Once training camp begins, Bruce Arians and his staff will be watching and analyzing almost every single player down to the finest detail.
But the key word in that sentence is almost.
Like any NFL team, there are players that are a lock for the roster. They are solid, trustworthy, dependable, and they produce. Still, there are some players that are held in an even higher regard - the elite players that define what a team is able to do on a weekly basis.
These players, such as your Tom Bradys, Russell Wilsons, Saquon Barkleys, Alvin Kamaras, Deandre Hopkins - the list goes on - simply cannot be replaced if anything were to affect their ability to step onto the football field.
So, now you have to ask: Who are these players that follow this criteria for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
I’m glad you asked. I now present you with the three indispensable Bucs on offense.
3. QB Jameis Winston
The only surprise about Winston on this list is that many of you probably expected him to be higher. He is the starting quarterback after all.
But regardless of rank, Winston is easily one of the three indispensable players on offense. Just look at the quarterbacks who would take over if something were to happen to him. Journeyman Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Griffin (who has never taken a NFL snap in a real game) would be the ones to fill Winston’s shoes in light of an emergency.
I know Winston has had his ups and downs on the field, but I’m sorry, neither Gabbert nor Griffin would come within miles of matching Winston’s production. Even with all of the weapons on offense, Winston is strictly a better quarterback. It’s that simple.
Gabbert has familiarity in Arians’ system, but he didn’t really do much when given the opportunity. He started five games under Arians in 2017 and compiled a 2-3 record to go along with a 55.6% completion rate and six touchdowns to six interceptions.
His advanced stats weren’t any good, either. He finished 2017 with a 4.06 ANY/A mark. For context’s sake, that placed him as the 35th-best quarterback in the league amongst players with at least five starts.
Not good. Jameis, stay healthy. Please.
2. WR Mike Evans
Again, a lot of you are probably surprised at this ranking.
And just like Winston, it’s easy to see why Evans is one of the team’s irreplaceable players.
Evans’ numbers alone will shatter any objection to his place on this list. What he can do at his size not only makes him an elite player on the Bucs, but in the league as well.
He’s a pure receiver. One that can get physical when needed, but also has the touch and grace to make difficult catches on the sideline. His first touchdown catch against the Atlanta Falcons in the 2018 season finale exemplifies the elite body control and balance that he has for a man of his size.
The receiving corps is a bit different than the quarterbacks when it comes to depth. Chris Godwin and Breshad Perriman (and even OJ Howard if you want) are good options, but none of them have quite the effect on the offense that Evans does.
If he were to miss games, the passing attack would take a pretty serious hit. I’m not saying that it would fall off a cliff, but it’s suffice to say that Evans’ presence not only frees up his fellow receivers, but also gives Winston a big target to throw to - and a dependable security blanket, too.
1. G Ali Marpet
And for the finale, another surprise ranking.
But for those who have paid close attention to Marpet, it’s not much of a surprise at all.
He is easily Tampa Bay’s best offensive lineman, which is absolutely incredible to think about considering he came out of a Division III program.
Marpet is a mauler who can run block and pass protect at a high level. He has gotten better and better as each year has passed and was rewarded heavily with a big contract before the 2018 season.
Those who study the league are beginning to take notice as well.
The @Buccaneers have all sorts of talented offensive weapons. One of those weapons, you may not realize, resides in the trenches. @PFF_Chichester goes in depth of why you should pay some attention to Ali Marpet at the line of scrimmage this season.— PFF TB Buccaneers (@PFF_Buccaneers) July 10, 2019
Ali Marpet has been quietly outstanding along the Buccaneers' interior offensive line.— PFF (@PFF) July 10, 2019
PFF’s NFL Editor @PFF_Chichester takes an in-depth look at the play of the Bucs guard: https://t.co/65KBJuvfX6 pic.twitter.com/YYFExujFI9
My picks:— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) June 26, 2019
Aaron Donald (AP)
Deshaun Watson (PB)
Keenan Allen (PB)
Looking at the OL All Pro voting in general. Voters did a good job giving votes to the guys who’ve played well with one glaring exception. Ali Marpet of the Bucs got zero votes at LG. He should have been 2nd or 3rd at that position.— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) January 5, 2019
Ali Marpet has been the best LG in football through 10 weeks. Extremely well-rounded and is putting it all together in year 4: pic.twitter.com/utTk9RN76K— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) November 13, 2018
Get the picture?
If Marpet were to go down, it would be an unmitigated disaster for the Bucs’ offense. Not only is there basically zero depth behind him, but the rest of the starters up front are iffy at best. Donovan Smith still has plenty of questions, Ryan Jensen did not play well last year, no one really knows what the hell is going on at right guard, and Demar Dotson - while still effective - will turn 34 in October.
Point is, there is a high chance that an already struggling offensive line - one that ranked at the bottom of the league in all major advanced statistics outside of pass pro in 2018 - would falter without its best player.
And since everything starts up front, the trickle down effect could have serious implications.
Hopefully it’s easy to see why these three guys are the indispensable ones on the offensive side of the ball. Be sure to check back in a couple of days for the three indispensable Bucs on defense!