Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady said on the latest episode of his podcast that he expects the team to be “as healthy as we’ve been all year” when Monday night’s matchup with the Dallas Cowboys kicks off.
Well, Brady wasn’t lying. The Buccaneers didn’t rule anyone out of the upcoming matchup on Sunday and right now, it looks like players such as Carlton Davis III, Donovan Smith, Logan Ryan, Mike Edwards, and others are slated to play.
But, there’s one big return that the Buccaneers made official Monday morning:
The return of Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen.
The return itself is obviously huge news. But the key part is the fact that Jensen is actually expected to play, per several reports from the top news-breakers in the game.
Ryan Jensen got plenty of reps with the first-team in practice and now expects to play tonight. His season debut(!) in the playoffs. https://t.co/ET6ZBo62Jp— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 16, 2023
And according to Tampa Bay Times‘ Rick Stroud, Jensen will start.
My information is that Jensen will start at center. G Nick Leverett is doubtful and they may start Luke Goedeke at guard. Robert Hainsey is an option but has hamstring strain.— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) January 16, 2023
Bucs activate center Ryan Jensen for tonight’s playoff showdown vs. Cowboys https://t.co/cRVMnUoaWi
Jensen injured his knee on the second day of training camp and his return -as well as his diagnosis- has been a mystery all year long. The Buccaneers remained optimistic that he’d be available come playoffs and sure enough, that’s where we are at.
How effective Jensen actually is remains to be seen, however. He hasn’t played one snap of regular season football. He hasn’t even played preseason football, at the end of the day.
The good news is Jensen has 33 previous games of experience (excluding playoffs) snapping the ball to Tom Brady, so it’s not like they’re starting from scratch when it comes to building chemistry and cohesiveness.
Where Jensen has to build that chemistry, however, is along the interior offensive line. He’s yet to play with whomever starts at left guard and starting right guard Shaq Mason. It’ll be interesting to see if there are any growing pains that impact the iOL and if so, how said growing pains affect the game.
Either way, it’s impossible to discount the importance of Jensen’s return. He’s one of the NFL’s best centers and he’s a tone-setter along both the offensive line and the Buccaneers offense, in general.
And he should help provide the exact spark the Buccaneers need to get to the next round of the playoffs.
Featured image via Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports