Football is in the air. I don’t necessarily envy the young men who are sweating it out chasing their dream of playing professional football, but you can almost feel the urgency and thrill in the air. The Buccaneers had an admirable season last year, the offense made strides and the defense showed signs when healthy. The same results this year would be disappointing to say the least. There are power rankings that can be found, placing the Buc’s in the top ten. If those expectations are met, they take a step, into the playoffs. It’s been ten years since the franchise made a postseason appearance, which just might be alright from the perspective of, they must be hungry.
It’s always a top down proposition. Ownership of the franchise has certainly taken steps since tasting champagne January 26, 2003 that were questionable. They seem to have found some manner of stability if not ability to place competent people in the position to do a decent job. General Manager Jason Licht has done a good a job as any in amassing on the field talent, and at least for now, the coaching carousel has stopped playing that infernal circus music. All the pieces appear to be in place, what happens now?
With a talent laden roster, coaching stability, competent management and ownership, there can only be one objective, playing for championships. While not necessarily the cornerstone, few franchises are afforded the opportunity to compete in the NFL without a “franchise” Quarterback. Jameis Winston appears to be the real deal. He’s been able to put the past where it belongs, in the past. He’ll need to improve, but even if he only averages what he has done the past two seasons, he will become the first QB in the history of the NFL to throw for four thousand yards in each of his first three seasons. Pretty cool, but pretty cool doesn’t feed the crew.
Tampa Bay will field arguably one of, if not the smoothest. receiving corps in all of football. They are big with WR Mike Evans 6’5″ and TE O.J. Howard 6’6″, they are speedy, the free agent addition of WR DeSean Jackson and they are deep. TE’s Cameron Brate and Luke Stocker, WR’s Adam Humphries and Freddie Martino look to get the rest of the available playing time.
The pass will setup the run for this offense. Although Head Coach Dirk Koetter isn’t carrying a full back, several of the tight ends can line up in the formation as such. The running game will need to earn respect, but to do that they need to be on the field. Running Back Doug Martin will remain unavailable until week four, serving a suspension for performance enhancing drug violation. That makes RB Jacquizz Rogers the most likely starter until Martin’s return.
If this squad is to make the next step, the defensive side of the ball will certainly need to be more consistently good. Injuries and inexperience affected the defensive line early last year. God willing, they will be healthy throughout the season, because now the younger backups have at least some game experience. Starting DE’s Robert Ayers and William Gholston will need to apply pressure on the oppositions QB and while they get a blow, Noah Spence and DaVonte Lambert’s young legs will help breakdown the protections.
The Linebacker position has been solid with LaVonte David and Kwon Alexander, mostly because they play bigger than their size. The draft added the biggest LB on the roster in Kendall Beckwith at 6’3″ 247, truly prototype size to come up in run support.
The defensive backfield has been the enigma as they look to improve their knowledge of the schemes employed by Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith. Last years free agency pick up of Cornerback Brent Grimes looks to have panned out. The Buccaneers have played musical chairs in the defensive backfield in recent years. Overall this is likely to be where the season is made or broken. The Buc’s defense has to get off of the field more consistently and to a large degree it will depend the overall play of the defensive backfield. The sky’s the limit with the talent level. If they start to believe it, then why not?