The 2020 season is fast approaching for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This season, without a doubt, is one of the most highly anticipated in Buccaneers’ history. The players and coaches alike will be heavily scrutinized with lofty expectations being set on the team. No matter what names the Bucs have in pewter and red this season, they still have to perform on the field. As Bruce Arians said the other day, this team hasn’t done much yet.
With that in mind, which three Buccaneers players have the most to prove heading into the 2020 season? I asked this question to my followers on Twitter and had quite a few common answers.
Good options, but not quite
Drafted from a division two school in 2018, the young guard will have Tristan Wirfs and Ryan Jensen on either side. Although Cappa is someone to keep an eye on, he only has 19 games played with 13 of those being starts. He has plenty of room for improvement and a lot of games to do so.
While I think Brady has many detractors that have said he is simply a “System QB”, I think most laugh off the accusation. Brady is getting older, but you would hope Arians the QB guru would be able to hide some of his deficiencies with the best receiving cast he’s ever had in his career. Regardless, due to his contract, Brady isn’t going anywhere for the next two years. He may have a lot to prove to a select few, but he has two years to do it.
Simply put, I think he is the real deal. After coming over from the Denver Broncos, I’m not sure any of us expected that type of production from Barrett. However, 19.5 sacks don’t feel like a fluke to me.
Three Buccaneers players that have the most to prove in 2020
Smith’s career with Tampa has been up and down. At times, he shows ability and consistency, and other times, he flat out gets beat. The Bucs allowed Jameis Winston to be sacked 47 times last year, which was the fifth-worst in the NFL. In comparison, Tom Brady was sacked 27 times last year. The excitement when Brady signed with the Bucs was definitely warranted, but if the Bucs offensive line can’t keep him upright, the season could go south quickly.
It’s well documented that Brady, like any other elite quarterback, doesn’t do well under pressure. The closest Brady has gotten to 47 sacks was 40 in 2013, which led to one of the lowest quarterback ratings (62.1) and completion percentages (60.5) of his career. Donovan Smith’s performance will be crucial for the Bucs to have a fighting chance in 2020. Smith will be a free agent after the 2021 season, but the Bucs could also cut him before the 2021 season without any issues.
Coming out of the 2017 Draft, O.J. Howard was an exciting TE prospect who could do it all. With a RAS score of 9.79, Howard was behind only Bucky Hodges for TE’s and ranked 20th overall in the 2017 Draft class. While Howard has experienced moderate amounts of success, he hasn’t been what the Bucs expected when they drafted him in the first round.
He has been a good blocker, but in 2019 he was targeted a career-high 53 times and only had 34 receptions. With the addition of Rob Gronkowski to the team, Howard will have to contend with both Cameron Brate and Gronkowski for snaps. We’re all hoping to see improvement from Howard.
Hopefully, Arians will find a way to use Howard, and Howard will also learn from Gronkowski. I don’t expect Howard to post huge numbers in 2020 especially sharing the snaps as he will, but a step forward would be great to see. He has all the tools in the toolbox.
Ronald Jones will have a lot to prove as the feature back
Ronald Jones is set to be the feature RB for the Bucs in 2020. I think he has proven his worth and shown his potential after a rocky start to his career in 2018. He still has a lot to learn, but he has the talent. We saw it in his film from college, and we saw flashes of it last year. His pass protection will be crucial, but giving the offense the ability to be multidimensional by picking up yards in early downs will be the measuring stick for success in 2020.
With Dare Ogunbowale on the roster and the addition of LeSean McCoy, he may not be asked to feature heavily in the passing game, but he will definitely get his chances from time to time. I think Jones will perform well and that breakaway speed we saw while at USC, will be evident once more.
Football is a team game, but the Buccaneers will rely heavily on these three players’ to improve in 2020.