2019 NFL Season Preview- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers had some impressive moments, but ultimately amounted to nothing.
Tampa Bay started the season great by defeating the reigning NFC South champion Saints in New Orleans and defeating Super Bowl champion Philadelphia at home. But the Bus would lose 11 of their final 14 games to finish at the bottom of the NFC South forth the eighth time in 10 seasons.
Quarterback Jameis Winston was for the first three games for violating the league's personal conduct policy. Made three starts before being benched for three more and then finished out the season on a high note. After throwing eight touchdowns to 11 interceptions in the first half of the year, he finished the year strong with 11 touchdowns and only three interceptions with a 3-6 record as a starter. Ryan Fitzpatrick had an impressive start to the year with three straight 400 yards passing and three touchdown games, but the "Fitzmagic" wore off and the team reverted back to Winston. The two quarterbacks combined36 touchdowns and 26 interceptions while the Bus led the league in passing yards. Running back Peyton Barber was the team workhorse playing behind a lackluster line, but still managed 1,105 yards from scrimmage. Jacquizz Rodgers was used mainly as a third down back. Tight end OJ Howard was on pace for a Pro Bowl year before a foot and ankle injury ended his season after 10 games. He improved as a blocker and played every snap before the injuries while finishing with 34 catches for 565 yards and five touchdowns. Cameron Brate was the team's biggest red zone targets with six touchdowns while battling an undisclosed injury. Wide receiver Adam Humphries started slow but finished with a career high 76 catches and five touchdowns. Chris Goodwin dealt with multiple injuries but showed he can be a solid No. 2 receiver. Desean Jackson did his best work with Fitzpatrick at quarterback but fizzled when Winston was under center. The offensive line drastically underachieved, especially in the run game. Left guard Ali Marpet was the team's most consistent lineman. Center Ryan Jensen was a good addition, but led all NFL linemen in penalties.
The defense was a mess pretty much all year and only forced nine turnovers on the year and finished dead last in points allowed. Things got so bad that defensive coordinator Mike Smith was fired after five games and the team finished 31st with a -18 turnover differential. After producing a league worst 22 sacks in 2017, the defensive line improved and registered 38. The team traded for defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and he finished team leading 12.5 sacks. The team also signed Carl Nassib off waivers and finished with 6.5 sacks. Linebacker Kwon Alexander was lost for the season with a torn ACL. Lavonte David led the team in tackles for the sixth time in seven seasons. The secondary was decimated by injuries. Safeties Chris Conte and Justin Evans both ended the season on injured reserve. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves played in just one game before his year was ended by a shoulder injury. Andrew Adams led the team with four interceptions, including three in one game. Brent Grimes played with one foot out the door.
Kicker Chandler Catanzaro missed four field goals and five extra points before he was released. Tampa signed Cairo Santos and he played well late. Punter Bryan Anger averaged 45 yards a punt while return man Bobo Wilson averaged 28.4 yards on 10 returns.
The team had just one Pro Bowler in wide receiver Mike Evans. Evans had a career year and continues to get better after he set a franchise record with 1,524 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.
The rookie class was a mix of good and disappointing. Defensive tackle Vita Vea missed all of the preseason and first three regular season games due to injury, but finished the year strong. Running back Ronald Jones had a complete bust of a rookie year as he averaged less than two yards per carry. Cornerback MJ Stewart was limited by injuries but played tough as the nickel corner. Cornerback Carlton Davis played well overall but also fell victim to the injury bug. Safety Jordan Whitehead started 11 games and proved to be a reliable tackler.
Opponent Passing YPG
Opponent Rushing YPG
Despite setting a franchise record for points in a season, head coach Dirk Koetter was fired after the season. In his three seasons in Tampa Bay, he had a 19-29 record. The Buccaneers coaching search led them to former Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians who had retired from coaching the year before.
Under Arians, the team brought in for Arizona Cardinals quarterback coach Byron Leftwich to be the team's new offensive coordinator. Arians also hired former New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles to be the team's new defensive coordinator. Bowles also served under Arians as defensive coordinator for two seasons while in Arizona.
On July 10, 2019, cornerback Ryan Smith was suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing drugs.
Notable Additions- QB Blaine Gabbert, RB Andre Ellington, WR Breshad Perriman, TE Jordan Leggett, G Earl Watford, DT Ndamukong Sub, LB Shaquil Barrett, LB Deone Bucannon, S Darian Stewart
Notable Departures- QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, WR Desean Jackson, WR Adam Humphries, DE Vinny Curry, DT Gerald McCoy, LB Kwon Alexander, CB Brent Grimes, S Chris Conte
Mike Evans 2018 Highlights
2019 NFL Draft
With the fifth overall pick in the draft, the Buccaneers had to make changes to key pieces, primarily at offensive lineman, edge rusher, and cornerback.
The team signed Earl Watford to fill the hole at right guard, but right tackle Demar Dotson will be entering his 11th season.
Tampa struck gold in the offseason acquiring Jason Pierre-Paul and Carl Nassib, but JPP will be 31 and Noah Spence has failed to live up to expectations.
With Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves coming off an injury, the secondary needs a ball hawk. Whether or not MJ Stewart or Carlton Davis can be that guy has yet to be seen.
When it came time to pick, Tampa Bay selected LSU linebacker Devin White with the fifth overall pick. White has the best anticipation of any inside linebacker this year, but his small frame gives him a shorter tackling radius.
Other Notable Draft Picks:
Sean Murphy-Bunting, CB, Central Michigan- Good hand-eye coordination, lacks recovery speed
Jamel Dean, CB, Auburn- Built like a safety, struggles in zone coverage
Mike Edwards, S, Kentucky- Fearless run defender, gambler in coverage
Anthony Nelson, DE, Iowa- Country strong, lacks explosiveness
Matt Gay, K, Utah- Strong leg, one year of college
Scott Miller, WR, Bowling Green- Track star speed, durability concerns due to size
Terry Beckner, DT, Missouri- Quick for his size, poor pad level negates strength
Notable Undrafted Free Agent Signings:
Nick Fitzgerald, QB, Mississippi State- Prototype size and arm, poor accuracy and decision making
Anthony Johnson, WR, Buffalo- Great physical tools, needs coaching
Devin White Highlights
What To Expect
The Buccaneers have made some solid moves, but it doesn't appear to be enough.
2019 is a make or break year for Jameis Winston and if anyone can get him to reach his potential, it Bruce Arians. Ronald Jones is on thin ice after last year's outing but in an offense that uses running backs like receivers will really play to his skill set. If he can't find a rhythm, Andre Ellington and Peyton Barber are both capable workhorses. Mike Evans should continue to grow as one of the league's best receivers and OJ Howard has the potential to be a Pro Bowl tight end if he can stay healthy. The main key will be for the offensive line to stay healthy and adding Earl Watford gives them a better guard to open up running lanes.
The defense under Bowles will move to a 3-4 scheme with Vita Vea serving as the nose tackle while William Gholston and Ndamukong Duh serving as the defensive ends. The linebacker corps now has enough depth to overcome any injuries. Devin White is a suitable replacement for Kwon Alexander who will play alongside Levonte David on the inside while Jason Pierre-Paul and Carl Nassib rush the edges. There still remains concerns about the secondary. Vernon Hargreaves has struggled to play up to his first round status and Carlton Davis' sample size is very small. Jordan Whitehead seems to be a suitable replacement for Chris Conte, but I don't see a true playmaker in this secondary.
Tampa Bay looks to be heading upwards, but they are still miles away from climbing out of the NFC South basement.
Best Record They Can Hope For: 6-10