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NFL Team Previews: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs are not expected to make a huge jump this year in wins total, and this really seems like a feel out year for Arians.

2018 Season Review: 5-11 (4th in NFC South)

The Buccaneers have been a team many people are waiting to explode onto the scene for the past few years. They’ve had the offensive weapons, a good young QB, and seemingly good players on defense. However, injuries, immaturity, and bad coaching have led this team to finish last in the NFC west year after year and 2018 was no different.

The Bucs started off the season hot in a serious way, and a sarcastic way. For one, Jameis Winston was suspended for the first three games of the year and Ryan Fitzpatrick started those games and went 2-1 for the Buccaneers, beating the Saints 48-40 in New Orleans, beating the defending Super Bowl champs Philadelphia Eagles at home 27-21, and narrowly losing to the Steelers at home 30-27. It looked like the offense was on track and if the Winston could just keep things going, maybe this team could win some games.

However, Winston and Fitzpatrick were both in and out of the starting lineup and the Bucs only managed to win three more games the rest of year, beating the Browns, 49ers, and Panthers. Winston started 9 games for the Bucs while Fitzpatrick started the other 7. They combined for 36 touchdowns and 26 interceptions.

Offensively the Bucs finished 3rd in the league in total yards per game at 415.5, only the Rams and Chiefs had more. The put up 320.3 yards passing per game and only 95.2 yards rushing per game. In the top 10 of yards per game, only the Bucs, Steelers, and Falcons put up less than 100 yards rushing per game. Obviously those three teams will want to improve on those numbers in 2019. However, even with those 415.5 yards per game the Bucs only managed to put up 24.8 points per game which was good for 12th in the league. The two teams above them put up 32.9 (Rams) and 35.3 (Chiefs). Even the team right behind them in yards per game, the Steeelers, scored 26.8 PPG.

What held Tampa Bay back was their -18 turnover ratio. They threw 26 INTs as I mentioned before adn lost 9 fumbles for a total of 35 turnovers on offense. Their defense on the other hand, only forced 17 turnovers. The only team to have a worse turnover ratio was the San Francisco 49ers. You can’t win games like that, it doesn’t matter how many yards you have if you constantly turn the ball over. What makes thing worse for the Bucs, Fitzpatrick and Winston both threw two red zone INTs which is just un-acceptable.

On defense the Bucs were horrid, they had the second worst scoring defense in the NFL giving up 29.0 PPG. They also gave up 383.4 yards per game, 259.4 of those yards through the air, and you can guess that both those stats were towards the bottom of the league. Tampa also failed to get pressure on the QB, they only produced 38 sacks which was tied for 19th in the league. The Bucs spent some money on their DL last year but that failed to generate any pressure for them. They signed Vinny Curry and Beau Allen from the Eagles in free agency and also traded for Jason Pierre-Paul. It doesn’t help when Curry and Allen can’t stay healthy but Pierre-Paul did hold his weight by racking up 12.5 of those 38 sacks.

Key Off Season Acquisitions

Head Coach: Bruce Arians

Bruce Arians introduced as the Bucs

This hire was regarded as one of the best of the off-season, Arians is a great coach that has had success as the interim HC in Indianapolis, and his years in Arizona. Arians was brought in to save, if possible, Jameis Winston. Arians will have one year to see what he can do with Winston, and if Winston shows no improvements then expect him to be out in Tampa next year and backing up somewhere in 2020.

Arians will bring a very fiery, and intense mindset to the the Bucs, something it looked like they have lacked in previous years under Lovie Smith and Dirk Koetter. I was hoping we’d actually see Tampa on Hard Knocks because Bruce Arians is fucking gold and seeing him bitch and cuss out Jameis every Sunday would be lovely television.

Offensively things are going to change for Arians here in Tampa, then how he ran the offense in Arizona. In Arizona, Arians was calling plays and the core part of the offensive game plan week in and week out. In Tampa he’s hired Byron Leftwich, who called plays for part of the season in Arizona last year, to call plays. The offensive game plan will be up to Leftwich, QB coach Clyde Christensen, and Assistant HC Harold Goodwin. Obviously Arians will have some input but he’s look to improve on areas of coaching he feels he failed at in Arizona. He’s looking to improve with game management, and being more involved with the whole team during the week rather than focusing most on the offense.

