Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
LDE Da’Quan Bowers
NT Derek Landri
DT Gerald McCoy
RDE Adrian Clayborn
WLB Lavonte David
MLB Mason Foster
SLB Adam Hayward
LCB Leonard Johnson
RCB Eric Wright
SS Mark Barron
The biggest difference this year will surely be on the defense. Derek Landri and Da’Quan Bowers take over for the absent Roy Miller and Michael Bennett. Landri comes to Tampa to provide a different dynamic that we haven’t seen for the Tilt Nose position before, a pass rush. Landri has tallied 8 total sacks in his career and looks to help keep the pressure off of probowler Gerald McCoy, who is coming off his best season since being drafted in 2010. McCoy, who stayed healthy for a full season for the first time in his career, totaled 5 sacks, 30 tackles and 1 forced fumble in a year where he dominated the line of scrimmage for Tampa Bay.
At defensive end, Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers make for an immensely talented but unproven pair. Clayborn had a stellard rookie season in 2011, but lost all but 3 games in his 2012 campaign due to a knee injury. Meanwhile, Bowers is looking to have his first full NFL season without injury and must replace Tampa’s leading sacker Michael Bennett, who departed for Seattle this offseason. If these two young DEs can stay on the field together, they could become a great pair for years to come. The problem now is staying on the field.
The linebacker group looks relatively the same, with the only difference being the absence of Quincy Black. Black was let go after suffering what many fear is a career ending neck injury last season. Quincy would be replaced by Adam Hayward today, but Dekota Watson and newcomer Johnathan Cassillas could challenge Hayward for the spot.
Mason Foster and Lavonte David return to the starting lineup, making up the most consistent group on last years defense. Foster had an up and down season with mostly ups, having only had a slight problem in pass coverage. David on the other hand had an outstanding rookie campaign, leading the team with 139 tackles while also adding 2 sacks and an INT.
The secondary is where the outlook looks a little bleak. At CB, Tampa is forced to start Eric Wright and Leonard Johnson. Wright was a decent #2 for Tampa bay before getting hit with a four game suspension for the use of PEDs. If Wright is to stay on the roster, he is going to have to restructure his contract. Johnson probably should not be a starting CB at this point in his career, but circumstances last year forced him into a starting role. Johnson played admirably, tallying 3 INTs, but eventually his lack of experience showed. Johnson still could be a nickle corner this year, but Tampa will look to find another starting caliber corner this year in the draft or through trade.
The safety position is much more stable. Mark Dominick set his sights early this offseason on free agent safety Dashon Goldson of the 49ers and signed him to a 5 year contract worth 41.25 million dollars. Goldson adds an instant presence to Tampa’s defense. He will work along side Mark Barron to provide on of the hardest hitting safety tandems in the league.
If Tampa is going to add any talent to this defense in the draft, expect it to come from the secondary. Darrell Revis is still rumored to be on the table for Tampa, and it is completely possible the Bucs add a rookie corner in the first 2 rounds this year.
K Connor Barth
PR Chris Owusu
KR Chris Owusu
The special teams hasn’t really changed. But there is still a major problem here. No one is really all that good at returning punts and kickoffs. Owusu got a little time there late last year, but he did not do enough to secure the spot. Unfortunatley he is the best option the Bucs have until someone else proves to be a better fit.
If the season began today, Tampa still would be a few players short of a top notch team. The draft later this month as well as what is left of Free Agency will provide more chances for Tampa to rectify this, but they are slowly running out of options.
So what do you think Buccaneers fans. How should Tampa improve on this list? Let us know in the comments below.