32 Teams in 32 Days: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After an up-and-down 2012 campaign, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will head into the sophomore year of the Greg Schiano era with high hopes. For the second consecutive offseason, new arrivals have made waves. The Bucs come in with one of the more interesting rosters in the league, having more star-power, but also more holes than most NFL teams. Let’s look at some of the reasons for confidence and concern regarding this year’s edition of the Bucs.
Five Reasons to be Confident
1. Revis Island Relocates to Tampa Bay
This of course assumes that Darrelle Revis regains his health and works his way back toward his previous level of play. Thus far, reports out of camp have been very encouraging, and the team has played it safe by holding Revis out of all preseason games to this point. There may well be some rust early on, but that shouldn’t be a huge issue as long as no setbacks occur. How good is Revis when healthy? Check out our Top 10 Cornerbacks of the last five years to see how far above every other corner in the league he’s been. In 2011, his last full season of action, Revis allowed a Catch Rate of just 41.2% into his coverage, surrendered just one touchdown, and intercepted four passes. Quarterbacks could muster only a 45.6 passer rating when throwing at Revis.
One of the huge advantages that Revis brings is scheme versatility. The ability to leave one cornerback man-to-man with no help over the top frees up all sorts of creative blitz and coverage possibilities. Tampa Bay would love to play a lot of Cover 1 in order to bring pressure from all different angles. If Revis can lock down receivers the way he has in the past, not only will it effectively take away an opponent’s top threat, it will also aid the team’s ability to harass opposing quarterbacks.
2. Doug Martin
For his sake, we’ll avoid using his ridiculous nickname. As a rookie, Doug Martin was thrown right into the lead running back role and given a hefty workload. He may have started slowly, but rather than hitting the rookie wall, he ran wild from Week 8 until the end of the season. In that ten game span, Martin compiled 1,046 rushing yards and 10 total touchdowns. Who could forget his epic game against the Raiders in which he forced 14 missed tackles and racked up 205 yards after contact? Martin proved to be slippery and explosive, ranking third among qualifiers in our Elusive Rating at 58.2, trailing only C.J. Spiller and Adrian Peterson. Although he dropped seven balls, Martin also presented a major threat to defenses in the passing game. Coming in to 2013, the second-year running back will continue to see a large volume of work, and that spells trouble for opponents.
3. A Pair of Deep Threats
The Bucs have two difference makers at the wide receiver position, both of which can take the top off of a defense. In his first season with Tampa Bay, Vincent Jackson hauled in 17 Deep Passes (passes traveling over 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage) for 633 yards. Both of those numbers are good for second only to Calvin Johnson. On the other side, Mike Williams had a bounce-back season, ranking sixth in the league in yards on Deep Passes with 450. Both receivers can break off big chunks of yardage with the best of them, but this year Tampa Bay will need to improve their efficiency as well. The completion rate when targeting each of these receivers was under 53%. If they can maintain the deep numbers while improving their intermediate effectiveness, the sky is the limit for this imposing duo.
4. Stars at Every Level of the Defense
Last season, DT Gerald McCoy proved that he could be one of the most dominant interior linemen in the league when healthy. Playing the three technique position that Warren Sapp thrived in for so long, McCoy turned in a season not unlike Sapp in his prime. McCoy manhandled opposing guards in both the running game and passing game, grading out at +31.7 overall, second only to Geno Atkins among defensive tackles. Not giving the offense any breaks, McCoy stayed on the field for more snaps than any defensive tackle in the league during the regular season.
Weakside linebacker Lavonte David jumped right into the old Derrick Brooks role as a rookie and made a big impact. David made 20 tackles for loss, had 70 stops, and graded +10.2 overall on the year. Calling the plays and remaining on the field for all but 19 of the team’s defensive snaps, David quickly asserted himself as a leader on the Bucs’ talented young defense. This season we should see him get even better, potentially one of the top 3 outside linebackers in a 4-3 defense.
Of course we’ve already covered the third star (Revis), but the secondary could have more than one. Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron are two highly talented safeties who could become superstars if they play to their potential. Tampa also has a couple of young cornerbacks who could blossom under the tutelage of Darrelle Revis in Leonard Johnson and rookie Johnthan Banks.
