It’s a new era of offense for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The days of Tom Brady and Bruce Arians aren’t far behind us, but they are long gone. There is no doubt that the Bucs are in uncharted territory now.
New offensive coordinator Dave Canales is bringing in a new scheme on offense. It is descendant of the Sean McVay offense which includes a wide zone rushing attack and a passing game that is very quarterback friendly. This should help every player of the offense improve.
There are certainly a lot of candidates who could be the breakout player on offense. Especially considering that the Bucs ranked 25th in points per game last season there is essentially nowhere to go but up. Here is my pick to be the Buccaneers breakout offensive player in 2023.
What’s Cookin? Or Rather, Bakin?
There has been a lot of talk this offseason about new offensive coordinator Dave Canales and what he was able to do as quarterback coach with the Seattle Seahawks. Last season we saw career journeyman quarterback Geno Smith have a breakout season and make the Pro Bowl. Canales was a big part of that as the coach he worked his most closely.
The hope is that the Buccaneers will see that type of career resurgence with Baker Mayfield under Canales’ tutelage. After being the first overall pick in the 20218 NFL draft, Mayfield has had his fair share of ups and downs. He was the 2018 rookie of the year and led his team to a playoff victory in 2020, but since then he has fallen out of grace and is now on his fourth team in the last two years.
Despite his inconsistent play, Mayfield has been much more successful at the NFL level than Canales’ previous quarterback. In his first three seasons, Mayfield threw for over 3500 yards and 20 touchdowns each year. These numbers aren’t spectacular by any means, but they are reflective of his talent compared to Geno Smith who had never accomplished either of those marks in his eight year career before last season.
Why Will Baker Thrive ?
There is a lot of reason to believe that Mayfield’s talent will thrive with this new Buccaneers offense. One of the things that should give Bucs fans hope is that in four games he played with the Rams last year, in essentially the same offense, Mayfield tied his career low in interception percentage at 1.6%. This was the same number he posted in 2020 when he threw for 26 touchdowns and 8 interceptions all year.
When things have gone bad for Mayfield, turnovers have been a big part of why. If you take away his two good years in 2018 and 2020, Mayfield has only thrown seven more touchdowns than interceptions in those other three seasons. So the ability to protect the ball in this type of offense is critical to his success.
Of course, there is one factor that will help Mayfield that is completely out of his control. That will be the playmakers in Tampa Bay that he will have to work with. The likes of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Russell Gage, and others are far superior to the pass catching ingredients that this Baker has had to work with in the past.
This combination of improved weapons and a system where he has shown to be less turnover prone makes for a good combination. Granted, this is based on a small sample size and a group of pass catchers that Mayfield has never worked with, but on paper this looks like a breakout season in the making.
My expectation is that Mayfield will set a career high in passing yards. Somewhere in the range of 4,100 to 4,300, which I believe is where he will land, would well eclipse his current career best of 3,827 passing yards.
In terms of touchdown passes, I could see a career high for him in this area too. The Buccaneers don’t have a powerful goal line running back, so it seems likely that they will utilize their big targets like Evans, Cade Otton and rookie Payne Durham near the end zone. I see a legitimate pathway to 30+ touchdown passes.
These numbers may not seem eye popping or breakout candidate worthy, but consider where Mayfield is with his career. Signing a dirt cheap one year contract and struggling to keep his name in starting quarterback conversations. To establish himself in Tampa Bay with a year like that would be him breaking through his previous shortcomings.
We already know that this season for the Bucs will hinge on Mayfield and Canales’ ability to get the most out of him. I believe these two will fit very naturally together and lead this Buccaneers offense to a third straight division title.