For the second year in a row, the Cowboys will open their season with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While lat year’s week one had the Cowboys coming up short, it gave the organization a good feeling about the direction the team was heading in 2021.
What we didn’t expect was the Cowboys defense to improve so drastically throughout the rest of the season. Now with the expectation to carry this 2022 Cowboys team into the playoffs, let’s take a look at what the Cowboys defense should expect from the Tampa Bay offense on Sunday Night Football.
While the 2022 Buccaneers team is expected to make another push for a Super Bowl, it looks quite a bit different than the 2021 team the Cowboys saw in week one of that season.
Now without Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, Antonio Brown, Ryan Jensen, Ali Marpet, and Alex Cappa the Bucs will be looking for young players in OC Robert Hainsey, rookie LG Luke Goedeke and TE Cade Otton, and veteran WR Julio Jones and TE Kyle Rudolph, to play pivotal roles in this offense led by Byron Leftwich.
One thing that hasn’t changed for the Buccaneers offense is Tom Brady, Mike Evans, Leonard Fournette, Chris Godwin, and Cameron Brate. We should note, Godwin is questionable to play as he’s still working back from his torn ACL he suffered in week 15 of the 2021 season. Whether Godwin plays makes this wide receiving core on Sunday night either very dangerous, or pretty manageable for Dan Quinn and the Cowboys defense. For a quarterback who loves getting the football out quick, Godwin’s ability to win early in routes from the slot and on the boundary makes him one of the most dangerous receivers in the NFL. If Godwin is unable to go, Cowboys should expect a heavy dose of veteran WR Julio Jones, a receiver Cowboys fans begged the Jones’ to go after this offseason.
While Jones is by no means the player he was three-to-four years ago in Atlanta, Jones found himself in an ideal situation in Tampa Bay with Tom Brady, Mike Evans, and Chris Godwin to help give him favorable looks in this Tampa Bay offense. Jones will be relied on more early in the season as Godwin is working back into the fold, but slot receiver Russel Gage should also be noted as a player to keep an eye on as well out of the slot. While Mike Evans primarily plays the “X” in the Bucs offense, Chris Godwin, Julio Jones, and Russel Gage will be moved around quite a bit in Leftwich’s offense.
One aspect of the Buccaneers offense that will decline in 2022 is the production from their tight end room. One thing that isn’t being discussed enough is how much the loss of Rob Gronkowski could impact this Tampa Bay offense, especially on third down. While Gronk wasn’t quite the physical freak he was in his prime, he was one of Brady’s safety blankets over his last two years in Tampa Bay. Now without Gronkowski and Antonio Brown, that should allow the Cowboys defense to play a little more aggressively on third downs.
The biggest question about the Buccaneers offense heading into the 2022 season is their offensive line and their running game. With reports suggesting that Fournette maybe didn’t show up into camp in the best shape, and multiple injuries to the offensive line forcing Robert Hainsey and Luke Goedeke into starting roles, that leaves plenty of questions for the Bucs running game and pass protection.
After breaking down the Tampa Bay offense over the last few days, they have eerily similar issues that the Cowboys have, just not quite as bad. Dealing with injuries at wide receiver and offensive line leaves plenty of uncertainty for Byron Leftwich’s offense, but both position groups are just a tad more prepared to handle losses at those position than the Cowboys.