Know Your Enemy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Updated: June 24, 2014
The NFL season is a long, arduous journey. Offseason discussions seem to be dominated by comparisons of teams and individual players within a division, yet divisional matches only represent six of a team’s 16 regular-season games. There are plenty of other enemies out there of whom fans need to be aware. With the kind help of our friends at ProFootballFocus (PFF), let’s dissect some of the non-divisional opponents our favorite NFC North teams will be facing in 2014. We started the discussion with the AFC East, now we turn to the NFC South and begin with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a dreadful 2013 under former head coach Greg Schiano. The Buccaneers started the season with a dreadful 0-8 record before a strong stretch winning 4 of 5 games. The Bucs couldn’t carry that momentum and lost their last 3 games and fired Schiano after two years in Tampa. The Bucs were 3-5 at home and 1-7 on the road in 2013. The lone road win came at Detroit forcing 5 Detroit turnovers and blocking a punt for a 3 point win.
The Bucs regroup in 2014 with esteemed former Bear head coach/statue Lovie Smith. Smith brings his Tampa 2 defense along with former Vikings Head Coach/DC/statue Leslie Frasier. Jeff Tedford comes from Cal in the college ranks to run the Bucs offense. Following a 4-12 season for Tampa, completely new systems will be a good thing for Tampa after scoring only 18.1 PPG (30th) and allowing 24.3 PPG (21st).
Let’s take a look at their strengths and weaknesses.
Davis gets his own category because he is a beast Will linebacker. David earned a +14.6 coverage grade and had 5 interceptions on the 2013 season. Davis is excellent in run defense tallying a +7.3 run defense grade and tackles incredibly well. David can blitz too and had 7 sacks on the 2013 season. David can do it all and fits the scheme perfectly. He will have another huge year in 2014.
Tackle and Center
Tampa Bay has upgraded their left tackle in 2014 adding Anthony Collins from the Bengals. Collins had a +12.8 pass blocking grade but struggled in run blocking. Right Tackle Demar Dotson is an incredibly underrated player at 15.7 pass blocking and +2.9 run blocking. The Buccaneers QBs of Josh McCown and Mike Glennon will be well protected on the edge.
The Buccaneers continued their free agency spending spree adding former Green Bay Packer Evan Dietrich Smith to play center. EDS excelled with +6.7 pass blocking and +1.2 run blocking in the middle of the Packer line in 2013. EDS can play guard as well but will be the center in Tampa.
The Buccaneers defensive line has some very talented players. Gerald McCoy may be the best defensive tackle in the game. McCoy earned a +54.3 pass rush grade and +7.8 run defense grade. He is a beast in the middle and fits the Tampa 2 under tackle perfectly. Michael Johnson was a huge free agent DE pickup this offseason from the Bengals. Johnson is a monster in run defense with a +21.2 grade and good in pass rush with a +3.0 grade from 5 sacks, 16 hits and 40 hurries. These two players will be the strength of the Bucs Dline.
The Bucs have other talented players that haven’t quite lived up to their draft hype. Defensive End Adrian Clayborn is good in run defense (+2.3) but lacks in pass rush with a -16.3 grade. DE DaQuan Bowers is oft injured and played only 212 snaps last year. Bowers earned a -2.3 pass rush grade and was average with 0 run defense mark. DT Akeem Spence needs to produce more and William Gholston is a solid backup at defensive end.
This defensive line should produce a good pass rush and be very stout against the run. The Bucs were average in run defense in 2013 allowing 4 YPC but it should be more difficult in 2014 to run against Tampa with a new scheme and Johnson in the mix.
Vincent Jackson is a stud number 1 WR. He had 1,224 yards and 7 TDs in 2013 with Freeman and a rookie QB. Tim Wright is an underrated tight end with 571 yards and 5 TDs in 2013. The Buccaneers added top 10 WR Mike Evans and 2nd round TE Austin Sefarian Jenkins. Lavelle Hawkins and Louis Murphy is decent veteran depth. The Bucs have enough weapons for their QBs. We will see if Tedford can get them to produce with these weapons in his scheme.
Tampa Bay hired a known college QB guru in Jeff Tedford. Tedford will have some molding to do with second year QB Mike Glennon or resurgent free agent Josh McCown. Glennon had a decent rookie year with 19 TDs and 9 interceptions. However, 59% completion and 6.3 YPA thrown by Glennon needs work. Josh McCown looked like a completely different QB than his entire career under Marc Trestman and Aaron Kromer in Chicago during 2013. McCown threw 66.5% completion with 13 TDs and 1 interception at a very strong 8.1 YPA. This was an anomaly for McCown’s career and was only 224 attempts. The Bucs staff will have a competition to see who wins the job but both QBs need to improve to give the Bucs a chance on offense.
The Buccaneers struggled to run the ball in 2013. This was very surprising after Doug Martin’s rookie 2012 season with 1,454 yards 4.6 YPC and 11 TDs. Martin only ran for 3.6 YPC on 127 carries before his injury. The problem may have been run blocking as Donald Penn, Davin Joseph, Jamon Meredith, Tim Larsen all struggled in run blocking and stud left guard Carl Nicks only played 150 snaps in 2013. The good news for Bucs fans is Joseph and Penn are gone and Meredith and Larsen are relegated to the bench. The bad news for Bucs fans is Anthony Collins and new guard Oniel Cousins struggled in run blocking. However, Carl Nicks may return to save the Buccaneers, Dotson can run block, rookie 2nd round addition Sefarian Austin Jenkins blocked well in college at TE and EDS can run block at center. It’s important for Tampa to get the running game back to 2012 form with Doug Martin.
The Buccaneers secondary has some very talented players but they did not show that talent in 2013. The Bucs failing to pass rush consistently, other than McCoy, may have been a huge reason for the coverage failure. The Bucs also, got rid of the best CB in the game in Darelle Revis due to not fitting the Tampa scheme. The Bucs turn to free agent pickup Alterraun Verner as their number one CB in the Tampa 2. Verner was strong in coverage for the Titans with +4.9 coverage grade but average in run defense. 2nd year Johnathan Banks will be asked to take a big step forward after struggling as a rookie. Banks coverage grade of -15.2 was very poor but his run defense grade of +1.0 will work in the Tampa 2. Former Raider and Cowboy Mike Jenkins was added this offseason but he struggled in Oakland staying with receivers.
Tampa’s LBs other than David struggle in coverage. Middle Linebacker Mason Foster must pick up his game as LB coverage is important in the Tampa 2. Casillas has the speed needed a SAM LB but he must stay healthy in 2014.
Tampa’s safeties of Dashon Goldson and 1st round pick Mark Barron are extremely talented. However, there talent did not shine through in 2014. Goldson struggled with -6.4 coverage and -3.7 run defense tallies. Barron was average in run defense but notched a -2.0 coverage grade. The pass rush may have been the problem as mentioned earlier but these two big name safeties must produce more for Tampa in 2014.
The Buccaneers will be a tough matchup despite their 4-12 2013 record. They can produce turnovers and forced 31 in 2013. They should get a shot in the arm with Lovie Smith at the helm on defense and more weapons for their makeshift QBs. They were 3-5 at home but don’t really have a home field advantage at Raymond James Stadium. They have upgraded every facet of their team this offseason with big free agent pickups and a solid draft in the top 10 each round. The Bucs host the Vikings Week 8 and the Packers Week 16. Tampa travels to Chicago Week 10 and Detroit 14 for a re-match from the Bucs 24-21 win in 2013. This should be a tough game for every North team.
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