're on the same page. That way, if he needs to change something, I understand where he's going. If I say something, he knows where I'm going with it. It's big to have that relationship."
Though the pair have yet to formally meet, Jensen has played against Brady already. Back in 2014 while with the Baltimore Ravens, Jensen saw the 'Comeback Kid' firsthand when the New England Patriots came back not once but twice, after being down 14 points in the divisional round, to knock the Ravens out of the postseason.
"That resiliency, that leadership, it shows," Jensen said reflecting on that game. "He never gets too down and is always super competitive. That's something that watching him play, really sticks out."