It was a challenging first year for quarterback Tom Brady with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season. Brady played 20 seasons with the New England Patriots before deciding to sign a two-year deal worth $50 million with the Buccaneers last offseason. The pandemic prevented Brady from developing a complete rapport with his teammates, particularly with his receivers as they had no preseason and had limited practice. Despite this, Brady still led the Buccaneers to their first Super Bowl title since 2002 via a 31-9 victory over the then-defending champions Kansas City Chiefs.

This year, Brady had more time to jell with his offense as the Buccaneers had a normal training camp and three preseason games so expectations are high for Tampa Bay this season. In addition, the Buccaneers brought back all of their 22 starters, including 11 on offense, so they are favorites to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

For wide receiver Mike Evans, there is a huge difference when it comes to his playing relationship with the 44-year-old Brady this year. “We’re miles ahead of where we were last year. Not just me and his connection but the whole team, the whole offense I mean,” Evans said during his press conference following Sunday’s practice in preparation for their season opener against the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday.

Evans last season became the first wide receiver in NFL history to tally 1,000-plus receiving yards in his first seven seasons in the league. Despite their limited rapport, Evans still caught 70 passes for 1,006 yards and 13 touchdowns in the regular season. Evans expressed excitement about this latest development, hoping they could do something special in the upcoming season, per transcription his video interview posted on the Buccaneers’ YouTube channel.

Whitehead’s status still up in the air

The Buccaneers had their practice on Sunday in preparation for their season opener against the Cowboys at Raymond James Stadium. However, starting safety Jordan Whitehead was not among those who participated in practice due to a hamstring issue. Luke Easterling of USA Today reported that Whitehead is considered day-to-day for Week 1, as announced by head coach Bruce Arians during his brief press conference after Sunday’s practice.

If Whitehead is not available, Mike Edwards could fill the void when the Buccaneers take on the Cowboys.

Cowboys guard out vs Bucs

Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy announced on Sunday that their All-Pro guard Zach Martin won’t play against the Buccaneers after he tested positive for COVID-19. Martin’s absence could serve as another boost to the already formidable Buccaneers’ defense that tormented many opponents last season. Martin was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 together with backup guard Brandon Knight as close contact together with punter Bryan Anger. With Martin out, third-year player Connor McGovern is expected to start in his place.