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2012 Team Report: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Quarterbacks

Starter: Josh Freeman
Backup(s): Dan Orlovsky, Brett Ratliff

Starting QB: At the end of the 2010 season, Josh Freeman was coming off a seventh-place finish among quarterbacks and was thought to be one of the better, young, rising QBs in the league. Four games into the 2011 season, the Bucs hit a rough part of their schedule and never recovered. Instead of continuing to rise up the ranks, Freeman struggled, but surprisingly finished 16th thanks to four rushing touchdowns. This year, the Buccaneers have a whole new coaching staff led by head coach Greg Schiano and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, formerly the Giants quarterback coach. The Buccaneers added standout wide receiver Vincent Jackson in the off season and added multi-talented running back Doug Martin via the draft. The offense has vastly improved from a year ago, which should help Freeman in his quest to rebound back to his winning ways. Expectations will not be high for him this year, but he is capable of finishing in the Top 12.

Backup QB: The Buccaneers current backup quarterback plan is led by fifth-year pro, Dan Orlovsky, who spent time as a starter for the Colts last season. In his last 13 appearances with more than 10 pass attempts, Orlovsky has at least one TD pass in 11 of those 13 games. He is a capable backup that has shown he can move the ball down the field and put his team into scoring position. Brett Ratliff will battle Dan Persa and UDFA signee Zach Collaros for the third string quarterback role.

Running Backs

Starter: Doug Martin [R]
Backup(s): LeGarrette Blount, Michael Smith [R], Danny Ware
Fullback(s): Erik Lorig

Starting RB: The Buccaneers traded back into the first round to select running back Doug Martin, who figures to be a big part of the Buccaneers running game this year. Martin has been compared to former Rutgers runner Ray Rice, who Greg Schiano knows all too well. He was hand picked to be the Buccaneers eventual tailback of choice, which bodes well for his fantasy value as early as this year. He may not be the fastest back, but he makes up for it with outstanding pass-catching skills, plus a very physical style of play, similar to Jonathan Stewart, in that he doesn't go down without a fight - always striving for that extra yard. His ability to make plays as a receiver out of the backfield could yield 35+ receptions and a possible Top 15 finish.

Backup RBs: LeGarrette Blount suffered a groin injury in week two of preseason and likely will lose ground on the battle to compete with Doug Martin for the starting running back role this year; Blount's lack of versatility in the offense may be enough for Tampa Bay to consider Martin as the primary rushing threat sooner, rather than later. Blount does not have the receiving ability that Martin has, plus he has been known to have trouble with turnovers. A slow start to the season would definitely give the new Bucs coaching staff a reason to look elsewhere for their primary ball carrier. The offense will be new to both backs, which removes any prior playbook experience that Blount had on the rookie. The best man for the job will ultimately win this battle, that could be decided in the first quarter of the season. Rookie running back Michael Smith is next in line behind LeGarrette Blount. While Blount is a bigger, bruising style of runner, Smith at 5'8", 206 pounds, is more compact with surprising power for his size and weight. The Bucs also signed Danny Ware, who was released by the Giants on cut down day. Ware has experience with OC Mike Sullivan, from his days in New York. He has the ability and experience in Sullivan's offense to jump in front of Michael Smith on the depth chart sooner rather than later.

Fullback: Erik Lorig is the Buccaneers' sole fullback on the roster at this time. It is unclear how often Tampa Bay will utilize the fullback, but Lorig is not expected to provide much value from a fantasy standpoint.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams
Backups: Preston Parker, Arrelious Benn, Sammie Stroughter

Starting WRs: The off season signing of veteran wide receiver Vincent Jackson will definitely provide a spark for the Buccaneers offense. He is expected to be the team's primary receiving threat. Generally, however, Jackson has not been asked to be a 10+ target per week receiver, and that should continue in Tampa Bay. His presence will help stretch the field for quarterback Josh Freeman, thus giving the offense an added facet that wasn't too prominent in 2011. Mike Williams figures to be the WR2 and will try to right the ship after a sophomore slump ruined the memory of a promising rookie campaign. Reports came in that he was not motivated enough to do what it takes to keep focused and improving after a relatively successful rookie season. Perhaps he will rebound now that he won't be the primary threat from a defensive perspective.

Backup WRs: Preston Parker figures to be the wide receiver the Bucs use primarily out of the slot with Arrelious Benn coming in for three-, four-, and five-WR sets. Parker had a few good games in 2011 and should continue to be a reliable target for Josh Freeman, especially in clutch third-down situations. Arrelious Benn has shown flashes from time to time, but has not found a consistent presence in the offense yet. Sammie Stroughter figures to have more of a role as a kick/punt returner, but he is capable of producing from the X, Y or Z position.

