Tampa Bay Buccaneers Predictions
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers rebounded from their terrible 2009 season and won 10 games in 2010, but they were right back in the NFC South basement with a 4-12 record last year.
A season-ending 10-game losing streak was the final straw for Raheem Morris. Now, the Bucs will be counting on former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano to make them a consistent winner.
Tampa Bay was one of the worst offensive teams in the NFL last season. It finished 27th in scoring with 17.9 points per game and 21st in total offense with 319.2 yards per game. The running attack was especially weak, finishing 30th in the league with 91.1 yards per contest.
The Bucs are hoping the addition of All-Pro guard Carl Nicks will help LeGarrette Blount return to his 2010 form when he rushed for 1,007 yards on 5.0 yards per carry. Last year, he rushed for 781 yards on 4.2 yards per tote and put the ball on the ground way too much. Blount will share carries with rookie Doug Martin.
The Bucs are also hoping Nicks, and wide receiver Vincent Jackson, can help quarterback Josh Freeman return to his 2010 form when he threw 25 touchdown strikes and only six interceptions. Last year, he completed 62.8 percent of his passes for 3,592 yards but threw 22 interceptions and just 16 touchdowns.
Jackson, who averaged over 18 yards per catch and scored nine touchdowns with San Diego in 2011, should help the Bucs stretch the field. He strengthens a receiving corps that also features wide receiver Mike Williams and tight end Dallas Clark.
Last season, the Buccaneers finished dead last in the NFL in scoring defense (30.9 points allowed per game), rushing defense (156.1 yards allowed per game) and sacks (23). This is the side of the football that really needs to step up.
The Bucs added linebacker Lavonte David and safety Mark Barron in the draft and cornerback Eric Wright in free agency to bolster the defense.
The speedy David is being counted on right away to improve the run defense. So is the hard-hitting Barron, who played the run well at Alabama. Wright, who picked off four passes for Detroit last season, joins Barron, Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib in the secondary.
Adrian Clayborn, who finished with 7.5 sacks last season as a rookie, has already emerged as Tampa Bay’s most reliable pass rusher. Other must step up. The Bucs need more than four sacks from Michael Bennett. They also need Gerald McCoy to get healthy and start living up to his potential.
NFC South Prediction: 4th Place
Under Schiano, I expect the Tampa Bay to run the football more and to play better defense. These two things will make it more competitive right away. Key additions on both sides of the football will also help the Bucs . They won’t become a playoff team over night, but I do believe they will be a better football team this season. However, the improvement might not show up in the win column. They’ll struggle in division play as Atlanta, New Orleans and Carolina are all playoff contenders. They also have challenging non-division contests against the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles.
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