Another New Day in Tampa Bay – JoeBucsFan.com

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BY IRA KAUFMAN

To hell with continuity.

That’s the operational slogan bouncing off the walls of One Buc Place with the season opener looming just six weeks away.

When the Bucs visit the Cowboys on Sept. 11, Dallas coach Mike McCarthy will be looking at a far different roster map than the one Tampa Bay presented in last year’s opener.

Last summer, the defending NFL champions were rightly singing about their ability to retain all 22 starters. It was powerful testimony from the Tampa Bay management team and further proof of Tom Brady’s massive impact on the retention of potential free agents.

GM Change Agent Jason Licht.

Those steady days are over, baby, over.

The Buc team that lines up at Jerry’s World in Week 1 will be very different from the roster that proved a bit short in a quest for another Super Bowl ring. This depth chart has been both shaken and stirred and we’ll soon find out the effects of the wholesale changes.

It looks like the 2022 Bucs could open the season with nine new starters. It’s a 41% overhaul of a team that won the NFC South title and beat Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs.

Ryan Jensen’s season-threatening knee injury is the latest agent of change around these games. The starting center position is now expected to go to Robert Hainsey, who played guard in high school and right tackle at Notre Dame.

At this point, tackles Tristan Wirfs and Donovan Smith must be concerned about what’s going on between them in the trenches. Ali Marpet has retired and Alex Cappa is now protecting Joe Burrow instead of Brady, so the inside of the starting offensive line — so crucial for a quarterback of Brady’s limited mobility — is completely new.

Shaq Mason could be an upgrade on Cappa while Aaron Stinnie and rookie Luke Goedeke vie for Marpet’s spot at left guard.

Wait, we’re just warming up.

Rob Gronkowski seems content to bellow for the cameras instead of exploiting defenders in the red zone. In Gronk’s place, Kyle Rudolph has an opportunity to re-establish himself as one of the league’s best tight ends – while admitting he can’t match his predecessor’s skill set.

Antonio Brown is still looking for a job in the NFL after showing off his wares at a New York strip club called MetLife Stadium. We don’t even know when Chris Godwin will return from a knee injury that required surgery.

No one would be surprised if Russell Gage and Julio Jones took the first offensive shots in Dallas.

Looking ahead to Week 1, the only safe returning starters for the NFL’s No. 2 offense are Brady, Mike Evans, Leonard Fournette, Wirfs and Smith. Byron Leftwich has a lot of work to do adjusting his playbook and tweaking Tampa Bay’s protection systems.

On both sides

Newcomer DT Akiem Hicks, at 6-4, 335 lbs.

Buc’s defense has also undergone big changes.

Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul are still in the open free agent market, hoping for another big payday. Jordan Whitehead, a rising young safety, was kicked out of Tampa Bay when the Jets aggressively targeted him in free agency.

In their place are second-year pro Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and newcomers Akiem Hicks, Keanu Neal and Logan Ryan. Hicks and Neal have been hampered by recent injuries while Ryan gives Todd Bowles versatile play in the secondary.

Tryon-Shoyinka boasts impressive athleticism, but he needs more polish and awareness from the bright side. Will it make a significant leap in year 2? The Bucs are betting on him, but don’t be surprised if Jason Licht adds a veteran rusher.

It is often said that change is a good thing.

Buc fans are about to find out.

Ira loves this lifetime warranty on new and used vehicles!


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