On Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers kick off a new season against the Carolina Panthers at Ray-Jay. What’s new about this year’s team? Well, just about everything. Here’s a breakdown of what to keep an eye on this weekend, and all season long.
This is Josh McCown’s team now. He’s 35, and coming off his best season while filling in for Jay Cutler in Chicago. Still, he’s playing in a division where the other quarterbacks are named Brees, Ryan and Newton. So he has to prove himself almost right off the bat, otherwise Mike Glennon, who started most of last year, is waiting in the wings.
The Bucs spent their entire draft this year on upgrading the offense. That was a wise move, given that the offense last year was nothing short of awful. They also brought in a new offensive coordinator in Jeff Tedford, who may not even be around for the opener due to an undisclosed medical condition. It would be sweet if rookie Mike Evans became a formidable duo in the passing game along with veteran Vincent Jackson. The same holds true for rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, especially now that Tim Wright is in New England.
The offensive line is probably the biggest thing to pay close attention to. But this group got a boost with the addition of Logan Mankins. Mankins was a proven leader with the Pats who made multiple trips to the Pro Bowl. Still, this area is a huge question mark. The o-line must step it up in both the running game and in pass protection.
This group showed improvement last year. And if the preseason is any indication, this could be a breakthrough year for Leslie Frazier’s squad. Players like Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David are poised to have pro bowl seasons. In the secondary, Revis Island is no longer there, but Mark Barron, Dashon Goldson and newcomer Alterraun Verner are. As far as Goldson is concerned, can he make the necessary adjustments to stop costing his team 15 yards every time he clocks a receiver?
Lovie Smith prides his team on forcing turnovers. It won’t be enough to just shut down the opposing offense. The defense needs to take the ball away.
This will be another intriguing area to watch. Rookie Patrick Murray will handle the kicking duties, having beaten out Connor Barth for the starting job. Barth was the most accurate kicker in team history, but missed all of last year due to an injury he suffered playing basketball. If Murray struggled in the first game or two, how much will Bucs fans be clamoring for Connor?
I’m really looking forward to writing about the Bucs this season. The addition of Lovie Smith as head coach brought Tampa Bay instant credibility at least in the eyes of public opinion. It would be great to see the off-field excitement translated into wins on the field.
One final note: I will not be doing any breakdown of the Carolina game because I will be on vacation. My coverage will continue with the Week 2 game against the Rams.
Photo Courtesy: USA Today
The Bucs’ situation on the offensive line has gotten a lot of attention this week.
First, there was word that the team invited former Miami guard Richie Incognito to Tampa for a tryout. That sent shivers down me. Yes, they need help up front, but why would you do it with a player with a rap sheet that includes the Dolphins’ bullying scandal among other things?
Then on Tuesday, my nerves calmed down considerably when the Buccaneers acquired six-time Pro Bowler Logan Mankins from the Patriots in exchange for tight end Tim Wright and a 2015 draft pick.
Mankins was a beast in Foxboro. Being from New England, I can say truthfully that he was well-liked and respected around these parts. He will definitely bring stability to the Bucs offensive front, even if he is over 30 years old. The Bucs needed to do something in their attempt to better protect Josh McCown, and this helps a lot.
A lot of Patriots fans up here are shocked by this move. For New England, all is not lose. Wright had a decent season on a horrendous team last year. Now, he’s going to be catching balls from Tom Brady.
Still, I think this is an excellent move by the Bucs. Don’t expect to see Mankins play in the final preseason game Thursday night. But he should be ready to go for the season opener on September 7.
Oh, and a final memo to Love Smith and Jason Licht: don’t even think about signing Incognito.