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Tom Brady definitely pushes the buttons on this Bucs offense

Two tight ends? Three receivers? Pushing the ball downfield? It's all still to be determined, but one guess who will have tons of input.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, second from left, joins teammates at midfield while attending training camp on Tuesday in Tampa.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, second from left, joins teammates at midfield while attending training camp on Tuesday in Tampa. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Aug. 8, 2020|Updated Aug. 9, 2020

TAMPA — There’s nothing Tom Brady hasn’t done better than almost any quarterback in the NFL, including aging.

Even the ever-youthful-looking 43-year-old should feel more like a kid again operating a Bucs offense so rich in talent at the receiver, tight end and running back positions.

Brady has had to learn the terminology of the Bucs offense. But whose offense will it really be, anyway?

“It’s been kind of fun in that way to see the different approaches to the game and so forth. Everybody sees football a little bit different,” Brady said. “It’s about how we all see it together and how we can all be on the same page as we move forward. Ultimately, my goal is to go out there and do what I’ve always done, (which) is to be the best I could possibly be for the team.”

That sounds great. What Brady did over the years in New England was good enough to lead the Patriots to nine Super Bowls (and six wins). It’s hard to imagine that record of consistency will ever be matched by an NFL quarterback again.

Bucs coach Bruce Arians’ system may seem like an odd fit for Brady, especially at this point in his career.

Related: Tom Brady: ‘I’m glad we’re not playing a game this Sunday'

Arians is the No Risk it, No Biscuit guy. He wants to push the ball downfield in the air. He wants to get five eligible receivers into routes on every play and create matchup problems for the defense.

Brady has become known for getting the ball out of hands quickly, identifying the weakness of any defense on any given play and attacking it.

The fact is that nobody can be completely sure what the Bucs offense will look like with Brady pushing the buttons — not even Brady.

I’ve seen every defense, there’s (no) play I haven’t run, there’s no defense I haven’t seen,” Brady said. “It’s just physically, are you still able to execute your job? I’m very fortunate to still be able to do that.”

So what will the Bucs offense look like?

Will it resemble the one that Brady ran in New England, when he had receiver Randy Moss?

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is congratulated by receiver Randy Moss after Moss caught a second-quarter touchdown pass from Brady during their 38-7 win over the Buffalo Bills, Sept. 23, 2007. Brady threw for 311 yards and four touchdowns in the win.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is congratulated by receiver Randy Moss after Moss caught a second-quarter touchdown pass from Brady during their 38-7 win over the Buffalo Bills, Sept. 23, 2007. Brady threw for 311 yards and four touchdowns in the win. [ WINSLOW TOWNSON | Associated Press (2007) ]
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The first season Moss arrived with the Patriots in 2007, he caught 98 passes for 1,493 yards and broke Jerry Rice’s NFL single-season record with 23 touchdown receptions. Brady finished with 4,806 passing yards and a career-high 50 TD passes.

Moss followed that performance with 1,008 yards receiving and nine touchdowns in 2008, and 1,264 yards receiving and a league-best 13 touchdowns in 2009.

Evans may not possess the speed that Moss had, but he’s the only other receiver to post six consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons to start his career. Godwin, who led the Bucs with 1,333 yards receiving and nine touchdowns while being named to his first Pro Bowl last season, is equally dangerous on the other side.

Related: Bucs taking extra measures, including sequestering part of a local hotel, to prevent coronavirus

Could Brady push the ball downfield the way Arians would like? Absolutely.

But what about the tight ends? Brady helped orchestrate the trade for Rob Gronkowski, the only player he has history with on the Bucs. O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, however, also are dangerous receiving threats, especially in the red zone.

The Bucs are expected to use a lot more 12 personnel this season (two tight ends, one running back, two receivers). That’s how Brady thrived with Gronkowski and tight end Aaron Hernandez in 2011, when they combined to catch 169 passes for 2,237 yards and 24 touchdowns, 17 of which belonged to Gronk.

The New England Patriots' Rob Gronkowski, left, celebrates his touchdown (one of 17 that season he caught from Tom Brady) catch with Brady during a Sept. 25, 2011, game against the Buffalo Bills.
The New England Patriots' Rob Gronkowski, left, celebrates his touchdown (one of 17 that season he caught from Tom Brady) catch with Brady during a Sept. 25, 2011, game against the Buffalo Bills. [ DAVID DUPREY | Associated Press (2011) ]

Arians has said the two tight end formation likely will be their base offense. It makes sense, particularly because the third receiver spot is unsettled. Scotty Miller, Justin Watson and rookie Tyler Johnson will be battling it out in training camp.

All of them could be tested early, but they’ll have to make a big play or two in a game for Brady to trust them.

“Football, throwing the ball around or a workout or something like that is a lot different than real football, being in the huddle and getting to know people in that way — knowing who you can really count on,” Brady said. “I think you just have to do what you can with what we’re all dealing with, try to make the most of it and try to understand that the clock is ticking on all of us. We’ve got a lot of work to do in a very short amount of time.”

One of Brady’s most overlooked attributes is being able to get his team into the right running play. A two deep zone signals an advantage for the offense in the run game, and Brady will be given a lot of latitude to audible to any play he wants.

Related: Watching Tom Brady at the intersection of pandemic and potential

Arians already has said that the starting running back job belongs to Ronald Jones, who led the Bucs with 724 yards rushing and six touchdowns last season. He also caught 31 passes for 309 yards.

The Bucs have a more well-rounded back in 32-year-old veteran LeSean McCoy, who is listed ahead of rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughn on the depth chart. The third-round pick from Vanderbilt has missed the first couple weeks of workouts on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

It’s unlikely Vaughn will gain Brady’s trust until later in the season, but the running back position has caught 100 passes each of the pass five seasons in New England. For now, the main backs are Jones and McCoy, in that order.

“He improved dramatically from last April to December,” Arians said of Jones. “He has shown that he’s the guy. He is a guy with a lot of talent. He is excellent in the screen game. His run after catch is good. Just for him — how much can he expand it? But I have all the confidence in the world (in him). He put a lot of time in working out and catching balls to improve his hands in the offseason and it’s showing up already.”

Related: Why LeSean McCoy wanted to join the Bucs

Brady is said to be impressed with Jones. We know he trusts Gronkowski and likes Evans and Godwin.

There’s time for a third receiver or another tight end to emerge.

Game plans also factor into the equation. Each opponent has weaknesses to exploit and strengths to avoid.

Brady will be given a lot more freedom in some areas than most quarterbacks have under Arians.

Expect the Bucs offense under Brady to be ever evolving. The team hasn’t had one full-squad practice yet. It will resemble what Arians has done in the past. But remember this: Brady is the guy with the ball.

“I think my best ability is reading defenses and throwing the football,” Brady said. “I think all of us being on the same page is something we’re really working hard at — to try to get on the same page after not having many opportunities.”