Mason Thompson Aug 4th, 2019
The Buccaneers 2018 season was a roller coaster, to say the least. Jameis Winston started the season suspended so Ryan Fitzpatrick opened the season as the starter. Then, “fitzmagic” happened. They opened the season 2-0 after wins against New Orleans and the then Super Bowl champion Eagles. Once Winston returned, he and Fitzpatrick each traded off the starting role multiple times. After the impressive start, the team stumbled its way to a 5-11 finish, missing the playoffs for the tenth straight year, resulting in the firing of coach Dirk Koetter. Koetter’s replacement is former Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, who has the difficult task of taking this team from the NFC cellar to super bowl contenders.
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The Bucs had a busy offseason. Arians made a surprise decision by hiring former NFL quarterback Byron Leftwich as the team’s offensive coordinator. Arians and Leftwich will be pivotal in the development of Winston. Former Jets coach Todd Bowles has the role of fixing the league’s 27th ranked defense as the defensive coordinator. The team lost two receivers with Adam Humphries heading to Tennessee and DeSean Jackson heading back to Philadelphia in a trade. The biggest loss could be linebacker Kwon Alexander who was signed by the 49ers in free agency.
With the fifth overall selection of Devin White, the hole of Alexander could already be filled. Even with M.J. Stewart and Carlton Davis entering their second years, the team spent three straight selections on the secondary with Sean Bunting, Jamel Dean, and Mike Edwards. The team only used one selection on the offensive side of the ball and it could be an impactful one. The sixth-round selection of Scott Miller from Bowling Green could give the team a replacement for Adam Humphries in the slot.
The Buccaneers have been an offensive powerhouse since Koetter and former offensive coordinator Todd Monken had been together, both are now gone and replaced by Arians who has been described as the “quarterback whisperer”. Winston will need to be more careful with the ball as he has the potential to be a star in this league. Winston is helped by weapons Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and O.J. Howard. The running back position still needs to be sorted out as the team ranked 29th in rushing yards a season ago.
Bowles takes over a young and exciting group of players on the defensive side of the ball. The defensive line and secondary have been completely renovated in recent years. Jason Pierre-Paul is expected to miss the first few months of the season after suffering a vertebrae injury from a car accident in May. Long-time leader of the defense Gerald McCoy was released and replaced promptly by Ndamukong Suh less than two days later. Youngsters Vita Vea and White will look to put a spark into a defense that has needed it since Jon Gruden left after the 2008 season. Suh and linebacker Lavonte David appear to be the leaders for the defense this year.
53 Man Roster Prediction
Winston is the starter, for now. Gabbert was with Arians during his time in Arizona and will battle with Griffin for the backup role. Griffin finally has the best opportunity to win the backup job in his career. Nick Fitzgerald and Vincent Testaverde will battle on the practice squad.
Barber and Jones will split time starting. Jones needs to step up from his rookie season and spent the offseason shedding weight. Anderson is a rookie from North Dakota State who will battle with Andre Ellington and Dare Ogunbowale for the final spot. One of Ellington and Ogunbowale will start the season on the roster with JPP on the PUP.
The top two are locks. Perriman was added during the offseason. Miller could have a role on special teams as a returner and will impress during the preseason. Wilson beats out rookies DaMarkus Lodge and Anthony Johnson for the final spot. Lodge and Johnson are similar prospects who will have time to groom on the practice squad.
Howard and Brate are one of the best tight end tandems in the league. Leggett is a good pass catcher who will play a role on special teams. Auclair is a fundamentally sound blocker who will make the roster on that alone.
This group will need to improve if this team wants to make the playoffs. The run game suffered because of the lack of talent at the running back position and on the offensive line. Cappa, Watford, and Benenoch will complete for the right guard spot. Dietrich-Smith hasn’t lived up to the potential but the team gave him a massive contract.
After an injury-riddled first few months, Vea showed some promise that made the team select him with their first-round selection a year ago. Allen and Gholston are depth while Beckner Jr. comes in as a rookie and has shown a lot of promise so far in camp.
David and White will form a great young linebacking core. Buchanon will be the team’s cover linebacker, a necessity in today’s game. Cichy has been generating a ton of buzz during camp and has outdone his sixth-round selection out of Wisconsin a year ago.
Pierre-Paul will open the season on the PUP or NFI list paving room for others like Nelson to get playing time. Nassib had a good season last year. Barrett was signed during the offseason and will get a chance to step into his own role, something he couldn’t do in Denver. Look for Kahzin Daniels to impress during the preseason.
Bowles will try to infuse some spark into this young group. The team has used four day-two selections on cornerbacks the last two years in Davis, Stewart, Dean, and Murphy-Bunting. Hargreaves III finally had a season that trended upward a year ago.
Evans and Whitehead should get the starting spots. Edwards was a solid selection in the third round out of Kentucky. Dixon is an undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin but is far more talented than Kentrell Brice and should make the roster. Lukas Denis will be a candidate to make the practice squad.
Gay is in a battle with Cairo Santos for the kicker job. The team used a pick on Gay so I project him to take the job. Pinion was signed to an extension in the offseason and Triner has no competition to be the long snapper.
Arians and Bowles have the ability and overall roster talent to turn this team fairly quickly. If Winston struggles again, he will be on his way out or the team will draft a quarterback to compete with him for the starting role next year. The Bucs want to fully rebuild the defense and now have five players who could have roles at the cornerback position. The only thing standing in the team’s way of having a solid season is the division they’re in where they’ll have to play the Saints, Falcons, and Panthers in six of the 16 games that they play.
Season Prediction: 6-10
The Buccaneers have to play six games in their own division as well as the NFC West and AFC South which have four playoff teams of their own as well. Arians will make the team fun to watch but with a grueling schedule, it will be hard for the team to push for a playoff birth.
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images