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From TTT to EPA/Tgt | A Next Gen Look at Weeks 1-8

Tom Brady is getting rid of the ball faster than ever, Mike Evans is easily the team's most effective offensive player so far and the Bucs' defense has seen a drop in its pressure rate in the first half of this season


It's difficult to be "halfway" through a 17-game seasons, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are at least in the vicinity of the midpoint of their 2022 campaign. They've played eight of those 17 games, they're coming off the natural dividing point of a long weekend "mini-bye," and the calendar just flipped to November.

The top-level assessment of the 2022 Buccaneers near midseason is that, at 3-5, they haven't yet played up to their own expectations. The previous two seasons included an overall 29-10 record, a Super Bowl championship and a division title, and the '22 Bucs were bringing back a good amount of that teams core. That most notably included quarterback Tom Brady, whose ultimate decision not too retire kept the Bucs among the teams considered prime Super Bowl contenders heading into this season.

The Buccaneers are just one game behind Atlanta in the NFC South standings and already have a win over the Falcons, so the division title is clearly very much still in play. Inside the AdventHealth Training Center, there remains the belief that the team is going to get back on track and return to consistently winning games. Before we get to that, however, let's look back at the first "half" of the 2022 season and use Next Gen Stats to provide us wit a few notes about how the Bucs got to this point.

·    Tom Brady's TTT

TTT is Next Gen's abbreviation for "time to throw," which is defined as the average time elapsed from snap to forward pass, measured in seconds. It excludes plays on which the quarterback is sacked.

Last year, Brady's TTT was 2.50 by the end of the season, which underscored a fundamental change in the Buccaneers' offensive approach. That was the second fastest average release of all full-time quarterbacks, behind only Ben Roethlisberger's 2.38. In 2020, Brady's first season in Tampa, he had a TTT of 2.57 as the Buccaneers more commonly took shots downfield, quite often with great success. He threw 48% of his passes after waiting for more than 2.5 seconds.

Last season, opposing defenses more often played defenses designed to prevent big plays against the Bucs and Brady only held the ball for more than 2.5 seconds on 42% of his passes. The Bucs' adjustment worked very well; Brady led the NFL in both passing yards and touchdown passes in 2021.

This year, Brady is getting rid of the ball even faster, though not with the same oversized level of success as last season. Brady's TTT of 2.42 is the sixth-lowest for any quarterback with at least 200 pass attempts in any season since NGS began tracking these stats in 2016. Brady is still one of the league's most productive passers, ranking sixth in the league with 283.4 passing yards per game. That's very close to what he averaged in the Super Bowl year, but it's down nearly 30 yards per game from last season. His 0.3% interception rate leads the league and would be the best of his career but his passer rating of 92.4 is down almost 10 points from 2021. Most notably, the Buccaneers are averaging 10.1 yards per completion, which is almost a yard lower than last year.

·    Team Defense QBP%

The Buccaneers' defense has generated 25 sacks through the first eight weeks, which is good for third in the NFL. However, that masks an overall pressure rate that has dropped for the second year in a row.

In the 2020 Super Bowl campaign, the Buccaneers recorded 47 sacks and 195 pressures in the regular season. That pressure total is the ninth best among all teams in a single season over the past three years. The 2021 Buccaneers actually topped that with 200 pressures (and another 47 sacks) but their overall pressure rate dropped a bit. Tampa Bay had a 29.4% pressure rate in 2020 and a 27.5% rate last year.

So far this season the Bucs have those 25 sacks plus 70 QB pressures. That's a pace for 53 sacks but only 149 pressures, a significant drop from the past two seasons. Overall, Tampa Bay's defense has a 23.8% pressure rate in 2022, which is the 11th lowest for any team in a single season over the past three years.

The Buccaneers are also not blitzing as much in 2022, though that is likely just a result of their particular matchups so far and not an overall strategy shift by Todd Bowles. The Bucs had identical blitz rates of 38.1% in 2020 and 2021, but that is down to 33.3% in 2022. That's still well above the overall league average of 27.4%.

·    Mike Evans' EPA/Tgt

The Buccaneers led the league in scoring over the 2020-21 seasons combined and ranked near the top in many offensive categories. That was the result of an all-time great quarterback surrounded by one of the league's deepest group of offensive skill position standouts.

The Buccaneers notably lost Rob Gronkowski to retirement in 2022 but did add free agent wide receivers Russell Gage and Julio Jones while drafting tight ends Cade Otton and Ko Kieft. That said, what's clear at the halfway point is that wide receiver Mike Evans is definitely the Bucs' most effective offensive player.

Evans leads the Buccaneers and ranks eighth in the NFL with 577 receiving yards on 39 receptions despite losing one game to a suspension. He is averaging 14.8 yards per catch; the rest of the team is averaging 9.1 per reception. The Next Gen Stats paint an even more vivid picture of how well Evans has performed in 2022.

When throwing the ball in his direction, Brady has a 107.8 passer rating. That's just behind Leonard Fournette's 117.6; nobody else on the team who has caught more than six passes is over 100. Brady's completion rate of 66.1% when targeting Evans is above his overall mark of 65.9%, and Evans has helped that number significantly. NGS suggest that Evans should have caught 57.6% of those passes, which means he has a Completion Rate Over Expected (CPOE) of +5.0. That's the best for any player on the team, and the next best is Kieft's 0.9 on three targets.

Where Evans really stands out above the crowd is in Expected Points Added, or EPA. Using historical data and game-situation filters, NGS calculates the amount of expected points added to the team's total by specific plays. On passes thrown to Evans this year, the EPA is 29.3. Nobody else on the team has a total EPA of more than 5.7 so far this season. Evans' EPA per target, or EPA/Tgt, is 0.50. Kieft has an EPA/Tgt of 1.08, but on just three targets; Jones has an EPA/Tgt of 0.52, but on just 11 targets. Evans has been targeted 59 times. His EPA per route run is 0.11, which is the best on the team.

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