Know Your Enemy moves to the hated NFC South. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the first team under the microscope.
Tampa Bay finished 9-7 in the first season under Dirk Koetter and just missed the playoffs. Tampa Bay was 18th on offense scoring 22.1 PPG with second year QB Jameis Winston at the helm with Koetter calling the plays. The Buccaneers gave away 27 turnovers on the season with 18 interceptions and 9 fumbles lost. The Buccaneers struggled to run the ball with 1,616 yards (24th) at only 3.6 YPC.
Tampa’s defense allowed 23.1 PPG on the year, which was good for 15th in the league. Tampa Bay had some run defense issues giving up 1,875 yards (22nd) at 4.4 YPC. Tampa Bay was 18th in the league allowing an 88.8 QB rating with 24 TDs and 17 interceptions at 7.7 YPA. Tampa Bay’s defensive stats don’t create confidence but the defense forced an impressive 29 turnovers on the season (17 ints and 12 fumbles). Mike Smith is the DC for Tampa Bay and has some talent at his disposal.
The Buccaneers made a huge push in 2016 to add weapons. Mike Evans is already a beast with 1,321 yards and 12 TDs from 2016. Cameron Brate was a good tight end with 660 yards and 8 TDS in 2016 on 81 targets. Tampa needed a better deep WR and they got a good one by adding Desean Jackson. Jackson had 1,005 yards, 4 TDs and 19 catches over 20 yards in 2016 for the Redskins. Tampa Bay also added a good tight end in OJ Howard in Round 1 of the 2017 draft. Tampa Bay has some serious weaponry. Adam Humphries will be the third or fourth WR now after nabbing 622 yards and 2 TDS on 82 targets in 2016. The Buccaneers weren’t done and added WR Chris Godwin in Round 3 out of Penn State. Godwin had a great career for Penn State and can make big plays. The Buccaneers are loaded with weapons for Winston.
Jameis Winston can move the ball and score points. However, he must avoid interceptions after an 18 interception season in 2016. Winston tossed 28 TDS and 4.090 yards with 7.2 YPA. He earned a 60.8 completion percentage and 86.1 QB rating despite protection, run game and weapon issues. Winston has the talent and gained valuable experience the last two seasons. He has no excuse to take that next step forward in 2017 and show why Tampa Bay took him with the first overall pick in 2015.
The Buccaneers have some good pieces along their defensive line. Gerald McCoy is a beast 3 technique pass rushing DT. McCoy had 7 sacks in 2016 and is consistently a top 5 DT in the league. Robert Ayers has revived his career in Tampa Bay and added 6.5 sacks in 2016 with a consistent pass rush. Noah Spence notched 5.5 sacks as a rookie second round pick from 2016. Spence should grow in year 2 and bring a formidable and consistent rush with Ayers and McCoy. William Gholston has some potential at defensive end and Chris Baker was added in free agency to be the new nose tackle. Baker had a nice season with the Redskins in 2016. Clinton McDonald is a veteran backup DT and rookie Stevie Tu’ikolovatu is a big man drafted in Round 7 of the draft.
The Buccaneers also have potential in their secondary. They added JJ Wilcox at strong safety from Dallas and drafted Josh Evans in Round 2 of the draft to play free safety. Vernon Hargreaves struggled but is a first round pick that can grow and get better at the Buccaneers second corner. Finally, Brent Grimes had an elite grade and is still a very good corner despite his size. Keith Tandy added 4 picks at safety and Chris Conte is now the backup safety with experience. Josh Robinson and Javien Elliot don’t instill much confidence at the nickel and 4th cornerback spots however. Tampa is thin at corner but should have depth at safety.
Lavonte David has had two down years but can be a beast Will LB. Kwon Alexander is an average ILB but is young with potential. Cameron Lynch and Jacquies Smith will battle for the SAM job. Rookie 3rd round pick Kendell Beckwith could also win the SAM job and infuse even more youth at LB for Tampa Bay. Jeff Knox and Adarius Glanton aren’t very good backups however. Tampa Bay and Mike Smith hope David and Alexander take a big step forward in 2017.
Donovan Smith struggled at left tackle again but has potential as a 2nd round pick from 2015. JR Sweezy was injured almost all of 2016 after a big free agent contract leaving Seattle. Tampa Bay hopes he stays healthy and upgrades right guard.
Ali Marpet was a good interior player who can play left guard or center. Kevin Pamphile will battle for LG time or Joe Hawley could be the center if Marpet is at guard. Demar Dotson is a good right tackle with an 80.6 grade. Dotson and Marpet are good and Sweezy and Smith have potential. Hawley and Pamphile may struggle again but Hawley just re-signed in March for two years in Tampa Bay. Hawley has some experience. Tampa Bay lacks tackle depth with Leonard Webster and rookie Cole Gardner.
The Buccaneers struggled in 2016 as Doug Martin struggled. Martin seems to have either good years or really bad years. Jeremy McNichols was drafted in Round 5 out of Boise State by GM Jason Licht and Jacquizz Rodgers had a nice2016 season with Tampa Bay (560 yards at 4.3 YPC and 2 TDs). Charles Sims had potential as 3rd round pick from 2014 but failed in 2016 on 59 carries. Tampa Bay needs Martin to get back to form and Rodgers to repeat a rare nice season for him.
Tampa Bay showed promised with a 9-7 season in 2016. They were 4-4 at home and 5-3 on the road so could be a tough game for any North team. Tampa Bay hosts Chicago in Week 2 and Detroit in Week 14. The Buccaneers travel to Minnesota in Week 3 and to Green Bay in Week 13. Watch out for Tampa as they could beat any North team if Winston, their new weapons and defense reach their high potential. Alright, got to go snowmobiling with the boys. *snowmobiles away.*