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2022 Fantasy Coaching & Coordinator Breakdown: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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After a whirlwind of an offseason, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in fact, still appear to be a Super Bowl favorite. Tom Brady is back and while the team has a new head coach, not much from this team will change entering the 2022 season.

 

Let’s take a look at the fantasy football takeaways from this Tampa Bay coaching situation. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach: Todd Bowles

Tampa Bay DC 2019-2021, Jets HC 2015-2018

After having coached in the NFL consistently since 1998 other than a brief retirement in 2018 (and as far back as 1989), Bruce Arians retired from football this past offseason. He helped lead the Bucs to a Super Bowl title back in 2020 and is the winningest coach in franchise history. With Arians stepping away, Todd Bowles, the team’s defensive coordinator, will return to a head coaching role, his first since he was with the Jets from 2015 to 2018. Bowles and Arians have plenty of history, as Bowles played safety for Arians at Temple University in the 1980s and was also the defensive coordinator for the Cardinals alongside Arians before the move to Tampa Bay. 

Entering the 2022 season, Bowles will obviously have much more responsibilities, but his role calling the defensive plays won’t change. Kacy Rodgers and Larry Foote will operate as co-defensive coordinators, but the defense will still run through Bowles, who has been arguably the most aggressive defensive playcaller in the NFL over the last few seasons. Tampa Bay has ranked first (40.8%), fifth (39%) and second (43.4%) in blitz rate over Bowles’ three seasons as the defensive coordinator. And when he was with the Jets as the head coach, New York ranked top 10 in blitz rate, so it seems more than likely that the Buccaneers will remain blitz-heavy this season. Tampa Bay also plays a lot of zone defense, running the scheme nearly 71% of the time this past season, the ninth-highest rate in football. Of course, the team’s defensive backs dealt with plenty of injuries last season, which likely led to more zone coverage. In particular, the Bucs played a good bit of Cover 3.

As for the run defense, Tampa Bay remains as good as it gets. Over the last three seasons. The Bucs have ranked third, first and first in run defense, allowing an average of just 82.7 rushing yards per game during that span. This past season, 26% of the carries against Tampa Bay were stuffed at or behind the line of scrimmage, comfortably the highest rate in the NFL. It has gotten so dominant to the point where opposing offenses often completely abandon the running game when they line up against the Bucs. And while the team lost a few players on the defensive line this offseason, they made up for it by adding Akiem Hicks and Logan Hall

 

Offensive Coordinator: Byron Leftwich

Tampa Bay OC since 2019

Sure, Arians is no longer the head coach of the Buccaneers. But that doesn’t mean the offense is going to change: “No risk it, no biscuit.” That has been the mantra of the Tampa Bay offense for years. It has been an aerial attack that loves to take shots down the field, and Leftwich stated that the offense won’t look too different going forward, saying, “Same thing, same thing. Nothing will change. Everything should be status quo.”

The offensive philosophy certainly didn’t change once Tom Brady joined the team. In his two seasons as Tampa Bay’s starting quarterback, Brady first and eighth in intended air yards per pass attempt (9.1, 8.1). And back in 2019, Leftwich’s first year as the team’s offensive coordinator, quarterback Jameis Winston averaged a whopping 10.4 intended air yards per pass attempt, while his 5.2 air yards per completion trailed only Matthew Stafford. Nearly 16% of Winston’s pass attempts during that season traveled at least 20 yards down the field, the fourth-highest rate among qualified signal callers. This past season. Brady, even at age 44, led all quarterbacks with a whopping 5,783 air yards. 

According to PFF, 14% of Brady’s pass attempts were on go routes, sporting a near 108.0 passer rating on such throws. While the deep passing game has always been a staple in Arians’ offenses over the course of his career, keep in mind that it was Leftwich who was designing game plans and calling plays for the Bucs the last few seasons. This team is going to be among the league leaders in vertical passing attempts once again this season, while the passing volume should be massive, too. No quarterback in football attempted more passes than 44-year-old Brady (719) last year, easily a career-high. He averaged nearly 43 pass attempts per game as Tampa Bay was the pass-heaviest team in football. No team sported a higher pass rate in neutral game scripts than the Bucs (67%), while they still ranked second in passing rate when up by eight or more points (55.5%). It doesn’t matter if Tampa Bay was ahead by three scores in the fourth quarter, Brady and company were dropping back to pass more often than not. Only the Chiefs and Bills called pass more times on first down than the Bucs last season (312), while Brady attempted at least 40 passes in 11 different contests. 

While taking plenty of shots down the field is a huge part of this offense, there are certainly other aspects. For instance, the screen game has also been very prevalent in this system. Last season, Brady’s pass attempts off screen led the NFL, while his 12.8% dropback rate off the play type ranked fifth among qualified quarterbacks. And in 2020, Brady was eighth in screen pass dropback rate (11.9%), while his 74 screen attempts were the third-most in the league. Play-action, on the other hand, has not been as evident, which is a bit surprising considering this team takes so many deep shots. Yet, the Buccaneers have posted a 24 and 21% play-action rate over the last two seasons. Individually, Brady has ranked 16th and 17th in pass attempts off the play type during that span. 

Leonard Fournette 2022 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Coaching & Coordinator Breakdown

As for the running game, the basis of Tampa Bay’s ground attack comes from gap schemes. Running back Leonard Fournette carried the football 180 times last season, with 120 of those attempts coming out of gap running schemes, the third-most in the league. Meanwhile, 75 of Ronald Jones’ 101 rush attempts came out of the play type. Gap schemes often feature a pulling offensive lineman, with the offensive line having a predetermined hole in mind for the running back to find. A lot of Fournette’s carries came out of power with offensive linemen generating down blocks. 

