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Losing a Super Bowl certainly stings more, but Tom Brady still can’t avoid feeling some semblance of heartbreak even though he has yet to play a down of his age-45 season. While there’s time for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to reshuffle their lineup, losing one of their most experienced players makes TB12’s path to ring number eight much more challenging. 

In fact, between an abrupt retirement and a devastating injury, the Buccaneers have an obstacle ahead that could prevent them from capturing the Lombardi Trophy for the second time in three years.

Tom Brady’s trusted center, Ryan Jensen, may miss the entire 2022 NFL season

How quickly things can change in the NFL. Despite entering training camp with what appeared to be a stacked offense, the Buccaneers suffered a significant blow right away when Ryan Jensen crumpled to the ground during an 11-on-11 period. This past Friday, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted Tampa’s Pro Bowl pivot man will likely miss the 2022 season.

While there’s some tiny sliver of hope that Jensen avoided a season-ending knee injury, the odds of him playing look incredibly slim. The 31-year-old hasn’t missed a game since he joined the Buccaneers in 2018. 

Respected for both his leadership and on-field play, it’s obvious Jensen’s painful setback and potential season-long absence has impacted his teammates. On Monday, the center’s battery mate spoke with the media about the situation. 

“Heartbroken with what happened to Ryan,” Brady said. “That will take a little time, but Hainsey’s gotta step into the job and do a great job.” 

The seven-time Super Bowl champion may be processing the loss of Jensen, but he will have to quickly form a strong bond with 2021 third-round pick Robert Hainsey. The 6-foot-4, 306-pound Notre Dame product only played 31 offensive snaps as a rookie, so there will be a substantial downgrade in experience from his battle-tested predecessor.

Jensen isn’t the only familiar face missing from the Buccaneers’ offensive line

Ryan Jensen and Tom Brady during a Buccaneers-Giants matchup in November 2020
Tom Brady and Ryan Jensen of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in action against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on November 02, 2020 | Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Patriots Fans Can Officially Blame Someone Else Other Than Bill Belichick for Tom Brady’s Heartbreaking Exit

Although Brady has enjoyed mostly excellent protection during his first two years in Tampa, he could be in line to take more punishment in 2022. In fact, after absorbing 21 sacks in 2020 and 22 a year ago, that number could easily go up this season. 

While it would be unfair to call the Buccaneers’ offensive line a weakness, it’s certainly nowhere near the strength it’s been during the Brady era. Not only will the legendary quarterback have to operate without one of the league’s most formidable centers, but he will also have to depend on an unfamiliar face to replace one of the team’s few major offseason departures. 

It’s easy to forget that Tampa already lost one of its top players several months ago when Ali Marpet officially walked away from football in February. Despite being in the middle of his prime, the 28-year-old surprisingly announced his retirement, ending a career that included 101 starts and his first Pro Bowl selection in 2021. 

Marpet’s decision to hang up his helmet and shoulder pads for good put the Buccaneers in a position to start the season with a new left guard for the first time since he took over in 2018. Instead of having a top-level player at the position, the team will likely turn to former undrafted free agent Aaron Stinnie or rookie second-round pick Luke Goedeke.

Either player is a clear downgrade from Marpet, and the prospect of starting a new (and inexperienced) left guard next to a second-year player who primarily lined up at tackle in college seems less than ideal for a quarterback who’s a strict pocket passer. 

Will a 45-year-old Brady suffer the consequences of having turnover along the offensive line? While ex-New England Patriots teammate Shaq Mason is slated to start at right guard, it’s clear the Buccaneers aren’t nearly as strong along the interior as a whole.

And if protection issues pop up, it’s fair to wonder whether the TB12 Method and Alex Guerrero’s famously brutal massages can keep the GOAT at his best in what could be his final NFL season.

Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference

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