The One Issue the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Must Address Before the 2020 NFL Season

Max Staley
Ronald Jones and the Buccaneers running backs will need to step up in 2020.
Ronald Jones and the Buccaneers running backs will need to step up in 2020. / Will Vragovic/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming off what was arguably the best offseason in the league. The team added top-tier talent like Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski in free agency and Tristan Wirfs in the draft, just to name a few. In fact, Tampa Bay already looks like a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

But that's not to say this team is without its flaws. While conventional wisdom suggests the defense could be the Buccaneers' Achilles heel, getting the running game right might actually be the bigger priority.

Let's get the concerns on the defensive side out of the way. Yes, the team surrendered 28.1 points per game (PPG), the fourth-worst total in the league last year, but the advanced stats are really favorable to the Bucs. Tampa Bay ranked No. 5 in Football Outsiders' Defensive DVOA metrics and boasted the league's best rushing defense.

The defense struggled because they endured the league's worst average starting field position, thanks in large part to Jameis Winston's 35 total turnovers. Brady, meanwhile, has thrown just 29 interceptions over the past four seasons combined.

But he'll be 43 years old when next season kicks off, and though he's undoubtedly still a top-tier passer, Brady is not at the peak of his powers. To counter this, the New England Patriots used a dominant rushing attack in 2018 en route to his sixth Super Bowl ring. However, as that fell off the following year, so did the Patriots' offense.

Sony Michel's averages dropped from 71.6 rushing yards per game on 4.5 yards per attempt in 2018, to 57.0 per contest on a paltry 3.7 per tote last year. Correspondingly, the Patriots fell from the league's fourth-best scoring offense to No. 7, including a second-half stretch that saw the team average just 20.4 PPG over their final eight contests (including the postseason).

Right now, that should be the Bucs' primary concern. Last season they fielded the league's seventh-worst rushing offense by DVOA and the team didn't do much to address the RB position. Ronald Jones looks primed to be the lead ball carrier, and while he's shown flashes, he'll be difficult to trust as the No. 1 option. The same can be said of third-round pick Ke'Shawn Vaughn.

In the modern NFL, establishing a dominant rushing attack isn't exactly as important as it used to be. But at this point in his career Brady needs some support on the ground. Whether it's Jones, Vaughn or a surprise acquisition, Tampa Bay might not be able to reach its ceiling without improving upon last season's rushing attack.

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Max Staley is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Max Staley also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username mstaley1212. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.