One year removed from a 10-6 campaign that saw them barely miss out on the post-season, the Buccaneers had plenty of buzz surrounding them in 2011. Starting the year 4-2 made many take notice and the Bucs appeared to be a playoff contender.
However, when New Year's day came around, Tampa Bay was 4-12, ending the season on a 10-game losing streak. In their last two outings they were outscored 93-40 and had the look of a team that had given up on their coach.
Raheem Morris was prompty fired and the replaced with Greg Schiano, who will try to restore order and discipline in the Buccaneers' locker room.
Important Additions: WR Vincent Jackson, G Carl Nicks, CB Eric Wright, TE Dallas Clark, coach Greg Schiano.
Important Losses: TE Kellen Winslow, S Tanard Jackson, C Jeff Faine, CB Elbert Mack, S Sean Jones, LB Geno Hayes.
Reasons To Believe
1. Don't Stop Believing - With Schiano on the sidelines, the culture in Tampa Bay should improve. The former Rutgers coach has a no-nonsense attitude and it is exactly what the Buccaneers players need. With a young roster that achieved quick success in 2010, the feeling is that many players took their achievements for granted. Schiano may not have much experience on an NFL staff, but he will get his team playing hard and that's the first step.
|After throwing 25 touchdowns and just 6 interceptions in 2010, Josh Freeman tossed 22 picks with just 16 touchdowns last year. The Bucs need him to cut down on the costly throws to the other team.
2. Run and Run Some More - Schiano had a run-oriented system and it appears as though he will bring that with to the pro level. The team has relied on LeGarrette Blount the past few seasons, but he is a pedestrian talent. That led the team to take Doug Martin out Boise State in the first round. Martin has been compared to Ray Rice and will give the offence a new dynamic. Expect both players to split carries early in the season, but Martin is the more skilled of the two backs and will be more of a gamebreaker.
3. Showing Them The Money - All of the reasons to believe in Tampa revolve around the offence. On top of drafting Martin, the club spent big in free agency acquiring wide receiver Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks. Jackson will help draw coverage, putting Mike Williams into a more natural role as the team's second receiver. The Buccaneers also added the best available offensive lineman on the market Carl Nicks, giving them one of the most expensive group of blockers in the league.
Reasons To Doubt
1. Suspect Secondary - With a defence that ranked last in points allowed, it's not hard to point out where upgrades are needed. Ronde Barber is well past his expiration date as a cornerback, so the team is moving him to safety. Barber will play next to first round pick Mark Barron, who is a complete safety prospect. Aqib Talib and free agent Eric Wright will man the corner spots, as they try to play up to their potential despite past disappointments. Playing against Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton, the Buccaneers will need to improve fast.
2. Is He The Answer? - Josh Freeman led the Bucs to the 10-win season in 2010 and had all the makings of a franchise quarterback. Two years later, his status isn't as stable. Freeman crumbled under heavy expectations last year and now reports are coming out of Tampa that he may be struggling to pick up new offensive coordinator Mike Sherman's system. Freeman is certainly the worst quarterback in the NFC South, however that speaks more to his competition than to his own talents. With the pieces being rebuilt, the Buccaneers will need to decide if Freeman is the right quarterback to lead them into the future.
3. Rushing The Passer - Much like the secondary, there is hope that the defensive line can make strides in 2012, but it's a group that has yet to develop. Tampa Bay used their first two picks on Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers in 2011. Clayborn looked the part of a pass rusher, while Bowers missed most of the year with injury and will likely miss this season after an Achilles' tear. Gerald McCoy could have a breakout season at defensive tackle, but he has also dealt with injuries in his short career.
What To Expect
Another tough season may be ahead for the Buccaneers as they try to change directions under their new coaching staff. Any chance at the post-season may dry up as they close out the year in difficult fashion. From Week 12 on they will have to face the Falcons twice, the Eagles, and the Saints in a span of six weeks. If everything falls their way, they could finish third in the NFC South.