The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are off to a slow start this year. Despite leading the NFC South and having one of the best defenses in the league, the Buccaneers have had to scratch and claw in every game this season. This is primarily due to a sputtering offense.
So that natural question is, what’s wrong with the offense? After all they are extremely talented on paper with several All Pros and future Hall of Fame inductees. There’s no reason to believe that this group should struggle like it has.
In short, many things are wrong. Inexperienced on the interior offensive line, injuries to playmakers and frustrating game plans have all played a part. However, the part that I am growing increasingly more concerned about is the quarterback.
Tom Brady did not look sharp in Sunday’s win over the Atlanta Falcons. He had several passes that were significantly off target and he didn’t look like the same guy we’ve come to know over the last two seasons. Was this just one bad game or was it the signs of something bigger?
At this point that is unclear. In fact, a lot of things are unclear right now. So I’m starting to take stock of what we know and what we don’t know to try to determine if this is a bigger problem than what we have seen thus far.
What We Don’t Know
We don’t know if the struggles Brady showed this week are even a big deal. He has been reportedly dealing with a hand and shoulder injury and that could easily account for his struggles. For all we know, these might be a result of something mental more than physical.
I say this because of the rumors swirling around Brady regarding a potential divorce. We don’t know how much truth there is to this or how it might be impacting him. To be very clear, I don’t know and I don’t care to know about this issue. This is his own personal business and I’m content to leave it at that.
There are legitimate questions about his focus though. After missing nearly two weeks in training camp, he missed the opportunity to work with the new faces in this offense. How much does that play a role?
However, there is always the possibility that Brady is showing his age. He had several under thrown passes in this game and looked like a guy who was struggling to get the ball where it needed to go. Time will tell if this was physical, mental or just a bad day at the office.
What We Know
It’s no secret that Brady is old. At 45 he is doing things never before seen in the NFL and his longevity is nothing short of amazing. Not just that he is still able to play, but has played at an incredibly high level; I still stand by that he should have been MVP last year after leading the league in passing yards and touchdown passes.
However, as they say, Father Time is undefeated. As remarkable as what Brady has done is, we are all constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. Even the best athlete’s see their bodies break down and Brady will be no exception.
We also know that Brady missed time in training camp. The why was unclear, but his absence was certainly noticed. This was a time to build chemistry with new faces such as Russell Gage, Julio Jones, Cade Otton, Kyle Rudolph and Robert Hainsey. Many of these names have seen significant playing time due to various injuries. Both the inexperience and missing key players is a factor.
We also know that this offense hasn’t featured down the field passing as much this year. There are several things that could factor into that, such as an inexperienced offensive line and Byron Leftwich becoming the braintrust behind the offense, but all we know for sure is that it isn’t happening.
What Actually Matters?
The biggest thing is figure out what Brady can physically still do. If he can’t throw the ball downfield accurately like he used to then that’s a serious issue. That is the only scenario that would concern me at this point and we haven’t seen enough inconsistency from him to know that it’s true.
Every other potential problem is fixable. Chemistry can be built. Coaching can be adjusted. Focus can be found. If any of these are a factor to the offense’s early struggles (which I believe accounts for most of it) then this can all be solved in time.
So am I worried about Brady at this point? No, not yet. However, I am starting to ask the questions as to how much he has left in the tank. We know that Brady is the greatest football player of all time, but what he will be over the final five months of his brilliant career is still to be determined.
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