Tight Ends

Starters: Dallas Clark
Backups: Luke Stocker, Zack Pianalto, Danny Noble, Drake Dunsmore, Collin Franklin

The Buccaneers leading receiver last year was none other than veteran tight end Kellen Winslow, who managed 75 receptions on 119 targets, for 763 yards but only a pair of touchdowns to show for it. Winslow finished as the 15th-best fantasy tight end despite the high number of catches. When Winslow balked at the team's offseason conditioning program, new head coach Greg Schiano promptly traded the tight end in May and signed the veteran Dallas Clark. The former Colts tight end is likely to start or at least be the featured receiver of the tight end depth chart. The addition of Vincent Jackson will likely mean Clark will benefit from the attention spent on the former Charger. Jackson's skills should lead to less congested zones in the middle of the field and fewer double teams on Clark. This should translate into starter-caliber touchdown totals, but not the production Clark has in the past with Peyton Manning. Ultimately, Clark could be a Top 12 TE with the potential to reach Top 10 if the touchdown production is there. Luke Stocker will be entering his second season in 2012 and is projected to be the Buccaneers TE2 behind Dallas Clark. The new coaching staff is not expected to feature many two-TE sets, where both Clark and Stocker will be running routes, but Stocker's presence in the offense should increase. The presence of Clark limits the upside for Stocker. Zach Pianalto enters his second season after catching four passes for 40 yards as a rookie last year.

Place Kicker

Connor Barth, Kai Forbath : Once again Michael Koenen will handle punting, kickoffs, and holding, while Andrew Economos will handle long snapping. The Bucs kept Connor Barth to handle placekicking first by using their franchise tag and then subsequently signing him to a new 4-year deal. Last year he posted the best numbers of his four year career, hitting 26 of 28 (92.9%) on field goals. Half of those came in the 40-49 yard range. The roster also includes kicker Kai Forbath, who was claimed off waivers from Dallas in April. The Bucs ranked only 26th, 22nd and 30th in attempted kicking points the past three years.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Sammie Stroughter, Preston Parker, Michael Smith [R], Leonard Johnson [R]

Last season, WR Sammie Stroughter split time with WR Preston Parker on kickoff returns and significantly outperformed Parker. The Bucs added a pair of potential rookie returners, seventh round running back Michael Smith and undrafted cornerback Leonard Johnson. Johnson made the freshman All-American list in college as a kick returner, but his 4.71 time in the 40 yard dash brings his potential as an NFL returner into question.

Punt Returners: Preston Parker, Sammie Stroughter

Last season, Parker was decent if not exceptional on punt returns. He is expected to retain that job in 2012.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Donald Penn, LG Carl Nicks, C Jeremy Zuttah, RG Ted Larsen, RT Jeremy Trueblood
Key Backups: T Demar Dotson, T Jamon Meredith, G Derek Hardman, G Julian Vanderwelde, G Davin Joseph (Inj)

UPDATE: The recent loss of guard Davin Joseph for the year (knee) was huge for the Bucs. Using our ranking system, swapping in Ted Larsen for Joseph results in a drop from 6 to 15. This is a big drop. Joseph was a multiple pro bowl/all-pro type of player. Ted Larsen is actually a tough and rugged player. But he's a huge drop off from Joseph. The Bucs go from one of the best lines in the league to more of an average or mediocre line. PRESEASON OUTLOOK: Left guard Carl Nicks was an expensive free agency addition, and he brings a serious resume. Besides his Super Bowl ring from 2010, Nicks is a two time All-Pro and widely considered to be one of the best guards in the game. Left tackle Donald Penn played in his first Pro Bowl in 2011 and is an extremely underrated pass protector. Penn is also a rare athlete; he caught several passes and blocked an extra point in 2009. Center Jeremy Zuttah is solid and known as an extremely versatile lineman having starting experience at both guard spots. Right guard Davin Joseph is a former first-round selection and two time Pro Bowl selection suffered a knee injury in week three of the preseason. He will be missed and is replaced by Ted Larsen. Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood is a nasty bruiser, the type of player who starts fights in preseason just for fun. Trueblood can be exploited in pass protection, but coaches love to have a guy like him in the lineup. Demar Dotson will compete with Jamon Meredith for the swing tackle position. Overall this is an extremely talented (and expensive) offensive line, and it should be one of the league's best. The cohesion is very good as only Nicks is a new addition. Under new coach Greg Schiano, expect a heavy dose of run blocking out of this group.