On defense Arians brought in former DC under him and former New York Jets HC Todd Bowles. Bowles was with Arians in Arizona for some of Arizona’s best years. Bowles is a very good DC and I don’t feel like the Jets ever game him the pieces to be successful as a HC. Bowles presence alone with vastly improve this defense that needs ALOT of help.

DT Ndamukong Suh (1 year, $9.25 Million)

We’ll talk about Gerald McCoy soon but Suh was a big free agent that stay unsigned for a long time. The Bucs decided to move on from McCoy and give that money to Suh on a year deal, and also his old number of 93. Suh is still a huge force in the league and proved that by helping lead the Rams to a Super Bowl appearance. The difference in Tampa, Suh won’t have the best player in the NFL (Aaron Donald) to play off of. Suh will be looked to set the tone for this team on defense by Todd Bowles and Bruce Arians. I don’t expect much of a drop off if any, between Suh and McCoy but it seemed like the Bucs brass saw enough of McCoy to move on from him.

2019 NFL Draft

Round 1 Pick #5: LB Devin White

The Bucs lost their old ILB Kwon Alexander to the San Francisco 49ers in free agency so one area of need was that position and they decided to take LSU ILB Devin White with their fifth overall pick. Devin White was an absolute fucking stud for the Tigers winning the Dick Butkus Award for the best linebacker in college football this past year. In 2018 White finished with 123 total tackles, 12 TFL, 3 sacks, 6 pass deflections, and 3 forced fumbles. At 6’0″ 237 LBS he’s got decent size for an ILB but more importantly he his fast. At the combine he ran a 4.42 40 yard dash. White will be one the field at all times for the Bucs and with Suh should immediately become a defense leader in his rookie year.

Key Off Season Departures

DT Gerald McCoy (left via free agency to the Carolina Panthers)

The Bucs and McCoy couldn’t agree on a new deal so McCoy decided to walk and take a one year deal with Carolina. It’s unclear why this happened but McCoy isn’t a fan of what happened between the two sides, and he’s especially not happy they let Suh take his #93 jersey. McCoy was third on the team in sacks with 6.0, and led the team in QB hits with 21 in only 14 games. The Bucs will look to Suh and first round pick last year, Vita Vea from Washington to fill McCoy’s production.

WR Adam Humphries (left via free agency to the Tennessee Titans)

Humphries is a pretty big loss for this team who was second in targets (105) and receptions (76) behind Mike Evans. Humphries was a very good slot receiver and many teams were interested in him but he chose the Titans over others such as the New England Patriots. The Bucs only drafted one WR so we’ll see how they replace Humphries 76 catches, 816 yards, and 5 TDs.

WR DeSean Jackson (left via free agency to the Philadelphia Eagles)

Jackson was the deep threat for Tampa that never reached his potential, or at least the expectations he and fans had for him. He was fourth in the team in targets (74) and receptions (41), and was fourth in yards with 774. Jackson went back home to Philly where I’m sure Carson Wentz is going to love him.

ILB Kwon Alexander (lost via free agency to the San Francisco 49ers)

I’m sure the Bucs would have loved to keep Alexander, even coming off an ACL injury but the money the 49ers gave him was just too much and I can’t blame the Bucs for trying to match. He’ll be replaced by Devin White who will probably prove to be an upgrade over Alexander.

QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (lost via free agency to the Miami Dolphins)

Not a huge loss here but the Bucs no longer have a quality backup behind Winston. Fitzpatrick started 7 games for the Bucs and he’s on his way to Miami to start for the Dolphins until they lose too many games and the fans clamor for Josh Rosen to start. The backup job now goes to Blaine Gabbert.

2019 Preview

The Bucs are not expected to make a huge jump this year in wins total, and this really seems like a feel out year for Arians. That doesn’t mean this team won’t be competitive or not have a chance to make the playoffs, but it seems like if this team were to go out and win only 3 games that just means Winston isn’t the guy for the Bucs and Arians job status won’t be effected at all.

On offense, the Bucs need to replace 179 targets, 117 receptions, 1,590 yards, and 9 TDS between Humphries and Jackson. In the draft, they took WR Scott Miller from Bowling Green in Round 6 but he’s not going to make a huge impact. The Bucs will turn to Chris Goodwin was third in the team in targets, recpetions, and second in yards last year. Godwin will be the surefire #2 WR behind and Evans really there is no reason why he can’t have 70+ catches and 1,000 + yards receiving this year. That still won’t make up for the last production of two WRs so I would expect the Bucs to utilize their two TE’s, which might be the best 1-2 TE combo in the league with Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard. Arians and Leftwich could almost utilize Howard as an over sized WR on the outside and move Godwin into the slot in certain packages. The Bucs also brought in Breshad Perriman to be a deep threat and replace Jacksons speed.

