The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are set to take a big step forward in 2018. There are still question marks on the roster, but fans should understand that it’s perfectly fine at this point in the off-season.
There’s not one team’s roster set to start a game tomorrow. However, with the revelation of the recent investigation involving the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ handpicked “Face of the franchise”, the biggest question on the roster comes at the position that was supposed to be set for the next 10 years or so.
Instead, with the most challenging stretch of games to start the season, that position may very well be the weakest and most concerning. NFL journeyman and life-sized garden gnome, Ryan Fitzpatrick is the assumed starter for the murderer’s row that is Week one thru Week three.
The Buccaneers will face NFC South rival New Orleans Saints, the defending Super Bowl Champions Philadelphia Eagles, and the AFC Heavyweight Pittsburgh Steelers. That’s a tough task for any team primarily reliant on the talent at QB.
Don’t Cry Just Yet!
Fortunately for the Bucs, I don’t see that as being the case. It’s quite possible the team has seen enough from the QB position to know it can’t be trusted in a heavy role, despite seeing some highlight reel worthy throws and some accolades. The quarterback position consists of guys that have a history of playing well in short bursts and a propensity of turning the ball over.
Behind that are a few guys with little to no experience in an actual NFL game. The offensive roster around them, however, is damn near a dream when it comes to physical talent and potential match-ups!Embed from Getty Images
Offensive Weapons for Days!
You’ve got two of the biggest threats on the outside at wide receiver with Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. One is a physical mismatch, while the other has a speed advantage over just about anyone trying to cover him. Backing those guys are two more then capable receivers.
Adam Humphries, the proverbial blue collar worker in the slot with a specific skill set that meshes well with two outside threats. Then there’s Chris Godwin, the ultra-talented youngster with the ability to play inside or outside equally effective while being a serious threat as a mismatch in either role.
Wait, There’s More!
There’s both reliability and promise at tight end with UDFA-turned-2nd contract phenom, Cameron Brate, and the top five draft talent that somehow slid to #19 in OJ Howard. Between the two, they make up the perfect combination for a TE.
While the former has settled in to his identity as a receiving tight end, the latter is just getting started and has the potential to be the prototype tight end capable of blocking like a right tackle and catching like a wide receiver.
What About the Rest of the Offense?
The running back and various offensive line positions may just have a little bit of sorting out to do, but the vast majority has proven to be more than capable. They’ll all be asked to elevate their games in some fashion. Ali Marpet as the exception, the offensive line won’t be asked to do anything they’ve not done in years prior.
The running backs will have more carries, but none of them should be asked to carry the team, as a true running back by committee approach is likely with the current stable. With the exception of a few, the offensive line hasn’t been around to see a winning record in their short time in Pewter and Red and they’re eager to get that feeling back.
Even with some well-deserved concerns and shortcomings last season, it’s not hard to see that group being a big part of any success the team sees this upcoming season.Embed from Getty Images
Changing Course. Back To Buc Ball!
At this stage, I feel that just about any QB capable of making good decisions more often than not could put up a decent showing with the talent on offensive side of the ball. However, I feel this team is going to be leaning on the defensive side of the ball to grind out wins this season.
It’s really nothing new, to be honest. Going back to most recent winning season, it was the defense that made the difference. Even though it was only recognized for the performance second half of the season. Stats skewed the defensive performance due in part to turnovers from the offense, but they were consistent throughout that season.
This year’s defense has finally been invested in the same way the offense had been invested in. There’s now a reasonable belief that there’s depth at every positional group on defense. Actual upside can be seen with the projected backups and not just bodies waiting to clock in.
There’s reason to believe the corner backs can get aggressive at the line of scrimmage. Then there’s the possibility of an actual active rotation on the defensive Line. That was supposed to be the case last season before injuries killed that dream just as the season started.
What Actually “Hurt the Team”?
Even with the injuries and lack of depth, the defense, despite ranking 32nd in some statistical categories many see as crucial like, passing yards allowed and total yards allowed, ranked 22 in scoring. This could reasonably be interpreted as them bending but not breaking.
Arguably, where the Buccaneers have been hurt most is turnovers and lack of scoring touchdowns. The team ranked 18th in scoring while ranking 26th in turnovers, consisting of 14 interceptions and 13 fumbles lost. That’s not enough scoring to overcome the turnovers, let alone trying to cover any deficiencies happening on the offensive side of the ball.
Going forward, this team is built to be buoyed by the QB position rather than being led by it. This roster has been built around the QB position rather than behind it. Meaning, the pieces on the roster, and play book, are masking shortcomings rather than accentuating strengths.
The quarterbacks of this team don’t have to try to make something out of nothing from a talent perspective. As stated above, there’s talent available. One could argue that’s been the case since 2014. Whoever lines up behind center for the Buccaneers in 2018 will be tasked with this order: “Don’t lose the game for us”.
K.I.S.S. (Keep it Simple Stupid)
Simple and direct, that’s the task ahead for the signal caller every single week for the Bucs. That could bring comfort to a lot of fans. The hope of having a defense and run game that could keep opposing teams stagnant enough to pull out wins, regardless of what the box score looks like, would be reminiscent of the Buccaneers’ glory days.
Yet, it could very well be a concern for any of those hoping to have finally gotten a hold of that elusive “Franchise QB” in Tampa.
“Don’t lose the game for us” is so close to “Don’t try so hard”. Something that’s been mentioned by at least one coach working directly with the quarterbacks at One Buccaneer Place.
That’s backup quarterback talk.
That’s rookie quarterback talk.
It’s not something one would think needs to be said to a cornerstone and leader of any team. Given the history of the quarterbacks on the current roster, those words are an absolute MUST. On one hand, it’s great that the expectancy/potential of talent and production on the roster could even allow such a statement to even be considered.
On the other hand, it’s a very worrying issue for a team that’s three seasons removed from selecting a quarterback as the face of the franchise.
“When seasons change and we’ve again surpassed September
A lot of scars that kinda scare you to remember…”–Curtis Mayfield