TAMPA BAY – The closer and closer we get to the start of the 2022 season, the more people are realizing that Buccaneers receiver Russell Gage is in a prime position for a big year.

Count NFL Network analyst Cynthia Frelund as one of those people who are beating the Gage drum. She’s mentioned him as a potential breakout player before and continued to sing his praises Wednesday on NFL Total Access.

The crew was playing a game of over/under in regard to individual stats and when Gage’s name came up, it was a milestone of over/under 66 catches for him in 2022.

Sure enough, Frelund chose the over.

“Way more,” Frelund said on NFL Total Access. “I have 79 catches projected for him, right now…. We don’t even know if Chris Godwin is going to be ready Week 1. So, you gotta factor that in. Plus, this may be one of the sneakiest offseason acquisitions that we don’t talk about enough. This guy is very, very good and this a very high-volume throwing team.”

Gage’s recorded 72 receptions for the Falcons in 2020, which is his career-high. Obviously, Freulnd’s projection of 79 receptions would be his new career-high.

There is more than ample opportunity for Gage to have a big season for the Buccaneers

Frelund’s point about the uncertainty regarding Godwin and his availability for Week 1 is legit. There’s no guarantee he’ll be ready for the first week, or even longer.

That in itself will give Gage a good start when it comes to getting past the 66-catch mark. However, he’ll still have plenty of opportunities whenever Godwin returns.

For starters, the Buccaneers have averaged 40 pass attempts per game since 2020, which leads the NFL. Secondly, even though Gage will be the third or fourth option in the passing game in a fully healthy Buccaneers offense, he’ll still receive his fair share of opportunities.

All one has to do is take a look at Antonio Brown’s time in Tampa Bay. In regard to the receiver hierarchy, he was the third receiver. One could even argue that he was the fourth option in the passing game (on paper) behind Mike Evans, Rob Gronkowski, and Godwin.

Regardless, Brown still averaged 8.2 targets per game over the course of 15 combined games from 2020-2021, per Pro Football Focus. Brown’s catch rate was 70.8% during that span, which comes out to around 5-6 receptions per game.

Granted, there’s no guarantee Gage will follow the same route. However, just going off what we know and Brown’s stats, Gage is in line to record 85 receptions in 2022.

And don’t forget, Tom Brady even specifically mentioned how the Buccaneers need a big year for Gage, which means the NFL’s best quarterback of all-time will be looking his way on a consistent basis.

“He has to have a big year,” Brady said recently. “We signed him to a contract and he’s gotta come in and do a great job. From the time I spent with him, I really enjoy it and I think he’s gotta great opportunity. For an offense that throws the ball as much as we do, you need a lot of good receivers.”

It’s easy to see why everything is in line for Gage to have a career year.

Featured image via Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports