It’s a good question.
The 2020 Buccaneers started last season with a new quarterback who was learning a new system without having a true off-season to do it. The rest of the offense was trying to learn their new quarterback without a real training camp or preseason. The defense was young and inexperienced. Then came the injury to defensive tackle Vita Vea, which hampered that defense more than some of you know, even though Rakeem Nunez-Roches stepped in and played well in his absence. Tom Brady didn’t even find his groove with the new offense until Week 12 or so.
Then something clicked.
That team came back from their bye week like they were literally fired from a cannon. They won their last four games, finishing 11-5 for the season and punching their ticket to the playoffs. Then they were the first team in NFL history to beat three division champs on the road on their way to the Super Bowl. They capped off the season by being the first team in NFL history to win the Super Bowl in their home stadium. That team was historic.
But can they possibly be even better this year?
After making history throughout the postseason, the Bucs did it; once again in the off-season by becoming the first Super Bowl-winning team to bring back all 22 of their starters since the 1977 season. But they didn’t stop there. They also brought back a number of key reserves who filled in as starters during the season, like guard Aaron Stinnie and Rakeem Nunez-Roches. They brought back all three of their kicking specialists. And they re-signed key role players like wide receiver Antonio Brown, running back Leonard Fournette, and inside linebacker Kevin Minter. That tells me two things. First, this team is a family that wants to stay together. And second, this team believes they can do it all over again.
Repeating as Super Bowl champs is a rare accomplishment. It hasn’t been done since the 2004-05 seasons when the New England Patriots, led by Tom Brady, won back-to-back titles. It’s only been done eight times in NFL history, with the Pittsburgh Steelers being the only team to do it twice. The other teams to pull it off were the Green Bay Packers, who won the first two Super Bowls, the Miami Dolphins, the San Francisco 49ers, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Denver Broncos — All teams that were considered “dynasties” at one time. Is that where this Bucs team is headed — “dynasty” status?
Only time will tell.
Now back to my original question. Just how good can this 2021 Buccaneers team be? Wide receiver Mike Evans thinks that this is the most talented roster in the league. He also said that he’s coming into this season in the best shape of his life and just had the best training camp of his career. He’s not the only one feeling good, though. Tom Brady and Jason Pierre-Paul have both said they’re entering this season “pain-free” for the first time in a long time after having off-season knee surgeries. In fact, JPP says he hasn’t felt this healthy since his rookie year. Head coach Bruce Arians says that this team is miles ahead of where they were this time last year, especially on offense. The young secondary that played with a chip on their shoulder last year after being ranked 32nd in the league is now more confident and should be considered one of the best secondaries in football. Oh, and apparently, they added a pretty darn good defensive player in the draft with rookie outside linebacker Joe Tryon.
This Bucs team that went 11-5 and won the Super Bowl last season is even better. And I’m not talking a little better. I’m talking a lot better. I didn’t even mention that they’ve also got Vita Vea and OJ Howard back now? Yeah, this team is better. They are about to hit the ground running, and I’m not sure any team in the league will be able to keep pace. Can this team go 17-0 this season? Possibly. But I guarantee you that they’re not thinking that way. Right now, it’s all about their Week 1 matchup with the Dallas Cowboys. It will be a good litmus test for the Bucs with Dak Prescott and his trio of impressive receivers. If this team can pick up where they left off in February, then the rest of the league better take notice. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are back and better than ever. And they begin their title defense tomorrow night in Raymond James Stadium.
Until then, as always; GO BUCS!!!