(Jeff Lange/Balise Journal)

When Brady’s protection is on the to-do list, you have to start by passing the protection. The old saw with Brady is that near-immediate inside pressure is his Achilles heel as a passer. Of course, almost any quarterback would struggle to press his face right after the snap, and Brady is no different.

Still, Brady is at his best when he can climb into the pocket and is comfortable getting up and away from edge pressure. To provide him with this kind of environment, you need a center that can handle his affairs indoors.

Although he was released by the Browns last offseason, Tretter was still a near-rock in protection a year ago. Pro Football Focus plotted it with one sack allowed and ten quarterbacks allowed under pressure. He also allowed just one quarterback hit and eight QB dispatches.

These are impressive numbers.

Even at this point in his career, Tretter combines impressive motor skills with the awareness and presence of a veteran. Throughout the 2021 campaign, you could see his ability to protect passes. On this Week 3 play, Baker Mayfield is able to step into the pocket and move the chains to third, and it starts with Tretter realizing against an inside stunt:

The center initially takes care of the nose tackle, turning it to the right side of the line. But in doing so, Tretter has his eyes on Khalil Mack, who starts the game in a two-point position on the right tackle. Mack loops behind the nose tackle, and Tretter notices. With his eyes on Mack, he slides left in anticipation, but that’s when he faces the other linebacker, who crosses the left A-Gap. Tretter holds on and is able to pass Mack to left guard. With this concert going perfectly, Mayfield has a clear path to climb and he hits Odell Beckham Jr. to move the chains.

On this touchdown from Mayfield to David Njoku from Week 9, watch how Tretter is able to match the nose tackle, moving well laterally to keep the pocket clean:

This play is a good example of how Tretter can still hold his own in one-on-one situations. While centers can rely on the help of guards in many pass protection systems, when isolated against a defender, Tretter can still hold his own and anchor himself against most defensemen in the league. On this Week 14 game, we get another look at Tretter in a one-on-one situation:

Here, Tretter is part of a three-way slide to the left, as Mayfield and the Browns face an overload look from this side of the Baltimore Ravens. That leaves Tretter isolated on the nose tackle, but again you see the center anchor against the bull rush and keep Mayfield clean.

Then there is his experience. At this point in his career, there isn’t a whirlwind plan or stunt he hasn’t seen. That experience will give Brady and the Buccaneers confidence that any passing concept can always succeed, no matter what the defense throws at them.

On this Week 12 play, the offensive line executes a full slide to the right against a rushing gaze from the Ravens. That leaves Tretter in a one-on-one situation against linebacker Patrick Queen, who is getting ahead of center.

Yet, Tretter anchors and holds firm:

Working from another clean pocket – thanks in part to Tretter – Mayfield is able to find Jarvis Landry to move the chains to third.

This piece from the season finale also stood out, mostly for Tretter’s technique and approach. The Bengals are showing pressure up front, assaulting the A-Gap with a pair of linebackers. They execute what appears to be a “Rain” blitz, where both defenders attack with the snap of their fingers, but they will read the cross. If the center opens up to you, you reduce the pass coverage. If the center opens away from you, you continue your blitz.

(For more on these blitz packages I would recommend this meaty piece by Oliver Connolly and his terrific website optional reading).

Here, the Bengals are doing just that. Tretter opens to his left and that linebacker drops. But pay attention to the technique he uses:

Tretter walks away from the snap, knowing full well what the Bengals are doing. This gives him a chance to help the good guard if the blitz linebacker tries to close that gap. In doing so, he looks for work on the left, acknowledging that the linebacker on that side falls into coverage.

It might not sound like much, but to this washed-out quarterback a few months older than Brady, it sounds like safety and security.