Team Defense

The Buccaneers allowed the most points (30.8 PPG) in the league last year that includes 30 passing TDs allowed and 26 rushing TDs allowed. They managed a league low 23 sacks and were not considered a viable fantasy Def/ST unit by any stretch, despite scoring four defensive TDs. Can this unit improve in 2012? Injuries decimated the defensive line last year that resulted in a very porous run defense. Gerald McCoy will be back from a torn biceps and the team added DTs Amobi Okoye and Gary Gibson via free agency. The latest news of a torn Achilles for DE Da'Quan Bowers is not good. Look for Michael Bennett to occupy the starting left DE position. The Buccaneers have two notable defensive players coming in that can contribute right away. Mark Barron was the top safety in the draft and should provide a big presence on defense against the run as well as the pass. OLB Lavonte David also figures to receive a lot of playing time as he adds to a young, but good LB corps, anchored by MLB Mason Foster. Aqib Talib is expected to be the team's starting CB with either veteran Ronde Barber or FA signee Eric Wright occupying the opposite CB position. A healthy Buccaneers team will likely be much better than last year's abysmal unit. There will be some growing pains under a new coaching staff, however the pieces are in place for this team to improve on last year's ranking. They are not considered a team to target for your fantasy squad and likely won't break into the Top 20.

Defensive Line

Starters: DT Gerald McCoy, DT Brian Price, DE Adrian Clayborn, DE Michael Bennett
Backups: DT Roy Miller, DT Amobi Okoye, DE Da'Quan Bowers

Starting DL: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive front is one of the most promising units on this young roster. Gerald McCoy returns from a season-ending biceps injury with the words of new head coach Greg Schiano -- that McCoy can be a "dominant force" in the NFL -- ringing in his ears, no doubt. McCoy is a much better run defender than pass rusher from the 3-technique DT spot. McCoy has never started a full 16-game season in his two-year career; this year, he has the potential to reach 25+ solo tackles and be a starter calibre DT or DL4. Brian Price's 2011 campaign left a lot to be desired and he is not worth rostering in fantasy leagues. At defensive end, Adrian Clayborn was a revelation for the team in his rookie season, registering 8 sacks and 23 tackles to go along with 15 assists. Clayborn, with a full offseason under his belt, should be the most productive defensive end on this roster and be a decent DL3 in all formats. Opposite him, the position at LDE is up for grabs, but the favourite now has to be the veteran, Michael Bennett. Bennett played exceptionally well in run defense last season and had 32 tackles. If he stays in the starting job and does not give up too many snaps to the likes of Bowers, he is a trustworthy DL3 with DL2 upside.

Backup DL: Da'Quan Bowers was quite impressive in limited action last season, but he will need to do it all over again to wow the new coaching staff. An Achilles tear on May 10th has derailed hopes for a full season in 2012, but the team is optimistic that he can contribute near the end of the season. At DT, the Buccaneers have good depth with former first round pick Amobi Okoye and Roy Miller.

Linebackers

Starters: MLB Mason Foster, OLB Quincy Black, OLB Lavonte David
Backups: OLB Adam Hayward, OLB Dekoda Watson, MLB Najee Goode, OLB Rennie Curran

Starting LBs: None of the Buccaneers linebackers played well last season, resulting in the haemorrhaging of yardage on the ground in most games. The absence of Gerald McCoy did not help, but they also missed a lot of tackles. Mason Foster will continue to man the middle in this defense, but it remains to be seen if Schiano will trust him enough to keep him on the field in obvious passing situations. Quincy Black will start at SLB, with rookie Lavonte David -- a sure tackler, it is worth noting -- likely to secure a starting job on the weak side. Black has decent value as an LB3, while Lavonte David will be a hot commodity and a sneaky late draft pick if he starts from Week 1. Foster reached the 65 tackle mark last season, but could achieve much more if he plays all three downs. Lavonte David, with his sideline to sideline speed and solid tackling ability, is the Buccaneers LB to own in fantasy leagues this year.

Backup LBs: Adam Hayward has a chance to remain at WLB should David struggle in picking up the playbook. Draft pick Najee Goode will back up Foster at MLB, but his impact is not likely to be felt until 2013 at the earliest.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Aqib Talib, CB Eric Wright, SS Mark Barron, FS Cody Grimm
Backups: CB/FS Ronde Barber, CB E.J. Biggers, S Ahmad Black

Starting DBs: Aqib Talib and free agent acquisition Eric Wright are the starters at cornerback. There were some rumours that the team would try to trade Talib before the draft, but nothing materialised. Talib is the best CB from a talent standpoint on the roster. His upside is limited, especially with the team moving from a predominantly Tampa-2 defense to a man coverage-based defense. Eric Wright should see plenty of targets and will outproduce Talib in the tackle column. At safety, Mark Barron provides an instant upgrade and should become a leader in this defense. Barron is smart, physical and has the skill set to be adept at run defense and pass defense. He is a candidate to be a top ten defensive back in all league formats. Cody Grimm will likely play FS beside Barron. In limited time in 2010, Grimm was reasonably productive, with 43-14 in 11 games.

Backup DBs: Ronde Barber will be moved to play the slot CB position, but that should not damage his production too much. Barber had 70 tackles last season, but should see that number drop to make him only worth a bench spot on your roster.

Last modified: 2012-09-02 20:32:26

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