The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may be the most curious team in the NFL. Seemingly loaded with offensive talent, they finished last season 14th in points scored, fifth in total yards and first in passing yards, yet ended up 5–11 and last in the NFC South. Could it be the defense? Or the inaccuracies of quarterback Jameis Winston?
This year has to be different. The Bucs have not made the playoffs since 2007, and while a playoff berth is a lofty expectation for this season, better than five wins in a must.
The biggest acquisition was the hiring of head coach Bruce Arians. Arians added defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich into the fold. Bowles and Arians worked together in Arizona during the 2013–14 season. The Cardinals finished up 21–11 during that run. The Cardinals’ defense ranked seventh in points allowed in 2013 and improved to fifth in 2014. Last season the Bucs’ defense was 21st in points allowed.
The defense suffered some casualties during free agency, with the loss of Gerald McCoy to Carolina, Kwon Alexander to San Francisco and Vinny Curry to Philadelphia to name a few. The offense lost, too, with Adam Humphries to Tennessee, Jaquizz Rodgers to New Orleans, and Ryan Fitzpatrick to Miami.
To be fair McCoy’s stats dropped drastically from 2017 to 2018, where he went 61 total tackles in 2017 to 39 in 2018. Although his sack total remained steady at 6. Alexander also fell in production as his interceptions fell from three in 2017 to zero in 2018, while his total tackles dropped from 124 to 56.
Perhaps the Bucs will be able to make up the loss with the addition of free agent Ndamukong Suh. Suh recorded 4.5 sacks and 82 total tackles in 2018 with the Los Angeles Rams. And while those numbers are in increase from his tenure in Miami in 2017, it is still a far cry from the expectations of which he entered the NFL and his Pro Bowl years. The acquisitions of LB Shaq Barrett (Broncos) should help with the pass rush.
What might be a bigger gain/loss is the back-up quarterback position. Losing Fitzpatrick who was a healthy part of the number one ranked passing team is kinda big deal. Gaining Blaine Gabbert as the backup is less of a big deal. His accuracy is not any better than Winston, having not tossed more touchdowns than interceptions since 2015, where he had 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Since then Gabbert has tossed equal number of touchdowns as interceptions while languishing with a middling 70s passer rating.
The loss of Humphries and his 105 targets with 76 receptions might be hard to replicate. Journeyman Breshad Perriman, who will make the Bucs his fourth team in five NFL season, was the recipient of 25 targets last season in Cleveland. His most productive season was the 2016 season in Baltimore where he saw 66 targets for 33 receptions and 499 yards. Still with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, OJ Howard, and Cameron Brate, the receiving crew isn’t suffering.
The additions the Bucs made during the 2019 NFL draft are meant to solidify the defense. LSU linebacker standout Devin White their first round selection, is a converted running back whose transformation into linebacker is impressive. Impressive enough that gives him the skills to be a starter on day one. The rest of their early round picks were questionable, Sean Bunting was picked in the second round passing over better graded cornerbacks, specifically Greedy Williams. And Jamel Dean is a Bowles type of build and speed, but his tape was poor.
Wide receiver Evans is always going to be on your fantasy radar. He is currently going in the second round as WR8 in both PPR and Standard. The real upside is Godwin, who caught 59 for 842 yards and seven TDs in 2018. But with Jackson and Humphries gone, he’s the clear No. 2 receiver. But you’ll have to pay up to get him, as the Godwin hype is real. He’s currently going as WR19 in Standard and PPR.
In a shallow tight end pool, Howard is a solid tier two tight end selection. Last season he was targeted 48 times for 34 yards and five TDs. Look to draft him in 4–5. Howard did his damage in only 10 games, eight starts, and is clearly the more talented option. But if you want him, like Godwin, you’ll have to pay up. He’s currently going as TE4, No. 57 Overall.
Winston is the ultimate wild card. Personally, I am betting on Arians. If he can drop the number of interceptions, and with his aggressive play calling, Winston’s 19 touchdowns of last season should go up while his 14 interceptions should dramatically decrease. For more on Winston’s potential, check out our player profile.
The ultimate sleeper will be running back Ronald Jones. With the exception of Peyton Barber there is no one else to run the ball. Still, even with Arians the expectation is for the passing game not the run game. If you can get Jones in the late rounds, do it. He catches passes out of the backfield, kind of forcing Arians to notice him. For more on the possibility this is Jones’ year, check out this player profile.
The Bucs have a brutal schedule. They do not have a home game in Tampa from September 29 thru November 3. They start with the Carolina Panthers and then meet the Giants at home. After that it is the Los Angeles Rams, in LA and the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans. Not to mention a trip to London i week six. It is hard to envision a winning season but .500 would look pretty good.
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