NFL

Godwin: Bucs' continuity gives champions Tampa chance to be even better in 2021

By Sports Desk June 14, 2021

Chris Godwin believes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' continuity in the 2021 season gives them an opportunity to be even better than in last year's Super Bowl-winning campaign.

The Buccaneers won their second Lombardi Trophy in the 2020 season, routing the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV 31-9 as Tom Brady capped his first year in Tampa with his seventh title.

Brady is under contract for two more years and will be 44 by the time the new term gets under way. However, the seemingly ageless quarterback appeared reinvigorated by his switch from the New England Patriots and will again have a stacked roster around him in 2021.

Despite working under the constraints of a salary cap negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, the Bucs kept the core of their roster intact, with wide receiver Godwin retained on the one-year franchise tag.

The Bucs also gave head coach Bruce Arians a pay rise and extended the contract of general manager Jason Licht.

Godwin is poised be a free agent in 2022, but his focus in the more immediate future is on ensuring the Bucs compete to defend their title.

"This offseason, we became the first Super Bowl winner ever to bring back all of our starters, our key subs, our coach and coordinators and our GM," Godwin, guest-authoring Peter King's Football Morning in America column, wrote. 

"We appreciate what the GM, Jason Licht, did bringing us all back to take our best shot.

"No one knows what kind of impact that will have, when you bring all the players back. But I think it's a really good thing because we felt like we hadn't played our best ball, even in the Super Bowl.

"We scored 31 points, but it wasn't a great game for our offense for four quarters. We know we can be better. And I think we will be better.

"Our offseason gives us a really good opportunity to do that. But anybody who comes in saying we're automatically in great position to win again because we brought everyone back? You're lying to yourself. Familiarity guarantees nothing except giving us a good starting point."

Godwin has little doubt in Brady's ability to make the most of his supporting cast, and he expects the NFL's most serial winner to allow no team-mate to rest on their laurels as the season draws near.

"As for Tom, we've thrown a few times this spring. His arm is so live," Godwin added. 

"What I appreciate about him is the ball he throws is so receiver-friendly—the touch, and putting it right where you want it.

"I think, mentally, he has a good feel for the fact that he knows everyone isn't like him. Because he's like, "Okay, on to the next one".

"But he's not forcing his attitude onto anyone. Now, if we get to training camp, and guys keep saying, Remember this and that from last year? Then he'd say something. But I don't see that happening. We know what the mission is."

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    For Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, reminders of their blowout Super Bowl LV loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been everywhere. 

    From Tom Brady's trophy toss during the Bucs' boat parade to Thursday's unveiling of Tampa Bay's massive Super Bowl rings, the champs have stayed in the spotlight throughout the off-season. 

    With training camp finally set to begin next week, though, the Chiefs are ready to clear the slate and move on.

    "I think the best thing about getting to training camp is it all starts over," Mahomes said at a news conference Friday as the team's quarterbacks and rookies reported to camp.

    "No matter how you ended the year before, you have to go in with the mindset of starting from scratch. We’re excited to do that and try and make another run at it.”

    The Chiefs have made it to the final game two years in a row, with Mahomes taking MVP honors in their Super Bowl LIV triumph over the San Francisco 49ers. 

    To Mahomes, the path back to the Super Bowl starts immediately, not in the September 12 season opener against the Cleveland Browns. 

    "I think we’ve learned that if we put in the work now, that we’ll be where we want to be at the end of the season," he said.

    "It’s about putting in the work right now, day by day, getting better and better so that at the end of the year you have no regrets about what you did in the season.”

    Mahomes had surgery to repair a turf toe issue immediately following the Super Bowl but will be ready to go for training camp. 

    Head coach Andy Reid said his 25-year-old quarterback, already among the best in the league, has spent the off-season working to be even better and he expects more of the same in camp. 

    "He’s always looking for that next thing that makes him even better than what he is now, and that’s the part you love about him," Reid said. "He has that type of personality. He wants to be the best, and he’s not just talk."

    The Chiefs are one of a handful of NFL teams who spend training camp away from their team headquarters, setting up shop at Missouri Western State University about 60 miles north of Kansas City. 

    Reid said the more secluded location helps eliminate distractions and he looks forward to watching his team bond along the way. 

    "We come up, it’s a time for camaraderie and bringing things together as a team. It’s hard work. There are no shortcuts obviously," he said. 

