Last year marked a new era of Buccaneer football. Jameis Winston, the first pick of the 2015 draft, became the franchise quarterback and probably franchise player. There were some uneven results early in the year as the Bucs got off to a tough start. Despite the start, Tampa was in playoff contention at 6-6, but they finished the year with four straight losses to finish 6-10. The bad finish led to Lovie Smith’s firing. Now, Dirk Koetter has been elevated from offensive coordinator to head coach. With Winston and solid offensive weapons, Tampa Bay has a chance to be very interesting. Let’s look at the Buccaneers.
Strongest Position/Area: Skill Positions. For a quarterback to have Doug Martin, Mike Evans, and Vincent Jackson is a blessing. Martin had a 1,400 yard season last year rushing. Evans did not have a big year catching touchdowns, but still have 74 catches and over 1,200 yards. Jackson’s season was cut short due to injury, but he struggled before his season ended. The last time he did not play less than 15 games in 2010, he bounced back to have 60 catches the following year. Also, watch out for Charles Sims who had 529 yards rushing as well as 51 catches. Tampa Bay has a lot of weapons at Jameis Winston’s disposal.
Weakest Position/Area: Tight End. This is not a weak area because of a lack of talent, but because of lack of production. Austin Seferian-Jenkins has struggled to stay on the field and has had plenty of trouble off of it this summer. Coach Koetter even banished him from the locker room during OTA’s for a lack of preparation! This guy has the physical tools to be successful, but he keeps getting in his own way. It will be a battle for the second tight end spot as well between Luke Stocker and Cameron Brate. If Seferian-Jenkins is healthy and focused, he could easily catch 50+ passes.
Strongest Position/Area: Linebacker. This group was pretty solid last year led by Lavonte David, who is one of the most consistent linebackers in the NFL. In his first four years, David has registered at least 139 total tackles each season! Last year, he had three interceptions, three sacks, and 13 passes defended. This guy is really good. Kwon Alexander has an excellent rookie campaign with 94 tackles, three sacks, and two interceptions. David and Alexander are centerpieces for this defense along with tackle Gerald McCoy. Throw in the seemingly ageless Daryl Smith, who has had three straight 120+ tackle seasons, and the linebacker group in Tampa is very formidable.
Weakest Position/Area: Secondary. Stats-wise the pass defense was not terrible, but they did give up some big plays. It looks as if the starting cornerbacks could be different with Brent Grimes coming in as well as rookie Vernon Hargreaves. The safety position could use an upgrade from Bradley McDougald and Keith Tandy. What I would like to see from this group is more play-making. The secondary as a whole amassed only five interceptions last season. I think a change from the Cover 2 scheme of Lovie Smith to a more aggressive scheme with new defensive coordinator Mike Smith could help the secondary.
Draft Report: Vernon Hargreaves was a much needed addition to the secondary as he will immediately challenge for a starting spot. I like his competitiveness a bunch. Noah Spence has pass-rush ability with his speed from the outside, which is something Tampa Bay could definitely use. Trading to get kicker Roberto Aguayo in the second round was certainly questioned, but the kicking game struggled mightily last season. I still would not have traded up to get a kicker, no matter how good he may be.
Spotlight Player: Doug Martin. Martin finally was available for a full season, and he capitalized with a 1,400+ yard season. Only six touchdowns, so I think that needs to improve. Martin gives Tampa Bay balance. With new offensive coordinator Todd Monken, I do wonder if Martin’s role will be different? Can they afford to change Martin’s importance completely?
Up Next: Atlanta Falcons