2017 NFL Season Preview- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Despite finishing with a winning record for the first time since 2010, the Buccaneers still failed to reach the playoffs.
Quarterback Jameis Winston became the only player in NFL history to pass for 4,000 yards in each of his first two seasons and also set a team record with 28 passing touchdowns. The problem was he also lead the NFC with 18 interceptions and also lost six fumbles. Running back Doug Martin was given a four game substance abuse suspension late in the year that will carry on to next season. Jacquizz Rodgers was the teams leading rusher with 560 yards and Charles Sims went on injured reserve twice with knee injury. Tight end Cameron Brate came out of nowhere to tie a team record with eight touchdown receptions by a tight end. Wide receiver Mike Evans is Winston's go to receiver and tied a club record with 12 touchdowns catches. Left tackle Donovan Smith and right guard Ali Marpet played every snap but the rest of the offensive line still needs upgraded.
Key additions made in the offseason paid off for the defensive line. Defensive end Robert Ayers brought an attitude to the pass rush and registered 6.5 sacks. Linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander played every down on the year and Alexander finished among the league leaders in tackles. David's tackle numbers dropped from 2015 but he compensated it by registering five sacks and a pick six. Tampa took a gamble on cornerback Brent Grimes and it paid off as he finished with four interceptions and a touchdown. Safety Chris Conte was benched in favor of Keith Tandy who finished for with four in five starts.
The Buccaneers had two Pro Bowlers in wide receiver Mike Evans and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. Evans already has more receiving yards in his first three seasons than Jerry Rice in that time. McCoy made his fifth straight Pro Bowl after recording seven sacks and two forced fumbles.
The rookie class saw a lot of playing time but not much production. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves was solid with 76 tackles, nine passes defended, and an interception, but could be better. Defensive end Noah Spence had 5.5 sacks and played most of the year with a dislocated shoulder. Kicker Robert Aguayo was a big disappointment making only 71 percent of his field goals and only having a long of 43 yards.
Opponent Passing Yards
Opponent Rushing Yards
NFL Rank- 16th
NFL Rank- 24th
NFL Rank- 22nd
NFL Rank- 22nd
NFL Rank- 18th
NFL Rank- 23rd
Going 9-7 in his first season as head coach, Dirk Koetter has to address the issues in the running game and a defense that didn't hit its stride until it was already too late. The team is nowhere close to reaching their potential, but the future looks bright on Tampa.
Notable Additions- QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, WR DeSean Jackson, DE Chris Baker, S JJ Wilcox, K Nick Folk
Notable Departures- QB Mike Glennon, WR Vincent Jackson, WR Cecil Shorts, WR Russell Shepard, T Gosder Cherilus, DT Akeem Spence, LB Daryl Smith, CB Alterraun Verner, S Bradley McDougald
Buccaneers 2016 Highlights
2017 NFL Draft
Holding the 19th overall pick going into the draft, Tampa Bay had to address issues at key positions. Primarily at running back, wide receiver, and defensive tackle.
Doug Martin has missed large chunks of three of the last five seasons and Chris Sims is coming off two knee injuries. The team needs a reliable workhorse who can stay healthy.
Tampa Bay lost three wide receivers in free agency and retirement. DeSean Jackson is a nice addition but the position still needs depth.
Akeem Spence is now in Detroit and Clinton McDonald is getting older with dropping production. Gerald McCoy needs another big man beside him to make the defense work.
When it came time to pick, Tampa Bay selected Alabama tight end OJ Howard with the 19th overall pick. Howard was seen as the top tight end prospect in the draft due to his great release but scouts question his football IQ and passion for the game.
The Buccaneers also notably drafted Penn State wide receiver Chris Godwin. Godwin was pound for pound one of the toughest receivers in college football but lacks deep speed to get past corners.
OJ Howard Highlights
What to Expect
The main objective for 2017 should be to play the entire year at a consistent level.
Jameis Winston has to cut down on his 24 turnovers from last year and learn to know when to give up on a play. What can help him is a reliable running game. Doug Martin will be out the first three games with a suspension and Chris Sims is coming off two injuries so Jacquizz Rodgers will have to take most of the snaps at running back. With all the additions the team made to the receiving corps in free agency and the draft, the Buccaneers have a plethora of targets who can get open and have great skill sets. The offensive line is a big weaknesses as Ali Marpet and Donovan Smith are the only consistent pieces in the group.
The defensive line was able to keep their four starters, but don't be surprised if Noah Spence supplants Robert Ayers at some point this season. Kwon Alexander and Levonte David are a great pair at linebacker, the only question is who will replace Daryl Smith on the strong side. Vernon Hargreaves and Brent Grimes make a food cornerback tandem and signing JJ Wilcox to pair with Keith Tandy makes the safety position stronger.
This is a make or break year for Robert Aguayo. If he struggles at any point in training camp, Nick Folk will step in and snatch the job right from under him.
Considering the strength and depth of Atlanta, the NFC South title looks to be out of reach for sometime. However, Tampa Bay is the best suited team from the division to grab a wildcard spot.
Best record they can hope for: 10-6