Tampa Bay is the next team up for me to touch on, continuing our 32 NFL Team Preview. Tampa hasn’t won a Playoff game since their Super Bowl run in 2002. They hired Greg Schiano in 2012 for his first NFL Head Coaching gig, and he brought a tough mental attitude with him. Schiano improved the team’s play greatly in some aspects, such as Defense against the Rush, and led the team to a franchise record in Offensive Yards (5,820) and Offensive Points Scored (389). He has his team primed for a big 2013 season, where I believe they’ll improve upon the 7-9 record.
Offense: Tampa had one of their best seasons of Offense in franchise history last season. They’re led by Josh Freeman, who became the franchise leader in touchdown passes (78) during 2o12. Impressively, it only took him 4 seasons to accomplish that feat. Freeman also set the franchise record for touchdown passes in a season with 27, and finished the year with a career high 4,065 yards passing. Some have concerns about Freeman’s stay in Tampa long term, as they drafted Mike Glennon 73rd overall in the 2013 Draft. I believe that Tampa made that pick due to his value on the board as many had Glennon pegged a First Round pick. If I have to compare Glennon’s arm attributes to anyone, it might be Joe Flacco, but that’s about as far as the comparison goes. You can never have too many Quarterbacks on the roster, as your franchise guy can go down on any snap. Another bright spot for Tampa last season was Running Back Doug Martin. Martin rushed for a rookie record 1,454 yards and only fumbled the football 1 time in 319 carries. He also caught 49 passes out of the backfield for 472 yards. Martin is like the second coming of Warrick Dunn for the Buccaneers; his versatility is something teams are going to have to account for in 2013. Tampa snagged Brian Leonard during Free Agency to back up Martin in the upcoming season, but I think a sleeper pick from the Draft will overtake Leonard on the depth chart. Rookie Mike James was selected in the 6th Round and was big contributor for the Miami Hurricanes during his college career. James takes pride in being prepared and working hard, whether it is in the weight room, practice field, or in a game. Miami won every game he ever scored a touchdown in and I believe his presence alone in the locker room will have an effect. The Bucs have one of the better Offensive Lines in the league. Donald Penn is the most recognizable name on the front 5. He only allowed 5.5 sacks in 2012 and the team will be looking for the same type of solidity from him this upcoming year. Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph are one heck of a tandem at the Guard position. Both are coming off season-ending injuries in 2012. Nicks tried to play through a toe injury, but it became too unbearable for him, and was shut down for the season after 7 games. Davin Joseph tore his right patellar tendon in preseason and the 2-time Pro Bowler never got a chance to take the field. Jeremy Zutta occupies Center. The Right Tackle position is going to be a competition between Demar Dotson and Gabe Carimi. Dotson saw the most action of his career in 2012, starting 13 games. Carimi was traded for in June from Chicago. He hasn’t lived up to the expectations that come along with being a 1st round pick since being chosen in 2011. Starting Tight End is going to be a 3-way competition between Luke Stocker, Zach Miller, and Tom Crabtree. Miller at one point was on his way to being one of the best Tight Ends in the NFL, but after signing with Seattle in 2011, has taken a step backwards. Crabtree was brought over from Green Bay during Free Agency and was more known for blocking than receiving. Stocker is the favorite to win the job and started 11 games in 2012. Vincent Jackson leads Tampa’s Wide Receivers. In his first season with the team, Jackson had careers highs in receptions (72) and yards (1,384), while also scoring 8 touchdowns. He is complimented by Mike Williams, who is going into his 4th NFL season and has 23 career touchdowns. Tiquan Underwood and Kevin Ogletree are other notable players who will see time at the position in 2013. Tampa has all the key pieces they need to be a success this season and might be one of the top ranking Offenses in the league after ranking 9th in 2012.
Defense: Schiano turned the worst ranked Rush Defense in 2011 around to number 1 in the game last year. Unfortunately, their Pass Defense ranked worst in the league for 2012. They did a lot to strengthen their Secondary in the Offseason to make sure that’s not going to repeat this upcoming year. Tampa traded for Darrelle Revis from the New York Jets, who many believe is the best Cornerback in the NFL. Revis is coming off an ACL tear that forced him to miss the majority of last year, but he should be as good as ever for the Buccaneers. Eric Wright will start on the other side and should see a lot of passes in his direction, as Quarterbacks try to avoid throwing in Revis’s direction. Tampa bolstered the Secondary even more when they signed Free Safety Dashon Goldson via Free Agency. Goldson is a hard-hitter that has intercepted 9 passes over the past 2 seasons and some consider being a Top 3 player at his position. Mark Barron will start at Strong Safety along side Dashon. Barron was the Buccaneers 7th overall pick in 2012 and had a good rookie season combining for 88 tackles, an interception, and a forced fumble. In last year’s Draft, the Bucs selected their best Linebacker when taking taking Lavonte David in the 2nd round. David led the team with 139 total tackles (19 for loss), also having 2 sacks and an interception. Middle Linebacker Mason Foster had a pretty solid year for the team as well; registering 105 combined tackles (11 for loss) and had 2 sacks with an interception. Starting at other Outside Linebacker spot across from David is Adam Hayward. Hayward is the weakest link in this group, and could have his position taken if he doesn’t play well, by either Dekoda Watson or Jonathan Casillas. The Defensive Line for this organization is almost as good as the Secondary. Da’Quan Bowers and Adrian Clayborn will get the start at the Defensive End positions. Clayborn had a strong 2011 season with 7.5 sacks, and saw limited action last season with a torn ACL. Bowers tore his Achilles in May 2012 and was only available for the last 10 games. If both can keep healthy for the Bucs in the upcoming season, they’ll provide excellent pressure on the Quarterback. Defensive Tackle Gerald McCoy was productive in 2012 with 30 tackles and 5 sacks. The team will be expecting the same type of numbers, if not better, from him this year. Gary Gibson could get the start at the other Tackle spot beside McCoy. The Buccaneers drafted Akeem Spence in the 4th Round and he has a chance to win the position in Training Camp. The Defense is stacked with talent and anything less than a Top 10 ranking would be a disappointment for this team, if they all stay healthy.
End Result: I think that the Buccaneers will finish with a 9-7 record, but it’ll only be good enough to place 3rd in their division.