With the playoff hopes all but gone, the Buccaneers still have plenty to play for – and plenty to prove – in their final game against the Panthers.
Two weeks ago, this isn’t exactly where Buccaneers fans thought their team would stand. In the driver’s seat for their own playoff destiny, the Buccaneers turned in back-to-back poor outings, resulting in losses and the postseason hopes all but erased. Yet, they enter the final week of the year with plenty to play for.
The Doug Martin news sent shockwaves through the fan base, causing some to be upset while others puffed out their chest with an “I told you so” attitude. Add to that the placement of Cameron Brate and Charles Sims on injured reserve and the loss of Will Gholston, the Buccaneers will be in full evaluation mode while they fight to keep their minuscule playoff dreams alive. They have to win, then hope that the football gods smile upon them in the majority of the other games Sunday.
With the suspension and questions surrounding Martin, Jacquizz Rodgers will again get the feature back role, allowing the coaching staff one more opportunity to evaluate him and see if he is a player they want to bring back next season. Rodgers rushed for 101 yards against the Panthers back in October, but it seems like a bit of a long shot to think Quizz will be the Bucs’ top back come 2017. There is still the outside chance Martin returns – though it seems unlikely at this point – and running back may become a focal point in the draft.
More from Bucs News
- Devin White posts cryptic message to Lavonte David on Twitter
- Updated Buccaneers depth chart after signing two players from rookie minicamp
- Todd Bowles sends clear message about Baker Mayfield’s role with Bucs
- The Athletic is wrong about Bucs one ‘must-watch’ game in 2023
- Todd Bowles admits he only looks at three things on Bucs schedule
You have a secondary that will be evaluated as Chris Conte and Bradley McDougald are both set to become free agents and Keith Tandy will be entering the final year of his contract. Brent Grimes – who I have been critical of at times this season – stepped his game up immensely as the season went on and he will be entering the final year on his contract next season as well. Safety and corner are big needs on this team moving forward, so a guy like Javien Elliott may see extra playing time as the coaches determine his role next season.
You have a receiving corps of guys like Josh Huff, Russell Shepard, and Freddie Martino that may not have roles on this team next year. Shep, of course, will likely be the receiver out of the group not named Mike Evans and Adam Humphries that will be suiting up in 2017. We all know receiver is a major hole on this roster, so there’s a strong possibility these guys get extra work Sunday to see where they stand.
It’s unfortunate – borderline heartbreaking – that the Buccaneers missed out on not only winning the division, but playing a playoff game altogether. They still have a shot at their first winning season since 2010 and a foundation to build on moving forward. Dirk Koetter had a solid rookie season as coach and brought Tampa Bay their first non-losing season since the Raheem Morris days, so there is plenty to be excited for heading into the offseason.
All that being said, this offseason will shape the future of the franchise in a major way. Jason Licht can’t afford to settle on sub-par players or undrafted free agents if this team is going to take the next step.