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2017 Team Report: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Offensive Philosophy

It's a nearly universal truth that as young quarterbacks develop, their teams rely more and more on them. The 2016 Tampa Bay Buccaneers skewed slightly run-heavy, but expect this universal force to shift them more towards the pass in 2017. Jameis Winston is a poised passer who loves the deep ball, and the acquisition of Desean Jackson, arguably the premier deep threat of the past decade, should only help him in that regard. This extra reliance on the pass could be timely with the running back position relatively unsettled by Doug Martin's poor performance in 2016 and PED suspension to begin 2017.


Starter: Jameis Winston
Backup(s): Ryan Fitzpatrick

Starting QB: Despite another season lacking quality depth of pass-catchers, Jameis Winston improved in his second year with 28 touchdowns and a 60.8% completion rate. His advanced metrics have centered around the NFL average for quarterbacks through two seasons. The Buccaneers offensive line (and run game) did little to help Winston in 2016 as arguably one of the worst run units in the NFL and being merely average as a pass-blocking group. The weapons are on the rise for Winston as Cameron Brate was retained with his restricted free agency status and DeSean Jackson a significant boost opposite Mike Evans at wide receiver. Winston's downfield acumen blends well with Jackson's deep speed to unlock Tampa Bay's simmering pass game in 2017.

Backup QB: Mike Glennon was a luxury as Tampa Bay's primary backup quarterback in recent seasons. With Glennon landing a big money free agent contract as expected, Tampa Bay added Ryan Fitzpatrick in May as the likely primary No.2 quarterback. Fitzpatrick has been an adequate, but unspectacular starter in his NFL career and the market has resulted in little interest of late. Ryan Griffin is a journeyman career backup, spending time on and off the New Orleans practice squad and in Tampa Bay since 2015. Griffin has yet to log regular season action. Sean Renfree logged seven passes over three seasons with Atlanta. After being off an NFL roster for the 2016 season, Tampa Bay signed Renfree this offseason.

Running Backs

Starter: Doug Martin
Backup(s): Charles Sims, Jacquizz Rodgers, Peyton Barber

Starting RB: Doug Martin's status with Tampa Bay is up in the air with no dead money on his contract going forward and a PED violation and suspension of three games upcoming. Even beyond those factors, Martin fell off a cliff in 2016 after a resurgent 2015 campaign. Martin's 2.9 yards-per-carry last year was alarming, averaging 18 carries a contest over his half season of games played. Exiting a running back's historical peak window age-wise, Martin has a very tenuous hold on Tampa Bay's starting job with Jacquizz Rodgers (4.3 yards-per-carry last year), Charles Sims (pass-catching maven), and Peyton Barber (young power-based back) lurking on the depth chart. The team seemed to welcome Martin back into the fold in the offseason and reports were positive about him regaining form, so he is building momentum.

Backup RBs: Jacquizz Rodgers filled-in, admirably, as the lead back for Tampa Bay for a handful of starts in 2016. While undersized, Rodgers runs with pad level and shiftiness between the tackles. Rodgers performed well enough to sign a two-year contract this offseason to stick with the Buccaneers coming off his career-best season. Charles Sims has struggled with the starting role when given the opportunity to-date in his career. Sims catches the ball well as an ideal pass-catching option of a committee, but durability has been a concern missing 17 games over three seasons. Peyton Barber is a no-nonsense power back with nice feet for his 225-pound frame. Outside of Doug Martin, Barber has the most prototypical traits for extended usage on Tampa Bay's current depth chart.


