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2011 Team Report: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Quarterbacks

Starter: Josh Freeman
Backup(s): Josh Johnson, Rudy Carpenter

Starting QB: Freeman took over the starting role of an offense that really lacked an identity at the beginning of the season. The two man wideouts were both rookies, and the rushing game was a large RBBC of guys that nobody really expected to amount to anything. By the end of the season, Freeman was leading an offense that people were beginning to fear and they nearly beat out Green Bay for the final playoff spot. This season, Freeman comes in as the veteran on an offense that is ready to prove itself. He has led the team in off-season workouts and will be a force to be reckoned with when the season begins. Look for Freeman to expand on his performance from last year, and possibly crack the top five for fantasy QBs.

Backup QB: Josh Johnson expressed interest in moving to San Francisco this off-season but it never materialized. He returns to Tampa as one of best backup QBs in the league, and will bide his time until the end of the season when he will become a free agent and probably jump to another squad. He's proven himself under fire, but really doesn't have a long track record of starts to justify big expectations from him if he is in the offense. He's a serviceable backup to Freeman this season, and probably not worth a roster spot on your fantasy team. Rudy Carpenter is the best of the rest at QB for Tampa, and will probably be their #3 emergency QB this season.

Running Backs

Starter: LeGarrette Blount
Backup(s): Allen Bradford, Kregg Lumpkin, Kareem Huggins
Fullback(s): Earnest Graham, Erik Lorig

Starting RB: Like most of the offense last season, LeGarrette Blount emerged from fantasy obscurity to become the main RB for the Bucs last year. His 1000 yard, six TD season basically came after week eight. This year he'll have a full season to run the ball, and should receive the majority of the carries for Tampa. He'll split time with several other backs, but ultimately Blount is the guy that you want on your fantasy team.

Backup RBs: The backup RB situation in Tampa a giant question mark this season. Kareem Huggins was the guy that many were expecting to emerge last year, but he really never made much of the opportunities that he was given. Cadillac Williams has moved on to St. Louis, and Ernest Graham has moved to Full Back. However, Graham could also end up being the main third down back this season. Kregg Lumplin and Allen Bradford will also be given a shot this preseason.

Fullback: Earnest Graham has moved to fullback, but he is making a play for the team's third down back position as well. He'll put up solid numbers for a 'typical' fullback, but you'll have to watch how the pre-season unfolds to determine his ultimate role with the team.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Mike Williams, Arrelious Benn
Backups: Dezmon Briscoe, Michael Spurlock, Sammie Stroughter

Starting WRs: Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn had solid seasons for rookie WRS and really came together by the end of the season. Williams has legitimate stud potential, and finished as the #12 fantasy WR last season. This year, he should crack the top 10 and could even challenge the top five if he reaches the end zone a few more times. Benn started slow, but became more involved in the offense by the end of the season. He had 20 targets in the last four games and although he only came up with nine receptions in that same time period, he has emerged as a legitimate #2 WR. Expect him and Williams to be one of the best #1 and #2 WRs in the league by the end of the season.

Backup WRs: Dezmon Briscoe is having a great camp and he will be a good sleeper WR if Benn isn't ready to go to start the season. He's a big, fluid athlete and the Bucs and Josh Freeman both seem to love him. In the final two games, despite being a backup WR in those game, he still finished with six receptions on seven targets for 93 yards and a TD. Sammie Stroughter and Michael Spurlock will compete for the #4 slot. Although Spurlock has more experience, it's Stroughter who will probably come out on top.

Tight Ends

Starters: Kellen Winslow Jr
Backups: Luke Stocker, Daniel Hardy

Kellen Winslow started slow last year, but came on strong over the last eight games of the season to finish as the #7 fantasy TE for the 2010 season. He still has some juice left in the tank, and as the Tampa offense continues to improve, Winslow will really benefit from it as well. The key with Winslow is that he needs to stay healthy. With multiple knee surgeries over the last several years, the risk of injury is always a concern. If Winslow goes down, rookie Luke Stocker should be the #2 guy and could step right in to solid numbers. Stocker isn't worth a roster spot, but will be a hot waiver wire pickup if Winslow ever goes down.

Place Kicker

Connor Barth, Jacob Rogers : The Bucs grabbed free agent Michael Koenen from the division rival Falcons. He handles punting, kickoffs, and holding. After going through several kickers during the first half of 2009, Connor Barth secured the job for the second half and remains the starter. He's joined in camp by the recently signed undrafted rookie Jacob Rogers out of Cincinnati. Andrew Economos tore his Achilles tendon during the lockout, but is hoping to be ready for the season opener. Handling the snapping in camp is undrafted rookie Christian Yount out of UCLA. The Bucs ranked 22rd and 30th in attempted kicking points the past two years.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Micheal Spurlock, Sammie Stroughter, Preston Parker

