Guest Blogger: The 2013 Outlook

This is another guest article by friend of the program, Conor Philpott. I tried to lure him with stories of fame and fortune but he is apparently too smart for that (Dammit). Though not updated from the Dolphins game, the article addresses many of the points the fans are discussin.

Bio:

Conor Philpott is a teenage writer from Cork, Ireland and a big Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan (yes apparently the Bucs have Irish fans!). He has never played American football but is an avid fan and thinks playing Madden compensates for his lack of physical football experience. You can find him on twitter at @cphilpott95 where he will talk rubbish about a lot of sports you don’t know or care about (rugby,soccer or even some Irish sports like hurling)

 

The Perception

The Buccaneers made some big moves after a disappointing end to the 2012 season (they lost 5 of their last 6 games) signing Dashon Goldson, to a whopping 41 million dollar contract with 22 million guaranteed and trading for Darrelle Revis giving up a first and third round pick to the New York Jets. Overall I think the Bucs are seen as a potential dark horse for the playoffs, their division opponents coupled with playing the NFC West means it’s hard to see them winning a division at this point, they have very little depth (as Preseason has shown) and still lack talent at certain spots. It is also time for Josh Freeman to “step up” and lead the team to the playoffs.

The Reality

The Perception isn’t too far off. The Bucs are far from a polished team, their offense had some spectacular games last year but it also struggled for large portions of games and seasons, Mike Sullivan, the Bucs offensive co-ordinator deservedly got praise last year but the team can be even more explosive next year in their second year in the system. While I don’t agree that Quarterbacks should be solely judged on Wins and losses (it can be a good evaluator at but it isn’t  by and large) rightly or wrongly, Josh Freeman probably has to win to keep his job with the team barring a defence as bad as last season. While Freeman has plenty of faults (reading coverages, going through his reads, lazy footwork to name but a few) he put the team in a position to win games a lot of the time last year the games against the Eagles and the Redskins stand out when the defence gave up the lead with under 2 minutes to play (and with no time left for the offense to come back out). The backend of the defence should improve a lot with the players they’ve brought in but a scheme which relies on having guys on an island for a large portion of plays is a dangerous one. The Buccaneers upgraded a bad secondary but their pass rush looks incredibly weak. Their run defence will still be stout, but they could still be quite susceptible to the pass.

Plan A

Use Doug Martin. The rookie running back had a superb season, finishing with 1,926 yards from scrimmage last season. That was third in the NFL behind Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson, that’s not bad company to keep! Martin had some struggles early on as he adapted to the league and late on when the injury depleted offensive line struggled to open enough holes for him (he did overcome this several time to his credit) but I think it is fair to say that he had an outstanding rookie season. The one criticism I would have of the Buccaneers is that he was used too much. He had the second most snaps and fourth most rushing attempts of all running backs last year. I would liked to have seen them use LeGarrette Blount now of the Patriots, a bit more often but it appears he wasn’t trusted by the coaching staff in pass protection (I suspect there was something else going on as Blount never got Freeman killed but that’s pure speculation). The Bucs added several running backs in the draft and Free Agency. Not all will make the roster but the trio of Peyton Hillis, Brian Leonard and Mike James seem competent enough in rushing and pass protection to help the team if needs be. The Buccaneers can’t ruin another running back like they have done with Cadillac Williams (Ricky Bell if you want to delve into the history of the team)

Plan B

Big plays down the field. The Bucs offense relies heavily on several things in the passing game: option routes (explains some accuracy issues) and shots down the field. The Buccaneers have one of the more underrated wide receiving duos in the NFL in Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson combining for 2,380 yards and 17 TDs, the philosophy of Sullivan is shown by Jackson leading the league in yards per reception and Williams finishing twelfth in that category. The addition of Kevin Ogletree in the slot should help improve the slot receiver position and Tiquan Underwood is a pretty decent 4th option. The Bucs passing offense is quite complicated (perhaps overly in some aspects) and requires great chemistry between receivers and the Quarterback the second year of the system seems to be paying dividends in practice if not preseason ( the first team have only seen four series). I would be hoping and expecting for an improvement over last season’s effort. There are question marks over the health of guards Carl Nicks (who looks set to miss a month with an infected blister) and Davin Joseph but providing they are healthy the offense can be stellar. Freeman has worked incredibly hard this offseason and from my time at camp and the opening preseason game he seemed to have worked on some of the flaws listed above.

Strengths

The only proven strengths at this juncture is the rush defence and the aforementioned receiving duo of Jackson and Williams. The Buccaneers first team defence looked great against the first team Ravens grabbing an interception and keeping them scoreless. They were then torn apart by Tom Brady who completed 11 of 12 passes for 107 yards  and a TD they spent last week practicing with the Pats and it didn’t seem to help much! There are a couple of potential areas such as the offensive line and the backend of the defence but a combination of little time on the field and guys not being one hundred percent healthy makes it hard to evaluate.

Weaknesses

The defensive line is the biggest. Many questioned the decision to let Michael Bennett leave in Free Agency for a relatively small sum of money ( a one year $5 million deal with the Seahawks). He needed to have shoulder surgery in the offseason but he had been carrying this injury for much of last season (he was listed in most injury reports from about week 8 on as probable). The Buccaneers had faith in Da’Quan Bowers, Adrian Clayborn and rookies William Gholston and Steven Means. Lavonte David has the teams only sack of the preseason. There have been isolated moments of promise but few of them have come against the first string teams. It’s not looking good at all. The team has little to no depth, their losses so far show that when injuries come they will find it quite hard to match opponents.

Lessons from last season

Leaving your corners on an island will result in them getting burned. Darrelle Revis probably won’t be burned that often but it’s asking a lot of him to be 100% straight off the bat. The Bucs also need to learn not to get conservative and take chances on offense. Defensive line stunts where the DT loops around to try and take the right tackle do not work as they take far too long to complete. Josh Freeman needs to stop checking down and not be fazed if pressure comes.

Verdict

They will probably finish around 7-9 again  but could win another game or two if they’re lucky and get a couple of breaks. The team doesn’t have enough depth in most areas and face a tough schedule. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them get to double digit wins but I can’t see the team gelling fast enough a lot of guys coming back from injury haven’t seen time on the field yet and they won’t be 100% straight away.

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"Here's to good memories, ounce by ounce." --Matt Westerman Currently hosting an Internet Radio/TV show called "What the Buc?" covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers! We are having a blast and would love to get feedback from you folks on it.

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