Wide Receivers

Starters: Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson
Backups: Adam Humphries, Chris Godwin [R], Bernard Reedy

Starting WRs: Mike Evans dominated the Tampa Bay passing game yet again in 2016. Entering just his age 24 season, Evans has already logged more than 3,500 career yards and two seasons of 12 touchdowns. The target volume was pronounced for the supersized Evans, Winston's favorite target, but there was a dearth of talent at the receiver spot opposite Evans. Vincent Jackson was a shadow of his former self early in the season and missed the final 11 games. DeSean Jackson's addition offers more single coverage opportunities for Evans, one of the most productive early-career wide receivers in NFL history. The list of receivers with 3,500 yards and 25 touchdowns through three seasons is short: Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, A.J. Green, Odell Beckham, and Mike Evans. DeSean Jackson was one of the big names of NFL free agency. While he has worn out his welcome with a team over time, his initial impact has been noteworthy. In 2014, Jackson's first season in Washington, he averaged 20.9 yards-per-catch and nearly 78 yards-per-game (second-best of his career). Even at age 30 in 2016 Jackson averaged 17.9 yards-per-catch, still displaying his field-tilting speed. With journeyman Russell Shepard leading the non-Mike Evans perimeter receivers in 2016 targets for the Buccaneers with 40 a year ago, Jackson aids the deep-throwing Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, and a lagging run game by keeping safeties to his side of the field.

Backup WRs: Adam Humphries returns as the most established ancillary receiver for Tampa Bay outside of Mike Evans and newly-signed DeSean Jackson. Humphries is adept in the slot as a solid route runner with strong hands - a poor man's Cole Beasley for Jameis Winston in key chain-moving situations. Humphries' 83 targets from 2016 were fueled by Tampa Bay's lack of consistency at the No.2 receiver spot all season. With DeSean Jackson added and Cameron Brate back at tight end, Humphries will have a tough time matching his volume from a year ago. Chris Godwin was a Day 2 pick for Tampa Bay this offseason. Godwin's college tape was adequate but did not match his outstanding NFL Combine performance. Godwin is thick with quality production at Penn State. Freddie Martino was in the post-Vincent Jackson rotation as an ancillary receiver in 2016, logging two games of note among his eight receptions on the season. The third-year small school product possesses a strong 3-cone despite being undersized and an underwhelming overall athlete. Donteea Dye's greatest impact for Tampa Bay has come as a blocker more than a receiver down the depth chart.

Tight Ends

Starters: Cameron Brate
Backups: O.J. Howard [R], Luke Stocker, Alan Cross, Anthony Auclair

After seizing the starting tight end role from underperformer Austin Seferian-Jenkins last offseason, Cameron Brate ran with the job logging 81 targets (third on the team) and an impressive eight touchdowns. While not a true seam-stretcher athlete, Brate wins with contested catches and regularly making the big conversion on key third downs. Brate was retained for 2017 through his exclusive rights free agent tag, making this season a pivotal follow-up opportunity to stick with the franchise long-term. O.J. Howard fell into Tampa Bay's lap at No.19 overall in this year's draft. Howard was viewed as one of the safest prospects in the draft and a strong two-way tight end. With Brate under contract for one more season, expect Howard to work as the secondary option, being groomed for a full-time role in 2018. Luke Stocker is the blocking tight end of choice for Tampa Bay dating back to 2011. His receiving upside is severely limited if called into passing game action, but is serviceable as a secondary option on the line of scrimmage.

Place Kicker

Nick Folk: Tampa signed Nick Folk this offseason and gave him 750,000 dollars guaranteed on a one-year, 1.75 million dollar contract. With that money built in, the Buccaneers seemed prepared to move on from their second round pick before year two, and they did when Aguayo had a poor preseason opener.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Ryan Smith, Adam Humphries

Ryan Smith and Adam Humphries enter the season atop the depth chart by virtue of ending last season there, but neither played well enough to feel comfortable with the current state of affairs.