Target Distribution

These Tampa Bay offenses have been loaded with talent over the last two years, featuring Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown. And when your team is throwing the football nearly 45 times per game, there will be enough for nearly everyone to produce. However, we do know that the running back position has often seen a healthy target share in Brady-led offenses. Over the last two seasons, running backs have accounted for 19% of the team’s targets, one of the higher rates in the league during that span. Leonard Fournette was seeing targets at an insane rate last season (14%), while his 49 first-read targets led all running backs, despite missing three games. He was also third in both overall targets (84) and receptions (69) at the position. Fournette finished fifth among all running backs in routes run with 361 and again, that was all while missing three contests. Look for Fournette and rookie running back Rachaad White, who sported an 18.9% college target share, to remain focal points of Tampa Bay’s passing game.

Fantasy Football Takeaways

He did it. Tom Brady finally retired from the game of football … for about 40 days. Brady is back after throwing for 5,316 yards and 43 touchdowns at age 44, while finishing as the QB3 in fantasy. The volume was insane for Brady, who attempted the second-most regular season passes in the history of football (719). Brady’s arm isn’t losing much of anything, however, as his 43 highlight throws last season trailed only Aaron Rodgers, while he completed 45.3% of his deep passes, good for the third-highest rate among quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts. Entering 2022, Tampa Bay’s offense should remain the same, though Brady’s pass-catchers look a bit different. Some regression is likely on the horizon, especially in the volume department, but Brady should still contend for the league-lead in passing attempts. Consider him a very safe QB1 option for seemingly the 17th consecutive season.

To open the 2021 season, Ronald Jones was Tampa Bay’s starting running back. However, Fournette emerged as not only the Bucs best running back, but one of the best running backs in all of fantasy. From Week 4 — when he emerged as the lead back — on, Fournette was the RB3 in all of fantasy before sitting out the final three regular season games. During that span (Weeks 4-15), Fournette averaged 14.1 rushing attempts, 6.36 targets, 5.18 receptions and 20.6 PPR points per game. Now back in Tampa Bay alongside Brady, Fournette is in line for a top-10 fantasy finish again, especially given the minimal competition for touches. As stated earlier, Fournette paced all running backs in first-read targets (49), while ranking third in both overall targets and receptions. Fournette has goal line and receiving work in one of the league’s highest-scoring offenses. That is a recipe for success. 

In the third round this year, the Bucs selected Rachaad White, a player with tremendous receiving upside. The top receiving running back in this class, White posted an 18.9% college target share, while his 2.25 yards per route run ranked fourth in the nation among all running backs. At 6-foot-0 and 214 pounds, White has good enough size to handle a full workload if called upon, though he doesn’t have the most experience. He is also a work in progress when it comes to pass protection, which is very important in a Brady-led offense. If he can win the backup running back job during training camp, White will be one of the highest-upside late-round running backs in fantasy this season.

Tom Brady Mike Evans  2022 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Coaching & Coordinator Breakdown

Death, taxes and Mike Evans recording 1,000 receiving yards. He’s reached the thousand-yard mark in each of his eight seasons in the NFL, and in two years alongside Brady in Tampa Bay, the veteran wideout has finished as the WR9 and WR11 in fantasy. While the volume hasn’t been elite, Evans has made up for it by making splash plays and scoring touchdowns. He’s found the end zone a whopping 27 times over the last two seasons, ranking sixth and fourth in the league in end zone targets during that span. The volume, however, could climb back up this season. Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown are no longer with the team, while Chris Godwin (ACL) could miss the start of the season. In eight games with Godwin out of the lineup since 2020, Evans is averaging 9.25 targets, 6.38 receptions, 86.7 receiving yards, 1.1 touchdowns and 21.8 PPR points per game. For as long as Godwin is sidelined, Evans has top-five upside, while he’ll likely put together yet another 1,000-yard, double-digit-touchdown season in 2022.

Godwin could miss the start of the 2022 season, but when he is on the field and 100%, he is going to flirt with WR1 production. Over the last two seasons, he has ranked seventh and 15th in fantasy points per game, while also averaging a healthy 8.13 targets, 5.9 receptions and 72.5 receiving yards per game during that span. When he is on the field, Godwin will be one of the 12 best receivers in all of fantasy football and likely leads this team in targets. Despite missing the final three games of the season, Godwin caught a whopping 98 passes last year, while seeing 127 targets. 

Tampa Bay signed Russell Gage to a three-year, $30 million deal this offseason. Gage was pretty productive over his final two seasons in Atlanta, especially last season where he was the WR31 in fantasy points per game. From Week 9 on last year, Gage averaged 7.8 targets, 5.7 receptions, 67.6 receiving yards and nearly 15 PPR points per game, ranking as the WR14 in fantasy during that span. He saw plenty of targets from Matt Ryan, but he should be in line for plenty in Tampa Bay, especially if Godwin doesn’t start the season. Gage primarily played out of the slot in Atlanta, but he can win on the outside, while ranking 11th among qualified receivers in yards per route run against man coverage last season (2.84). Gage will be a solid weekly flex but has WR2 upside in any game Godwin is out this season.

Rob Gronkowski retired for the second time this offseason, paving the way for Cameron Brate, Cade Otton and recently signed Kyle Rudolph to see more opportunities. Brate didn’t exactly take advantage of his opportunities with Gronkowski out of the lineup last season, averaging just 3.6 targets, 1.4 receptions, 14.6 receiving yards and 4.06 PPR points in five games without Gronkowski. Tampa Bay will likely use all three tight ends this season and because the position is actually somewhat deep, you can likely find much better options at tight end.

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