The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming off of a 4-12 season, with the “toes on the line” Greg Schiano era over and done with, and the Lovie Smith era just beginning. While most 4-12 teams probably aren’t so optimistic about the future, the Bucs have every reason to have high expectations in 2014. They have two first team all-pros returning on defense in Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David, who plan on taking their team’s play to new heights with a coach that has a history of producing top ten defenses in the NFL. Fans are chomping at the bit for a Buccaneer playoff appearance. The team hasn’t won a playoff game since winning Super Bowl XXXVII against the Oakland Raiders on January 26, 2003, and haven’t been to the playoffs since losing in their 2007 Wild Card game to the eventual-champion New York Giants. This team needs success, and it needs it now. The Tampa Bay area has been struggling with attendance issues, which hadn’t been a problem for the Bucs until the year 2009 when Raheem Morris took over as head coach. Ever since, the Buccaneers have rarely sold out any of their games, and have experienced local blackouts because of it. This year, however, there will be no blackouts. Fans are confident that with Lovie Smith at the helm, the Bucs are poised to turn the tide of the franchise in their favor. And if there is any year to do it, 2014 is the year. New uniforms, a new head coach, and a newly-found confidence that this team is capable of putting together their first winning season since 2010.
KEY OFFSEASON CHANGES
Additions: DE Michael Johnson (FA), CB Alterraun Verner (FA), QB Josh McCown (FA), WR Mike Evans (Draft), TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Draft), C Evan Dietrich-Smith (FA), DT Clinton McDonald (FA), OL Oniel Cousins (FA), G Logan Mankins (Trade w/ NE), TE Brandon Myers (FA).
Losses: CB Darrelle Revis, G Davin Joseph, WR Mike Williams, TE Tim Wright, LT Donald Penn.
Rookies To Watch: WR Mike Evans, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, WR Robert Herron.
2014 SCHEDULE AND PREDICTIONS
It is incredibly difficult to try and predict exactly what this season will hold for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Most of the Bucs’ success will be predicated on how well their quarterback plays (whether it be McCown for the whole season, or Mike Glennon at some point), and how well the offensive line blocks for him and Doug Martin. For the most part, we already know that this defense is capable of great things, and fans are expected to hold the team to that defensive prowess. Still, things are up in the air in Tampa Bay. Here are the best and worst case scenarios for the Bucs in 2014.
Best case scenario: 12-4.
If everything goes according to plan for the Buccaneers, then they are very capable of shocking the NFL world this season. If healthy, this defense has the ability to absolutely shut down offenses; even the high-powered machines in the NFC South. For the Bucs to put together this dominant of a regular season, they will have to have stellar play from their quarterback. Josh McCown threw for 13 touchdowns and only one interception in his five games with the Bears last season, and showed great mobility and spectacular decision making. He doesn’t need to be that good, however, he does need to show his poise on a regular basis. If he doesn’t, then don’t be shocked if 2nd-year man Mike Glennon takes over the reigns to the offense. For this result to happen, expect Doug Martin to return to the Pro Bowl after being absent from Hawaii after spending most of 2013 on IR, and both Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans would be up towards 10 touchdown receptions, and right around the 1000 yard receiving mark. Last, but not least, the Bucs would have to relentlessly attack opposing quarterbacks and win the turnover battle regularly. Thinking back to the Super Bowl season (the only time the team has gone 12-4), those Buccaneers created turnovers like bakers make pies. It was a thing of beauty watching Warren Sapp get a sack and strip, and having Derrick Brooks take it in for the score. Moments like that can now be recreated with McCoy and David, along with some of the other guys like Dashon Goldson and Alterraun Verner. The schedule is a tough one, but if the Buccaneers can get off to a hot start, then this team could be on their way to one incredible year.
Worst case scenario: 6-10
Like I just said, the Buccaneers have a tough schedule. They begin the year against two defenses that gave them fits last season in the Panthers and Rams, then they go on the road for three straight games. Three of their first five games are also against divisional foes, so if the Bucs don’t have their ducks in a row by then, 2014 could be a rough year. A lot of it will depend on how well the new-look offensive line can gel, and if the offense can muster up enough points to support their defense’s efforts. A 6-10 season would likely mean that the Bucs would bench Josh McCown some time during the year in an effort to see if Mike Glennon could spark the team. It would also mean that a lot of things didn’t pan out exactly as we hoped it would. For instance, the Buccaneers have not had the best of luck with the injury bug over the past few seasons, and 6-10 would probably mean that a few key players would be missing. The team needs most of their starters in tact, as the preseason may have shown us Tampa Bay’s lack of depth. Behind a few star players here and there, the Bucs might not have much else in the tank in lots of key areas. While the defensive line and running back positions are deep, positions like cornerback and safety don’t have too much promise passed the starting rotation.
Team MVP: Gerald McCoy.
Barring a significant setback, I see Gerald McCoy having the best year of his career in 2014. He is coming off the best year he has had thus far, and has looked like even more of a dominant force in limited preseason reps. The Buccaneers have been slowly building this defense around him for a few years now, and it finally seems as if McCoy is ready to lead this team to the playoffs. I would not be shocked to see McCoy have a double-digit sack season, and if he does, you might be calling him the NFL’s defensive player of the year. I think McCoy has the potential to be that good in 2014.
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