The Bucs need to even out their offensive production though, if they have another season where almost 85% of their offense is through the air then they’re gonna just stay stagnant. The problem is, they didn’t address this position in the off season so Arians must like what he has to a certain extent. Bucs and fantasy football fans were waiting for Ronald Jones to break out last year but he never did. Arians loved to use David Johnson in a multitude of ways in Arizona but I’m not sure Jones can catch the ball half as well as Johnson. Maybe Jones really worked on that this off season? For now, expect Peyton Barber to lead the backfield, he did have 874 yards rushing last year so its feasible he could have 1,000 yards if he’s clearly above Jones on the depth chart.

Defensively the Bucs need their D-Line to dominate because that is clearly the group that has the most talent. If the DL can dominate then that will make things easier on the back end. The Bucs if healthy with be able to throw out Ndamukong Suh, Beau Allen, Vita Vea, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Carl Nassib. If those guys dominate, the Bucs have a solid LB corps too with Devin White, Lavonte David, and FA pickup Shawuil Barrett.

The Secondary is where the Bucs have a lot of questions. They spent a second and third round pick on CBs Sean Bunting and Jamel Dean respectively. They also have two other second round picks from last year, a first round pick in Vernon Hargreaves, and another second round pick in Justin Evans at SS. Todd Bowles has a lot of young, unproven talent to work with on the back-end. If there is one group that is going to keep this team down, it seems like it will be this group in 2019.

Schedule

The NFC South gets to take on the AFC South and NFC West this year. Because the Buccaneers also got last in their division, they also draw the Detroit Lions and New York Giants.

The Buccaneers received one prime-time game this year, Week 2 at the Carolina Panthers on Thursday Night. They also get to play Carolina in London in Week 6, which counts as one of their home games. Because they play in London, they also have a shitty quirk in their schedule like the Raiders where they play Tampa on September 22nd, but then they play two away games, in London, bye week, and two more away games before finally playing back in Tampa again on November 10th. The NFL is doing them no favors with that. They do however, get three of their last four at home and won’t play in any cold weather games this year. The coldest they’ll see is in back to back weeks in late October at Tennessee, and the first weekend in November at Seattle. As far as divisional games go, they are pretty spread out. They are done with Carolina by Week 6, and play their first game against the Falcons in Week 12 and end their season with the Falcons.

It’ll be tough for the Bucs to get off to a fast start, although the do get the Niners and Giants in Weeks 1 and 3, they have to play Carolina twice, the Rams, Saints, Titans, and Seahawks in their first 8 games. Would it really be that surprising to see this team as 2-6 or even 1-7 after their first eight? Not really. It’ll be a tough uphill climb for this team to make the playoffs.

Fantasy Player You Want

Give me Chris Godwin all day. He’ll get drafted high but he has everything you want in a guy that’s ready for a breakout. As I mentioned before Godwin should turn into the #2 target in this Bucs offense and get over 1,000 yards. You should be able to get Godwin in the 3rd/4th round and he’d be a very good WR2 in fantasy football.

Fantasy Player to Avoid

I’m going to avoid any Running Back (Peyton Barber, Ronald Jones) in the early rounds. We have no idea if any of these guys can carry the load, we have no idea how they’ll look in this new offense, and besides Barber nobody in this RB group has shown any signs of being a good fantasy RB. Now just like everything else, if Barber is available late I would pick him for depth/FLEX plays. But in no way do I want one of these guys as my RB1 or RB2.

Ceiling

The Bucs have a lot of talent and will be very good offensively. I want to like this team but I really don’t like how their schedule starts, and Winston is still shaky at best at QB. I can’t see this team winning any more than 7 games this year. I think they are another year away before competing for a playoff spot.

Floor

I’m going to go with 3 games here. I can really see this team having only one win after 8 weeks and how would that effect the team morale. They do get the Cardinals, Texans, and two division games at home in the second half of the season that could boost their win total.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians, quarterback Jameis Winston (3) and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich talk during training camp at the AdventHealth Training Center on July 28, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. MONICA HERNDON | Times
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