    "We’re going to try to make sure we cover everything we possibly can, but there’s this concentration of football that you take in here.

    "You’re sleeping in a dorm, you’re eating over in the dorm and you’re doing all of that. You’re here and it’s football kind of 24/7 right now.”

    After months spent rehashing what went wrong in Tampa Bay, that probably is the best thing possible for the Chiefs. 

  • Saints' position among offensive elite under threat without Michael Thomas Saints' position among offensive elite under threat without Michael Thomas

    The New Orleans Saints have long since enjoyed the benefit of continuity on offense in Sean Payton era, but in 2021 they will have to contend with some significant changes.

    For the first time since the 2005 campaign, the Saints will begin a season with a quarterback not named Drew Brees as their starter.

    Brees' retirement was regarded by some as overdue but, if his decision to ride off into the sunset was not viewed as a damaging one for New Orleans, the loss of the receiver with whom he had built a devastating rapport certainly is a significant blow.

    NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported on Friday that Michael Thomas is expected to miss the start of the season having undergone ankle ligament surgery in June.

    Thomas was limited to just seven games last year because of persistent ankle injuries and the procedure to fix those problems will, at least in the opening weeks, rob the Saints' 2021 starting quarterback of a two-time first-team All-Pro who has blossomed from 2016 second-round pick into one of the most dependable wideouts in the NFL.

    Renowned for his route-running and his proficiency in making contested catches, Thomas produced at a historic level in 2019.

    He broke the single-season receptions record with 149, racking up a career-high 1,725 receiving yards at an average of 107.8 per game.

    Per Stats Perform data, Thomas registered a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted regardless of whether the ball is catchable, on 76.1 per cent of his 184 targets.

    That was the fourth-highest rate among wide receivers in the NFL. Only one player who finished above him, Corey Davis (69), had even 50 targets.

    Thomas was tied for the second-most burn yards per route, trailing only Stefon Diggs (3.9) with an average of 3.6.

    He got open on 83.2 per cent of his targets, though he did so with an average depth of target of 8.1 yards, illustrating the Saints' dependence on shorter passes in the latter stages of Brees' career.

    Thomas will now miss out on the chance to quickly develop an even better understanding with the two quarterbacks, Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill, vying to be Brees' successor.

    The frustration of that for the Saints will be two-fold. Winston's aggressiveness -- he was second in the NFL in air yards per attempt (10.7) in his last season as a starter with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2019 -- could unlock Thomas' potential as a downfield receiver to a greater extent than Brees did.

    Meanwhile, Thomas' dependability would be a significant aid to an interception-prone quarterback or to a passer in Hill whose only four pro starts came last season.

    Instead of enjoying those possible benefits, with Thomas on the sideline, Payton and the Saints have the imposing challenge of maintaining their offensive consistency without a Hall of Fame quarterback and without their All-Pro wide receiver.

    The Saints are used to life among the NFL's offensive elite, but with the two most important parts of the equation on that side of the ball out of the picture, at least for the start of 2021, they face being removed from the top table.

  • Brady, Buccaneers receive super-sized Super Bowl rings Brady, Buccaneers receive super-sized Super Bowl rings

    NFL players, as a rule, tend to be rather large men. Even taking that into consideration, the rings the Tampa Bay Buccaneers received Thursday for winning Super Bowl LV were something to behold. 

    The rings, which were presented in a private ceremony, feature 319 diamonds as a nod to the 31-9 final score of the Bucs' triumph over the Kansas City Chiefs in February. 

    The top of each ring twists off to reveal a rendering of Raymond James Stadium, where Tampa Bay became the first team to win a Super Bowl on their home field, and engraved scores from all of the Bucs' playoff games. 

    Beyond that first-of-its-kind feature, the rings are striking for their sheer size, dwarfing the fingers of the Super Bowl champs. 

    "They're not so much rings, they're more like trophies that you wear on your finger," Brady said in a video released by the team. "This is by far the most incredible ring that’s ever been made."

    That's saying something for a man who now has seven of them.

    Brady and other Bucs players had an input in the rings' design, with the final result a collaborative product that packs as much symbolism as possible into a piece of jewelry. 

    "You accomplish something of that magnitude, you want to be able to show for it," said linebacker Devin White. 

     

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