Did Tom Brady pass his first game-like test as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' new quarterback? You could say he got a 98.
Brady's A-plus performance in the Buccaneers' intrasquad scrimmage at Raymond James Stadium on Friday began with a 98-yard touchdown drive against Tampa Bay's second-string defense. It was the first possession for the starting offense after the starting defense had forced a punt by Blaine Gabbert's crew, which punter Bradley Pinion bounced down at the two-yard line. Sixteen plays later, Brady's group was in the end zone.
Details from the scrimmage are meant to be scarce as the Buccaneers are already preparing for a regular-season opener that is only 16 days away, but Brady spread the ball around to a number of receivers and the drive was a good mix of run and pass. The main thing about it is that it took quite some time, which was a challenge in the Tampa heat.
View some of the photos from Buccaneers Training Camp scrimmage at Raymond James Stadium.
"I thought Tom was very, very efficient," said Head Coach Bruce Arians. "Good job of leadership – I think when you get the first long drive of the year, guys start dragging. He got their [butts] in the huddle and got them rolling and [was] keeping under the 25 second and 40 second clock pretty good – we weren't close at all. He was commanding that pretty good and overall I thought he had a hell of a day. Overall, I was pretty pleased. I think that drive and a couple other drives showed that we're not quite in game shape coming out of it. The field was very soft and mushy – we're used to a hard, fast surface over here on the practice [field], so it was a little different feel, too."
Brady and the ones actually found the end zone three times during the scrimmage, while the Bucs' first-team defense didn't give up much to the second-team offense. Those farther down the depth chart got their opportunities toward the end of the morning. It's not something the team will spend too much time celebrating – one would expect Brady and the Bucs' loaded offense to find success against a group of mostly reserves. Still, it was another important step towards getting ready for the New Orleans Saints on September 13, especially after the pandemic wiped out the offseason program and all four preseason games.
"I think the competition's on," said Brady. "It doesn't start in two weeks – it's already started. Every day that goes by we have to learn from what we're doing, learn with each other, the plays, the corrections, all the different things that we're really trying to get up to speed with because it's very different with no preseason games and learning against our own team constantly [and] not traveling at all. We can try to maybe take advantage of the extra time we have – because I think there is a little extra time for practice – but it's coming fast. I think today was a good indicator for all of us that it's right around the corner and we're going to have to tighten some things up so we can be ready to go against a great football team there in a couple weeks."
The game featured live tackling, which Arians felt was necessary to take the place of the lost preseason games. He was pleased with the sound tackling demonstrated by the first-team defense, and called the overall performance of that group "outstanding." However, the other side of the coin to allowing tackling is the increased possibility of injuries, and sure enough cornerback Carlton Davis and running back Ronald Jones were sidelined by the end of the scrimmage. However, Arians said he believed neither injury was serious.
If the Buccaneers do indeed escape Friday's quasi-game with no injuries that will affect the start of the regular season, that will have to be considered one of the day's main successes. Otherwise, the completely unsurprising but still encouraging main takeaway from the scrimmage is that Tom Brady was in complete command.
Arians noted Brady's strong work on third downs throughout his possessions and voiced only one disappointment – that a two-minute drive to end the first half had to settle for a field goal. But it wasn't just Brady's throws that made an impact, and that's something that Arians got to see for the first time on his sideline.
"He was fired up [and] he was ready to go," said Arians of his ultra-experienced quarterback. "It was the first time in a game atmosphere and, like I said, he had great command. He's getting them in and out, forcing his way a little bit on some guys who were tired – they need that."