Buccaneers: Where are the Bucs focused on improving?

TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 31: A Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan is seen in the second quarter of a game against the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium on December 31, 2017 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 31: A Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan is seen in the second quarter of a game against the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium on December 31, 2017 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

By now most of you have certainly heard about the comments made by Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht.

Talking about the 2017 season, we’ve already gotten in depth with the decision to bring Mike Smith back as the Buccaneers’ defensive coordinator this coming season. Now, we’re going to look to the future.

Specifically, what he sees as the biggest concerns for the future.

Last year, leading up to the draft, there weren’t many who expected O.J. Howard to be the pick. Many fans wanted running back Dalvin Cook as they saw Doug Martin as being almost assuredly on his way out following a stint in rehab and four-game suspension.

Howard wasn’t expected to be the pick, because Howard wasn’t supposed to be available. Graded by many as a Top-5 NFL talent in 2017’s NFL Draft, there was almost no scenario which resulted in the Alabama tight end getting past Tennessee just one selection ahead of the Bucs.

Instead, the Titans took USC’s Adoree’ Jackson. Not a bad pick, and while he had success this season, I bet Titans fans are wishing they had a talent like Howard on their squad.

Must Read: What about Koetter's O-Line?

Bucs fans then turned to the second-round. Surely, Jason Licht would take a running back here. Painfully for the Cook hopeful, the Florida State star went nine picks before Tampa got on the clock again.

So, the pick was Justin Evans. Safety, from Texas A&M. Who? Many didn’t expect him, talk about him, and I don’t remember seeing one expert mock draft him to the Bucs. I certainly didn’t.

Yes, Alvin Kamara was on the board still. So was Kareem Hunt. I have no clue what grades they had on those guys, but they obviously didn’t prioritize replacing Martin as much as the fans did.

Chris Godwin was the next pick. Wide receiver depth was an area of concern, so it was a good pick, and most agreed. Then came the trade to get back into the end of the third round. The 107th pick. I envisioned it, and predicted it as I sat in front of my webcam, live, as a guest on the Cat Chronicles’ live draft stream.

The pick absolutely had to be: Running back, Marlon Mack, from the South Florida Bulls. It made perfect sense! Draft Mack, release Martin, pair the rookie with Jacquizz Rodgers and spell them both with Charles Sims, then keep Peyton Barber as a powerful straight-line option. Save money and add young talent. Beautiful!


Kendall Beckwith. A linebacker. Was linebacker really a position they needed to bolster? Especially with a trade up which left the team without a fourth-round pick?

So, what can we all learn from this? Well, simply, the Buccaneers are going to do what they want to do no matter what we all think.

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This is a surprise to some, not so much to others.

When Jason Licht spoke to Rick Stroud from the Tampa Bay Times, most everyone honed in on his “cringe” worthy comment.

However, his comments about the defense and the running game are what stuck out to me.

Injuries to Noah Spence and Jacquies Smith derailed the team’s pass rush. This according to the general manager, and I’m sure it would be echoed by Jay Hayes, Mike Smith, and Dirk Koetter.

Vernon Hargreaves was a disappointment early on, got better in the middle of the year, then missed the final stretch with a hamstring injury.

No mention of the safeties.

On offense, it’s all on Doug.

“I think the lack of, or having a hard time getting the run game was…you know, Doug just didn’t have…he just wasn’t ever the same, and it wasn’t until late that Peyton kind of arrived and things started going a little bit better with him, starting with the Green Bay game and on and on.”

Those are Licht’s words from Stroud’s article for the Tampa Bay Times.

In my opinion, the offensive line needs some help. There aren’t many better than the first-round options in this year’s class. Expecting any real impact from linemen drafted after the first night, is improbable and highly unlikely to happen.

Developmental, yes, but no sure starters after the first few fly off the board. I’m not alone. Several fans have voiced their desire to see Quenton Nelson join the Buccaneers in the first round.

Some say so if Bradley Chubb is unavailable, some say they want Nelson before anything else. Some say Minkah Fitzpatrick, and I think I saw a Derwin James in there.

Oh, and then there’s Saquon Barkley.

So, let’s evaluate. Last year’s message from the Buccaneers was ‘weapons for Winston’, right? They drafted a tight end, a wide receiver, and a running back with wide receiver in his background.

At least for now, the message is improving the pass rush, the running game, and a veiled vote of confidence at corner.

If the Bucs are at all confident in what they saw later from Hargreaves than what they saw earlier, you can all but take Fitzpatrick off the board. Unless Brent Grimes retires perhaps.

So, it seems it comes down to Barkley and Chubb. The runner and the rusher.

No Nelson. And maybe, for real this time, no Martin.

Next: Projecting 2018 wins, already?

There are many ways to look at the Buccaneers draft position, but all we have to go on are the words of the man dictating the card. It’s the season of smoke-screens and misdirection, but Tampa didn’t do much of this last year.

Maybe this year, we should all believe them.

David Harrison is one of the Buccaneers Co-Experts for The Pewter Plank. You can reach him about this or any other NFL topic on Facebook, or on Twitter.

"The guys at the Locked on Bucs podcast spoke more about Jason Licht’s comments. Check it out here!"