The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished up the 2015 campaign last in the NFC South at 6-10. It was the fifth straight year they landed in the basement of their division. The first time that’s happened in the NFC since the merger.
While the end result was the same in terms of position in the South, last year was seen as a positive. Mainly because rookie quarterback Jameis Winston looked the part as a franchise signal caller. Most believe as he improves, so will the fortune of this franchise.
Tampa Bay will have a new head coach in 2016. After just two seasons, Lovie Smith was fired. It was a bit surprising, given the direction the team appeared to be heading. Most believe they simply didn’t want to lose offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. Instead of risking his departure, they promoted him to head coach.
It’s not out of the question that the Buccaneers could push for a playoff spot in 2016. Though most believe they are at least a year away from being a series contender. It certainly won’t be easy overtaking the Panthers in the South.
2016 Roster Changes
Top Draft Picks
|CB Vernon Hargreaves, DE Noah Spence, K Roberto Aguayo, CB Ryan Smith, OT Caleb Benenoch|
|G J.R. Sweezy, DE Robert Ayers, LB Daryl Smith, CB Brent Grimes, CB Josh Robinson, P Bryan Anger|
|DT Henry Melton, ILB Bruce Carter, CB Sterling Moore|
2016 Schedule & Odds
|Week||Opponent||Spread (Est.)||Win Chance|
|Estimated Wins: 6.49|
Winston’s rookie season got off to a slow start, but he got better and better with each start. He threw for 5 touchdowns against the Eagles in Week 11 and averaged 327.6 ypg in his last 3 games. He ended up throwing for 4,042 yards with 22 touchdowns. Plus, added another 6 rushing touchdowns.
Tampa Bay’s offense as a whole had little trouble moving the football. In fact, they ranked 5th in total offense at 375.9 ypg. They simply struggled to convert those long drives into points, scoring just 21.4 ppg. That’s one area they have to improve on if they want to take that next step.
All signs point to an even better sophomore season from Winston. He’s reportedly all business and doing everything he can to improve his game. Something that was a concern for a lot of people coming out of college.
His go-to target will once again be talented young wide out Mike Evans. In his first two seasons, Evans has already racked up 142 receptions and 2,257 yards. Though Tampa Bay needs him to be a bigger threat in the redzone. After catching 12 touchdowns as a rookie, he had just 3 last year. He also dropped way too many passes.
The Bucs need Evans to be great, as the rest of the receiving corps is a bit of a question mark. They still have veteran Vincent Jackson, but he’s on the decline at 33. Two players that could help out are wide out Kenny Bell and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
Bell was getting rave reviews in training camp last year. Unfortunatley his rookie season was lost to a season-ending injury in preseason. Seferian-Jenkins has the tools to be a force, but hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Also keep an eye out for 2nd-year tight end Cameron Brate, who Koetter seems to like quite a bit.
While the passing attack improved under Winston, Tampa Bay’s running game was the driving force last year. The Buccaneers finished 5th in the league at 135.1 ypg. Doug Martin was the primary force behind that surge, as he rushed for 1,402 yards and 6 touchdowns. The big concern is that was a contract year for Martin and he just got paid. Tampa Bay also got a big year out of Charles Sims, who had 529 yards rushing and another 561 yards receiving.
The big question mark outside of Winston on offense last year was the offensive line. The Bucs were inserting two 2nd-round rookies into the starting lineup. Donovan Smith at left tackle and Ali Marpet at right guard. Both played better than anticipated.
The unit could be even better with a healthy year from right tackle Demar Dotson, who missed 10 games. Joe Hawley is the other returning starter at center. The team did lose left guard Logan Mankins, but signed free agent J.R. Sweezy to replace him.
Tampa Bay’s defense had a similar year to the offensive side of the ball. The Bucs ranked 10th in total defense (340.4 ypg), but ended up 26th in points allowed (26.1 ppg).
Improving on this side of the ball was a primary focus this offseason. One position they wanted to improve was defensive end. The Bucs haven’t had a player at this spot register double-digit sacks since 2005. They added in free agent Robert Ayers, who had 9.5 sacks last year with the Giants. They also used a 2nd round pick on Noah Spence, who was originally projected to go in the 1st round. These two will join holdovers Jacquies Smith and William Gholston.
Inside at tackle the Bucs have one of the best players in the league in Gerald McCoy. While he made the Pro Bowl last year, he should be even better in 2016. McCoy spent most of last year playing through a torn rotator cuff. Either Clinton McDonald or Akeem Spence will start alongside him.
The other area that Tampa tried to improve was the secondary. Last year the Bucs allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 70% of their attempts. They used their 1st round pick on Florida corner Vernon Hargreaves. They also signed free agent Brent Grimes. Both are expected to start right away at corner. Replacing Alterraun Verner and Jonathan Banks, who will fight for playing time.
Unfortunately they didn’t have enough resources to upgrade the safety position. Tampa Bay will go with Chris Conte and Bradley McDougald as their starters once again.
At linebacker the Bucs have a young star in Lavonte David. Joining him will be Kwon Alexander and veteran free agent signee Daryl Smith. Alexander impressed as rookie and could emerge into a Pro Bowl player.
Regular Season Win Total
to Win the NFC South
to Win Super Bowl
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes
One thing you have to keep in mind with Tampa Bay is they did play an easy schedule last year. The NFC South wasn’t that great outside of Carolina. The division also played all 4 teams from the NFC East and AFC South.
This year the South looks stronger as a whole and they have to take on the AFC West and NFC West. Keep in mind they also draw Dallas out of the NFC East and Chicago out of the NFC North. Two teams who figure to be greatly improved over last year.
My biggest concern with the Bucs is how they will handle a brutal schedule to start the year. Four of their first six are on the road and one of the home games is against Denver.
With all that said, I do believe Tampa Bay will be a stronger team in 2016. I just don’t think it’s going to result in a big jump in the win column. I have Tampa Bay going 3-3 in the division (get to host Carolina in Week 17) but just 7-9 overall. On the bright side, that’s good enough for 2nd in the division in my projections. I also wouldn’t be shocked if they went 8-8 or even 9-7.
NFC South Finish
Win Total Prediction
Buccaneers 10-Year Recap