Tight End position now crucial to Buccaneers success in 2022

Cade Otton, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
Cade Otton, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) /

The tight end room of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was always going to be important. Now, it may be the most important for the Buccaneers.

Thanks to injury, the offensive line of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has been in shambles. There’s really no way to sugarcoat it. The injury bug has had quite the hankering for Buccaneers, and it hasn’t just been lately. It’s been the last few seasons.

Alex Cappa got hurt in the first playoff game and missed the entire Super Bowl run of 2020. Tristan Wirfs got hurt in the first playoff game of 2021, and missed the rest of the playoffs that year, which cost the Bucs dearly. We don’t have time to list all of the injuries and departures of 2022 now, but suffice to say things haven’t gotten much better.

Now, Donovan Smith is banged up, and it wasn’t like he was setting the world on fire his last two meaningful games before that anyway. That said, the Buccaneers would still love to have him out there as he has been rapidly improving as a player. Simply put, the offensive line is going to need some help, which is where the tight end position comes in.

Other than quarterback obviously, tight end has become arguably the most crucial position for the Buccaneers.

Just as much as the NFL has become a quarterback-driven and pass-heavy league, it is also become a tight end-centered league which has not really been talked about as much as it should. You may not need a dominant running back or wide receiver to win a Super Bowl, but you do need a solid tight end. Look back at all the most recent Super Bowl champions, and you’ll find a good to great tight end to go along with the quarterback.

The Buccaneers had one in Rob Gronkowski, but now he is gone, for now anyway. Fortunately, the Bucs planned for this even when Gronk’s football future was still up in the air. They already had Cameron Brate who is ol’ reliable and a receiving specialist. They then went out and signed veteran Kyle Rudolph who is a road-grater of a run blocker and a solid receiver despite health questions in is ascending age. They also drafted Cade Otton who can pretty much do it all, as well as blocking specialist Ko Kieft who they’ve been using as more of an H-Back.

Essentially, all of these skillsets equal one Gronk, so the tight end room can best be described as a jack of all trades but master of none. However, that could be just fine.

On top of the receiving responsibilities necessary to win in today’s NFL, these tight ends are going to need to block to give Tom Brady and the running game help and protection. Once the tight ends were brought in to chip more against the Dallas Cowboys, as well as assist with blocking in both the run and pass, the offense seemed to find at least a little bit of a groove. It may not have felt like it, but Leonard Fournette did rush for 127 yards, so there is something of a method to this madness.

While Gronk is surely messed, the Buccaneers are lucky to have so many solid tight ends with so many different skillsets. It also helps that each and everyone of them, with the possible exception of Brate, can block. In today’s explosive offense and fantasy football-obsessed NFL culture we now find ourselves in, the mark of a great tight and is often measured by their receiving abilities. However, blocking is just as important, if not more so as the Bucs are proving already in 2022.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers definitely have their work cut out for them, but are in far from trouble. Their tight end room has suddenly become arguably the most important on the entire roster, and if they do their job, everything will be just fine in Brady’s reported swan song season.