5. Left Side of the Offensive Line
In Carl Nicks and Donald Penn the Bucs have one of the more solid guard-tackle tandems in the league. In the three years prior to last season, Nicks finished fourth, first and second in our guard rankings. He can dominate in both run and pass blocking, and his return should open things up for Doug Martin even more on the left side. Donald Penn plays solid, but not spectacular in all facets. He’ll have to figure out how to deal with Carolina’s defensive ends better, but overall he’s pretty reliable.
Five Reasons to be Concerned
1. Depth at the Skill Positions
The Bucs rely a lot on Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson, and Mike Williams. In 2012, 65.0% of all plays (excluding sacks and penalties) involved one of those three options. What’s worse is that 74.0% of the total offensive yards were generated by the trio. When the ball was directed toward one of Martin, Jackson, or Williams the Bucs averaged 6.75 yards per play. On all plays where somebody else was the target or ball-carrier, they averaged just 4.40 yards per play. If any of these players were injured, a huge chunk of offense would be missing, with no clear replacement.
2. Underperforming Defenders
To quote A Bronx Tale, “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.” Tampa Bay has a roster absolutely loaded with potential. Injuries and flat out poor play have marred the early part of certain Bucs’ careers. Defensive Ends Da’Quan Bowers and Adrian Clayborn have experienced both. Each are now primed for significant roles with Michael Bennett gone, and the Bucs need to get the most out of them. Second-year safety Mark Barron struggled in coverage last year, giving up 9.4 yards per pass attempt when QBs threw his way. He remains an outstanding talent, and somebody that Tampa Bay will be counting on to take a big step forward this year. Newly acquired Dashon Goldson has still not played to the level that many think he has, ranking 20th last year and 63rd in 2011 in our safety rankings. Will this be the year he escalates to the top tier of safeties?
3. Is Freeman the Franchise?
In the offseason, Greg Schiano seemed pretty noncommittal about his starting quarterback, both with his comments, and by drafting Mike Glennon in the third round. Josh Freeman has a lot to prove in 2013, a contract year for him. Last season, Freeman ranked 26th out of 27 qualifying quarterbacks in Accuracy Percentage with 66.7. A year earlier, he was eighth in the league at 73.6%. An improvement in this area and better decision-making would go a long way in Freeman proving that he should remain the starter. To this point in the preseason, it hasn’t been looking so good.
4. Applying Pressure
Although Gerald McCoy did an excellent job of generating interior pressure, his teammates (outside of the departed Michael Bennett) did not. In limited duty, Da’Quan Bowers and Adrian Clayborn both graded in the red in pass rushing, at -3.9 and -4.4 respectively, rarely threatening opposing quarterbacks. The linebackers and defensive backs didn’t generate much pressure with the blitz either. However, now with Darrelle Revis in the fold, the effectiveness of the blitz should improve. Former Patriot DE Trevor Scott provided a spark in the third preseason game with three sacks and a forced fumble. Can he do it in the regular season? Tampa Bay will need to find out just who on their roster can consistently get pressure.
5. Safety Valves
One of the reasons that the Bucs have relied on their top three offensive weapons so much is their lack of checkdown options in the passing game. Doug Martin is an excellent one, but their top two receivers do more of their damage downfield, the tight ends have not shown much as receivers, and there aren’t any prototypical slot receivers on the team. Newcomer Kevin Ogletree showed some promise in his first game of 2012 with the Cowboys, but cooled off for most of the season. Tiquan Underwood played a lot in three receiver sets last year, but also did much of his damage downfield. Somebody other than Doug Martin needs to emerge as a reliable underneath playmaker in order to have more high-percentage passes and avoid stalling on offense.
What to Expect?
Tampa Bay would have to go through a very tough Atlanta team to win the division, but they do have a very realistic shot at a Wild Card spot in the playoffs. With the amount of talent on this team, they’ll be a tough out for everyone on their schedule. If the team plays to its potential, they could become quite a powerhouse for years to come. However, they still need quality quarterback play, and that is something that appears unlikely this season. Look for around nine wins and plenty of exciting games this year from the Bucs.
32 Teams in 32 Days, previous editions:
ARZ | ATL | BAL | BUF | CAR | CHI | CIN | CLE | DAL | DEN | DET | GB | HOU | IND | JAX | KC
MIA | MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | OAK | PHI | PIT | SD | SF | STL | SEA
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