In the two seasons that Tom Brady has been under center, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offense has produced the most points per game (30.4) of any team in the NFL. Brady is back for a third season at the helm – after about 40 days of uncertainty – but that offense will have to work through some significant changes in order to continue its prolific ways.
Most significantly, the line of men keeping defenders away from Brady will have a new look. The Buccaneers have to replace Pro Bowl left guard Ali Marpet (retired) and right guard Alex Cappa (free agency departure) and now they are also auditioning new starting centers after Pro Bowler Ryan Jensen suffered a knee injury that will keep him out until at least November. Brady also saw another one of his favorite blockers, tight end Rob Gronkowski, hang up his cleats in June.
With their first preseason game looming on Saturday, the Buccaneers were required to release an "official" depth chart this week. It is 90 players deep and thus subject to significant change before the regular-season opener on September 9, but there are still some tidbits that can be gleaned from this work-in-progress depth chart.
The Buccaneers also made a change to the structure of their depth chart on offense, one that reflects the relative amount of depth at the wide receiver and tight end positions. Over the past three seasons under the current coaching staff the Bucs had included two tight ends and two receivers among their listed starting 11. This year, they are listing three receivers and just one tight end spot. It makes sense; in 2021, the Buccaneers' most common offensive grouping was "11" personnel, which features three receivers, one tight end and one running back.
Click here to review in full the Bucs' first depth chart of 2022. Below are the listed offensive starters:
WR: Mike Evans
WR: Chris Godwin
LT: Donovan Smith
LG: Aaron Stinnie
C: Ryan Jensen
RG: Shaq Mason
RT: Tristan Wirfs
TE: Cameron Brate
WR: Russell Gage
QB: Tom Brady
RB: Leonard Fournette
And here's a breakdown by position:
Quarterback – The Buccaneers will bring the same four quarterbacks to camp as they did a year ago, with Brady backed up by Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask and Ryan Griffin. Griffin spent all of last season on the practice squad and may be ticketed for that crew again if Gabbert and Trask can hold on to their 2021 roles, as anticipated. Gabbert is likely to remain the primary backup to Brady, active on game days, but Trask is expected to get a lot of playing time in the preseason.
Running Back – The Buccaneers have five running backs on their camp roster and have typically kept four during the regular season in recent years, particularly if one of the last two makes a contribution in the return game or elsewhere on special teams. Fournette is the unquestioned starter in Week One for the first time in his three years with the team. Rookie third-rounder Rachaad White essentially replaces the departed Ronald Jones, though it is third-year man Ke'Shawn Vaughn who is listed second on the depth chart.
Wide Receiver – With Chris Godwin returning to practice in a limited fashion this past week, there is growing optimism that the duo of Godwin and Mike Evans (currently nursing a minor leg injury) will be in the starting lineup in Week One. They are joined in the listed 11 by one of the team's most significant offseason additions in free agency, former Falcon Russell Gage. The recently-acquired Julio Jones is listed behind Evans, with Tyler Johnson behind Godwin and Scotty Miller behind Gage.
Tight End – The Buccaneers had Gronkowski and Howard in their two listed tight end spots last year but no longer have either of them as options for the one tight end listing in 2022. That job goes to veteran and long-time Buccaneer Cameron Brate, who is relishing the opportunity to return to more of an every-down role. He is backed up by recent veteran addition Kyle Rudolph, who could see a lot of action in two-TE sets, and then by 2022 draftees Cade Otton and Ko Kieft.
Offensive Line – As noted, the Buccaneers are still listing Jensen as the starting center but know they will have to make a change there before the regular season. The team is still awaiting word on whether or not Jensen's knee injury will end his 2022 season, but they're not expecting him back anytime soon. Second-year man Robert Hainsey, listed behind Jensen on the depth chart, has taken the lead in that competition but Nick Leverett and John Molchon are also in the mix. The Buccaneers acquired Mason in a trade with New England and he has slid seamlessly into the right guard spot vacated by Cappa. The Buccaneers will likely take a few more weeks to decide who will start at left guard, but veteran Stinnie gets top billing on the first depth chart. Leverett, second-round rookie Luke Goedeke and first-year player Brandon Walton are all in the mix.