After a disappointing 3-13 season that saw three different starting QBs, both coordinators fired, and a once proud defense be consistently dismantled, the Buccaneers will look to make a step in the positive direction for the 2010 season.
The Bucs seem to have taken a huge step in that direction with just their draft alone. Tampa Bay had perhaps the worst defensive line in football last season and it showed as they allowed 158.2 rushing yards per game, which was dead last in the NFL. The Bucs’ first two draft selections should help shore up the defensive front immediately. With the number 3 pick overall, Tampa Bay selected Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy, and with the 35th overall pick the Bucs selected UCLA DT Brian Price. McCoy has already brought about a lot of buzz in Tampa and looks to fill the big hole that Warren Sapp left vacant a number of years ago that has yet to be replaced. McCoy, along with Price and 2nd year player, Roy Miller, should form a nice, young trio of DTs to help improve Tampa’s run defense.
Perhaps the Bucs’ second biggest need behind defensive line was at the wide receiver position. Tampa Bay chose not to re-sign Antonio Bryant (who went to Cincinnati), so the already weak unit became a huge weakness. The Bucs used their second 2nd round pick on Illinois WR Arrelious Benn and selected Syracuse WR Mike Williams with their 4th round pick. Both players are expected to contribute, and possibly start, immediately. Along with 2nd year slot WR Sammie Stroughter, the Bucs should be set at WR for the next few years, assuming Benn and Williams pan out. The Bucs also traded a late round draft pick to Philadelphia for WR Reggie Brown. Returning are Michael Clayton and Maurice Stovall, both of whom have been disappointments, especially Clayton. However, Stovall seemed to develop some chemistry with Freeman late in the season. GM Mark Dominik has given franchise QB Josh Freeman a couple of new toys to play with who, alongside TE Kellen Winslow Jr, should help improve the offense.
In the 3rd round, Tampa drafted Vanderbilt CB Myron Lewis, who is a big, physical defender and has drawn comparisions to the Bucs’ Aqib Talib. Lewis has the ability to start right away, which would move Ronde Barber into the Nickelback position, but it may take a few weeks for Lewis to take that starting spot away from the team’s leader in Barber.
In the 6th round, Tampa filled another position of need at punter, when they selected VT Punter Brent Bowden, who has a cannon for a leg and was considered by many scouts as the top punter available in the draft. The Bucs added FSU LB Dekoda Watson and VT Safety Cody Grimm in the 7th round. Both players will contribute heavily on special teams, and Watson will most likely see some playing time on defense as a backup to Geno Hayes and Quincy Black.
As for what the Bucs already have in place, Bucs fans should be excited to have a young QB at the helm instead of a veteran journeyman fill-in that Tampa has used the last few seasons with Jeff Garcia and Brian Griese. Freeman showed flashes of brilliancy last year, but also showed a number of times that he was a rookie that still had a lot of learning to do. Freeman threw 18 ints in 10 games played. But he also showed great pocket presence for a rookie and has tremendous escape and scramble ability. With all the work Freeman has reportedly put in this offseason with Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson and QBs Coach Alex Van Pelt, look for Freeman to have a solid season. His numbers last year were extremely similar to his fellow 1st round drafted QBs, Matt Stafford and Mark Sanchez.
Aside from the draft, perhaps the biggest reason Tampa may take a positive step this year will be thanks to some consistency in the offseason. Last year in the offseason it was a crazy few months at One Buc Place. From the firing of Head Coach Jon Gruden, to the promotion of defensive backs coach Raheem Morris to defensive coordinator then immediately to head coach, to the releases of several key veteran players (including LB Derrick Brooks and RB Warrick Dunn), to the uncertainty at the QB position, to the firing of OC Jeff Jagodzinski only 10 days prior to kickoff, the Bucs went through a lot before last season even began. Tampa also fired their defensive coordinator, Jim Bates, through 10 games of the season. Morris took over the defensive playcalling duties and re-installed the Tampa 2, and the defense improved drastically over the last quarter of the season.
This time around, there has been nothing but consistency this offseason. Josh Freeman started nine games last season (going 3-6) and is the undisputed starter. Reports are that Freeman has spent a good portion of his offseason at Bucs’ facilities studying film and working on his technique. Olson has had an entire offseason to install his offense instead of running a variety of Jagodzinksi’s offense last season. Morris is entering his second year as head coach and he surely has learned from his numerous mistakes he made last season.
So with some stability and consistency this offseason things should look better for Tampa. With the certainty of Freeman being the QB, Olson being the OC and Morris calling the shots defensively, along with the impressive draft class, Bucs fans can expect there to be no repeat of a 3-13 season. The Buccaneers most likely won’t make a playoff run, but I can honestly see the Bucs flirting with a 6- or 7-win season this year, especially with a schedule that includes home games vs St. Louis, Detroit, Seattle and Cleveland.
About the Author
Written by A. J.
I've lived in Texas most of my life. I graduated from the University of North Texas with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. I currently am the sports editor for a local paper near Tyler, TX. I worked in the sports department for the Longview News-Journal for four years throughout high school and some college. My favorite teams are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tampa Bay Rays.