Welcome to the first installment of “If the Season Began Today”, a monthly series I will be doing up until opening day to give you all a gauge to measure the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ progress this offseason. Today’s installment is all about the starting line up as it stands today.
Later this month, Tampa will have undoubtedly added one or two players to this list. Darrell Revis may be wearing Pewter and Red after a blockbuster trade. Xavier Rhodes could be gearing up to begin his first offseason program as a Buc. There are plenty of possibilities for Tampa to improve on their roster, but as it stands today these players would be the starters running out of the tunnel in Raymond James.
LT Donald Penn
LG Carl Nicks
RG Davin Joseph
RT Demar Dotson
TE Luke Stocker
QB Josh Freeman
RB Doug Martin
FB Erik Lorig
The most apparent observation about the offensive starters is that only two positions have a different name listed when compared to last years first depth chart, and even those players are not new additions. Demar Dotson and Luke Stocker are the only two players who were not listed as starters at some point before the first game last year.
Dotson went on to start 15 games, replacing Jeremy Trueblood. Luke Stocker replaces the still unsigned Dallas Clark, who was the #1 TE last year despite only starting 7 games. Interestingly enough, Stocker actually started more games then Clark, tallying 11 starts according to NFL.com. The reason for this is Tampa’s offensive game plans. Tampa relied heavily on the run early in games, and Clark is not a blocking TE. Instead, Stocker and Nate Byham would be utilized as run blockers early on, with Dallas Clark coming in for passing plays.
Outside of this, Tampa’s line up looks very familiar. The offensive line, one of the teams most expensive units, has 3 pro bowl talents in Penn, Joseph and Nicks. Martin and Jackson add to the number of offensive pro bowlers, making a total of 5. Martin is coming of a stellar rookie year with 1454 rushing yards and 11 TDs. Jackson had a career high in catches and yards, racking in 72 for 1384. Williams adds another dynamic playmaker and expects to get a new contract before training camp, and Lorig has show to be a very reliable FB. Freeman, who is entering a contract year, rounds out the starting 11.
Tampa may look to add another play maker in the draft this month. If they do, don’t expect it to be from the receiver position. Steve Smith, Kevin Ogletree and Tiquan Underwood round out a very solid group. If Tampa does add another player, look towards the TE position that consists of underwhelming 4th rounder Luke Stocker and career backup Tom Crabtree. Early round targets could include Tyler Eifert and Zach Ertz, who are both projected as 1st or 2nd round picks.
Click the next button below for the defensive and special teams outlook!