Punt Returners: Micheal Spurlock, Sammie Stroughter, Preston Parker

Starting return specialist WR Micheal Spurlock discussed the Bucs return game, "We have a lot of guys that do returns so that just heightens the competition and also brings the best out of everybody. When you see one guy have a good return, you really hone in on having a good return when it's your turn. It just raises the level of competition and raises the bar a little bit and makes everyone better. That's what we did last year and you saw what happened, so we're just trying to keep raising the bar and never get comfortable." Once again, the two players pressing him will be WR Sammie Stroughter and WR Preston Parker.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Donald Penn, LG Ted Larsen, C Jeff Faine, RG Davin Joseph, RT James Lee
Key Backups: TE Jeremy Trueblood, Jeremy Zuttah, Demar Dotson

Team Defense

The Buccaneers are very excited about the prospects of first round pick Adrian Clayborn. The former Hawkeye has already been slotted in as a starter, as a matter of fact. Gerald McCoy, Brian Price and Da'Quan Bowers complete a formidable four man front if everything falls into place. Tyrone McKenzie has been talked about as an option at middle linebacker, but it appears the team wants rookie Mason Foster to seize that role. The Bucs have Ronde Barber returning for another season and the oft-troubled Aqib Talib set to start from Week 1 after some speculation that he would be suspended for a few games.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Adrian Clayborn, DT Gerald McCoy, DT Roy Miller, DE Da'Quan Bowers
Backups: DE Kyle Moore, DE Tim Crowder, DE Michael Bennett, DT Brian Price, DT Al Woods

Starting DL: Rookies Clayborn and Bowers are the defensive ends of the future and will get plenty of duty this year. Both have already seen time with the first team defense this summer. Clayborn will be strong against the run and could provide a savvy pass rush from left end. Bowers slipped all the way to the third day of the draft due to concerns about his recovery from offseason microfracture surgery. He's never been an explosive edge rusher, but he's a polished all-around player with as much upside as any defensive end in this year's draft. Clayborn has a higher fantasy floor, but isn't likely to be more than a DE3. Bowers could be a DE1 in time, but will be brought along slowly and won't see enough snaps to be more than a rotational option. McCoy's 2010 season paled in comparison to that of fellow rookie Ndamukong Suh, but he remains a potential star as the team's three-technique tackle. If he hits his stride this year, he has DT1 upside. Miller is an underrated nose tackle who will continue to see the majority of snaps for now.

Backup DL: Veterans Moore and Crowder were inconsistent last season, and should play a more suitable rotational role this year. Neither are likely to be very disruptive in pass rush, but the team hopes they can hold up well on early downs against the run. Price flashed briefly last year before major surgery for a pelvic injury ended his season. He's not yet ready for more than a rotational role, but will be able to take snaps at both nose tackle and the three-technique when ready.

Linebackers

Starters: OLB Quincy Black, MLB Mason Foster, OLB Geno Hayes
Backups: LB Tyrone McKenzie, OLB Dakoda Watson, OLB Adam Hayward

Starting LBs: The team wasn't willing to give long time starting MLB and defensive anchor Barrett Ruud a big contract in free agency, choosing instead to re-sign Black and develop Foster, their third round pick in this year's draft. Foster will have to earn the MLB job over McKenzie, but should do so by opening weekend. His fantasy value will depend on whether or not he plays in subpackages over Black. Hayes is locked in as the team's WLB. He's no Derrick Brooks, but has the range and coverage ability needed to play the position well. Black is an underrated all-around OLB. Tall and athletic, he holds up well against the run, covers well and has a good pass rush burst. Hayes enters the season as the better fantasy target, but Black could surprise if the team decides to use him as a nickel backer over Foster.

Backup LBs: McKenzie began camp as the starting MLB after impressing the coaching staff last year and this offseason. He showed potential as an ILB in New England's 3-4 before a knee injury and Brandon Spikes left him without a roster spot. He'll be valuable depth when Foster takes over inside. Watson is a quick and rangy player capable of playing either outside linebacker role. Hayward will again provide depth and special teams help.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Ronde Barber, SS Sean Jones, FS Corey Lynch, CB Aqib Talib
Backups: CB E.J. Biggers, CB Myron Lewis, CB Elbert Mack, S Ahmad Black, S Cody Grimm, S Tanard Jackson

Starting DBs: Barber is back for another season in the Tampa Bay secondary. He is again expected to start but will be pushed by E.J. Biggers. Talib has been a mess off the field, but will start again this year. He's clearly the most talented corner on the roster. Jones is no longer an impact player, but he's the best the Bucs have at strong safety. Lynch may have a slight edge to start entering camp, but he'll have a hard time holding off rookie Ahmad Black at free safety. None have much fantasy upside, unless you have deep rosters in a big play league and room to take a risk on Talib as a CB3+.

Backup DBs: Biggers has looked very good in a nickel corner role and will push for more snaps soon. Lewis and Mack remain developmental players. Black is a rangy free safety with good ball skills. He'll be a big improvement in coverage over the inconsistent Lynch and Grimm and could become a fantasy option if he proves himself capable supporting the run from his deep Cover-2 position. Jackson participated in players-only workouts during the lockout, but isn't eligible to be re-instated until Week 3. If the league lets him back on the field, he and Black could be the team's starting safeties by midseason.

Last modified: 2011-08-20 16:04:06

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