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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tom Brady Praises Bucs O-Line, Sees Challenge Ahead

Despite integrating a lot of new starters, Tampa Bay's offensive line is off to a strong start in QB Tom Brady's opinion, but it faces a stiff test this weekend with the Packers coming to town.

Through the first two games of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2021 season, Tom Brady had nine touchdown passes and had thrown for 655 yards. That team would conclude the regular season as the top passing attack in the NFL and Brady would lead the league in both passing yards and TD tosses.

Through the first two games of the 2022 season, Brady has just two touchdown passes and is averaging just over 200 yards per game, more than 100 fewer than his per-game output last year. The only statistic that really matters, however, is 2-0, as the Buccaneers are one of only six remaining undefeated teams. So far, the formula for producing those victories has looked a lot different than the one that led to a league-best 13-4 record last year, but the bottom line is still the bottom line.

And speaking of lines, one of the main aspects of that winning formula through two weeks has been the strong play of a reworked offensive line. With Ali Marpet retiring, Alex Cappa departing in free agency and Ryan Jensen suffering a knee injury in training camp, that line has new starters at all three interior spots. In addition, stalwart left tackle Donovan Smith suffered an elbow injury in the opener at Dallas and has missed the last three halves of play. Josh Wells finished that contest on Brady's blind side and started at New Orleans in Week Two but is now on injured reserve with a calf ailment. First-year player Brandon Walton manned left tackle for the second half of the Saints game, registering his first regular-season offensive snaps.

All of those overlapping transitions would seem to be a recipe for a crew that would take some time to find its footing, but Tampa Bay's line is off to a fine start. That's the opinion of the man who most needs that group to perform well.

"Yeah, I've been getting great protection," said Brady. "The guys up front have been competing very hard; I think that's part of why we've run the ball so well. We've been able to run it a bunch of times and those guys up front have done a great job kind of coming together, taking the coaching and putting all they can into what they're doing. It's really allowed us to do some good things on offense."

Brady has been sacked only three times in two games and hit on just seven dropbacks. That solid pocket hasn't yet translated into big passing numbers, as mentioned, but there are positive signs, such as the fact that he has the fourth-highest average depth of throw in the NFL this season, at 9.7 air yards per attempt. The depressed passing numbers obviously have something to do with the frustrating rash of injuries that have hit the receiver room, but when that unit is closer to full health Brady's excellent time to throw will likely pay off more.

"I think part of the job is to deal with different people being in," said Brady. "It's part of the demolition derby of the game that we play. Guys are in and out and you've just got to adjust within the game in certain weeks. You start a certain way; it doesn't end the way it started. … Sometimes when you know guys aren't going to be out there during the week, you can plan for it. Other times you have to adjust in the game. Every team deals with it. … You've just got to try to win the game however you can win it. Fortunately, our defense is playing great football and we're doing the best we can do on offense."

With the O-Line leading the way, the Buccaneers have been more effective on the ground than in the recent past. That was true more so in Dallas than New Orleans, but even without huge numbers against the Saints the Buccaneers were able to stick with the rushing attack and stay mostly turnover-free until the game swung on a run of takeaways by the defense in the fourth quarter.

The Bucs' run game currently ranks 13th in the NFL, which is quite an improvement over the 26th and 28th-ranked finishes the offense had in Brady's first two years with the team. The O-Line faced quite a test trying to get the ground game going in Week Two against a Saints defense that finished each of the past three seasons ranked fourth against the run. Now, in Week Three they'll get another tough draw against a very talented Green Bay Packers defensive front.

"It always starts with the offensive line, what those guys are able to do, how they're able to control the line of scrimmage," said Brady. "It's a big challenge…like last week's front, that's a great front. This week it's a very different front, but great pass-rushers, one of the best inside players we'll face all year, Kenny Clark; Preston Smith and Rashan Gary, great rushers. Again, it's another challenge but we've got to meet it. Every week it's something different in the NFL. It's tough. Every week you're going against somebody's best and, yeah, you've just got to try to figure out a way."

View some of the top photos from Buccaneers Week 3 practice at the AdventHealth Training Center.

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