It’s just about time to kick things off for real.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will open the regular season on Sunday, September 13 at home against the Tennessee Titans. Today, we preview each facet of this year’s team.
After last year’s dismal performance, this is the unit that will get the most attention. The biggest addition, of course, is Jameis Winston, taken by the Bucs with the top overall pick in this year’s draft. The rookie had his ups and downs during the preseason. He did not throw a touchdown pass in the three games he played in, though he did rush for a pair of scores. He actually has a real-life offensive coordinator this year in Dirk Koetter, who comes over from division-rival Atlanta. Here’s a thought: get the ball in the hands of Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson as much as possible.
The second most-watched group will be the offensive line. With a rookie quarterback running the show, it will be up to this group to take some of the pressure off Winston, and open up holes in the running game. Last year, these guys were awful in both categories.
Speaking of that, will Doug Martin bounce back, in what could be his final season in Tampa? In his rookie season in 2012, he was fantastic. Since then – not so much.
Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy are the leaders of this group. There is no doubting that. Tampa Bay improved in the secondary even more by signing two-time Pro Bowler Jim Jennings just this week. Dashon Goldson, Mason Foster, Michael Johnson and Da’Quan Bowers are all gone.
For the second year in a row, the Buccaneers have a rookie kicker. Kyle Brinzda won the starting job over last year’s kicker, Patrick Murray, and former Buc Connor Barth (remember him? He’s briefly re-joined the team after Denver cut him.) Brinzda made two field goals over 50 yards in the preseason finale against Miami to seal the deal.
The team also has a new punter. Michael Koenen is no more. The new guy in town is Jacob Schum, who was claimed off waivers from the Jets. Hopefully he will be an upgrade from Koenen, who struggled big-time last year.
The whole unit needs to be much better than last year, especially on kickoff and punt returns. We the fans are sick of seeing a flag for illegal block in the back on nearly every return.
Is Lovie Smith on the hot seat in just his second year? If the Bucs get off to a slow start, I say the answer is yes. Admittedly, this season could be also be challenging because of a rookie starting quarterback. But if the team doesn’t at least show some improvement, then the fire’s going to start burning a lot more under the head coach.
Photo Courtesy: USA Today