The Bucs struggled to the fifth overall pick last year and it led to the end of Dirk Koetter. Now they have dragged Bruce Arians out of retirement and the commentary box with the target of ending the second longest playoff drought in the NFL, primarily through getting the most out of Jameis Winston as he heads into the final year of his rookie deal.
Improvements – Linebacker
The Buccaneers drafted the ‘can’t miss prospect’ in Devin Smith and he has immediately replaced and improved upon Kwon Alexander, as well as adding a significant level of cap space compared to Alexander’s new 49ers contract. The additions of Shaquil Barrett and Ndamukong Suh have helped cover the loss of Alexander and Gerald McCoy but the Buccaneers still have a way to go.
Biggest Hole – Secondary
The biggest worry for the Bucs is on thr back end. Vernon Hargraves leads an inexperienced unit that won’t get enough protection from the defensive line. Carlton Davis and Mike Edwards will be needed to make big contributions.
At Running Back the Bucs are reliant on Peyton Barber, with Ronald Jones and Dare Ogunbowale adding supporting roles. While the Bucs are a pass first team, and will continue to be under Arians, they need a strong runner to protect the defence and control the clock, especially with Jameis Winston being turnover prone.
It is surprising they didn’t address this to take the pressure off Winston and the defence, and didn’t draft any offensive options until after they took a Kicker in the fifth round.
One to Watch – Devin White
White has made the biggest difference to the Bucs in the offseason with most other additions only covering losses on the roster – admittedly the LSU Linebacker was drafted to replace Kwon Alexander and Kendell Beckwith. Alexander makes the team far better in coverage and will take pressure off the defensive line to get to the QB or RB.
Leading Question – Is Jameis Winston Worth a Long Term Deal?
The FSU alum is entering a contract year and the Bucs risk a Joe Flacco moment if he stars. The trouble is I don’t think there is the talent around him to succeed. With a weak defence, Winston will look to force things and score on most drives, which will only lead to turnovers. The loss of Desean Jackson will hurt too, while they do have a great duo of Tight Ends, will thd
The bottom line is, thd Bucs will need to commit to life either with or Jameis Winston at the end of the season.
Schedule – NFC West & AFC South
The Bucs may have the easiest schedule out of division but they also have six games against the Falcons, Panthers and Saints, who they will be lucky to take one win off. They also face the Rams (away), Seahawks (away), Colts, Texans, Jaguars (away) and 49ers which will be a tough schedule with strong defences for a young team.
Verdict – 4-12
I wish I could be more positive but with a brutal schedule and improvements from the Falcons and Panthers, the Buccaneers may take a step back before they take two forward, dropping to four wins. The key thing for them is having a long term plan at QB ending the season. They’ll likely have a high pick, will they look to support Jameis Winston or replace him?
Photo: CBS Sports