As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers enter a critical offseason, there are two big positional battles to keep an eye on.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers enter this important offseason with a host of needs and a tremendous amount of uncertainty about the future. Their roster is still talented, but after a season filled with disappointment and the ingress of several brand-new faces on the coaching staff, even veterans will have to earn their spots.
And though every offseason sees the depth chart thrown into uncertainty, the upcoming offseason in Tampa Bay is the murkiest in many seasons. Predicting who will make up the starting roster once the dust settles and the final 53 are announced is a tough task.
But two of Tampa Bay’s positional battles are particularly impactful for the 2023 season in Tampa Bay. Here are three of the most prominent, and who is expected to win them by kickoff of the 2023 NFL season.
Rachaad White or Leonard Fournette or Bijan Robinson?
Just a year ago it seemed like the second era of Leonard Fournette was flourishing in Tampa Bay. But he faced a strong challenge from rookie Rachaad White in 2022. And though White took over lead-back duties towards the end of the season, Fournette remains a lurking presence in the Buccaneers’ backfield.
But without a pick until the late first round of the draft, courtesy of a playoff berth, the Buccaneers would be in a prime position to draft consensus top RB of the class Bijan Robinson. If Brady does leave Tampa Bay, an incredible influx of talent into the RB position could be viewed as the solution to make life easier for his replacement.
Todd Bowles was heavily criticized during the season for his insistence on establishing an early-and-often rushing attack, but that could also lead to a high value for the position on Buccaneer draft boards.
Verdict: Leonard Fournette
If the question was who has the brighter future in Tampa Bay, Rachaad White would probably have been the answer. The young RB has the tools needed to be a valuable player for a long time in this organization. But to lead the backfield in 2023? Well, Leonard Fournette is going to have a lot to say about that.
Fournette had clear lead-back duties through the first six weeks of the season last year, averaging around 16 carries per game (18.5 if you remove the anomalous game against Kansas City in which the Buccaneers fell behind early and only rushed 6 total times). This is on pace with end-of-season totals for workhorse running backs like Najee Harris and Dalvin Cook. It seems clear that Leonard Fournette was the Buccaneers’ main rushing threat to start the season this past year.
And while Rachaad White picked up a lot more carries and playing time don the stretch, Fournette was only ever pushed to a split-backfield role – even with the wear and tear of a full season hindering him against the fresh legs of White. With a full offseason to recuperate, expect a healthy dose of Leonard Fournette to start the season in bruising fashion in 2023.