Punt Returners: Adam Humphries, DeSean Jackson

Despite his struggles on kickoff returns, Adam Humphries has played quite well on punt returns and could revise his role in 2017. New addition DeSean Jackson is on the wrong side of thirty, very important on offense, and hasn't handled full-time return duties since he played for Philadelphia in 2013, but he's also one of the most electric playmakers in recent NFL history and could find himself with opportunities on special teams as the season goes along.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Donovan Smith, LG Kevin Pamphile, C Joe Hawley, RG Ali Marpet, RT Demar Dotson
Key Backups: J.R. Sweezy, Caleb Benenoch, Evan Smith, Leonard Wester

The Buccaneers' offensive line has talent the only question is how exactly that talent will be employed, especially at the interior positions. J.R. Sweezy is back from injury and the team will be working him at right guard. That could mean right guard Ali Marpet will move over to center to compete with current starter Joe Hawley. Kevin Pamphile took the left guard job last season and doesn't appear to be giving it back any time soon. Evan Smith is also a capable starting quality player who can contribute all three interior positions. The tackle story is much simpler as Donovan Smith and Demar Dotson provide good but not great bookends. There are no other listed tackles on the roster, although Pamphile could kick out there if needed. Overall this line has improved in recent seasons and they are a solid middle of the pack line. The ranking can improve as the exact starting positions shake out in preseason.

Team Defense

An early season malaise was shrugged off quickly and the Bucs finished the season as a mid-low D/ST1 in most formats after some dominant performances in the second half of the season. Only the Chiefs and Giants D/STs rivaled their production from Week 5 on. Only the Raiders and Panthers had more combined forced fumbles and interceptions over the course of the season. Despite these facts, the Bucs are still going outside of the top 15 in most 2017 drafts. They should be drafted as a D/ST1, so seeing their ADP this low is a convincing argument to wait as long as you can at the position. The front seven is strong and deep as the team retained William Gholston and added Chris Baker in free agency. JJ Wilcox was added to reinforce the secondary and 2016 first-round pick Vernon Hargreaves should grow in his second year opposite Brent Grimes. Everything is looking up for this team on the offensive side of the ball too. Along with Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Tampa represents one of the best values in the D/ST crop.

Defensive Line

Starters: DT Gerald McCoy, NT Clinton McDonald, DE Robert Ayers, DE William Gholston
Backups: DT Chris Baker, DT Sealver Siliga, DE Noah Spence, DE Jacquies Smith, DE Channing Ward, DE Ryan Russell

Starting DL: Gerald McCoy has been the beating heart of the Bucs defensive front since being drafted. He doesn't always garner the plaudits he should for his consistent play, but his all-around game has been pivotal in the Bucs' change in fortunes. The Bucs have even spoken about giving him snaps at defensive end in 2017. Clinton McDonald is the presumptive starter at 1-technique, but new signing Chris Baker looms ominously in the background and could unseat McDonald with a solid training camp. Baker was often criticised for his lack of work ethic in Washington, but the Bucs obviously feel he can contribute. William Gholston was retained by the team on a five-year deal this offseason. Predominantly a run stopping defensive end, he has the ability to move inside and create havoc on passing downs as well. Robert Ayers missed some time last year and may see his role dwindle as young phenom Noah Spence continues to develop his game.

Backup DL: Chris Baker stands out among the backups as a player who could make a significant impact and break into the starting lineup. Noah Spence underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in the offseason after it emerged he had played with the injury for most of his rookie campaign. A full offseason to recover and learn his craft should see him take a step forward in 2017. Reports that Spence has added muscle and dropped a few pounds, as well as an influx of positive comments from teammates, portends good things for this season. He has been the 'hot name' at training camp. Jacquies Smith is a useful depth player on a defensive line suddenly brimming with options, but suffered a setback in camp and will require another operation. He is likely to start the season on PUP. An older prospect, Stevie Tu'ikolovatu offers the Bucs a wrecking ball at nose tackle. The big man showed a knack for making a nuisance of himself in college and represents a safe investment and a possible long term backup to Chris Baker.


Starters: WLB Lavonte David, MLB Kwon Alexander, SLB Devante Bond WLB Lavonte David, MLB Kwon Alexander, SLB Devante Bond
Backups: LB Adarius Glanton, LB Cameron Lynch, LB Kendell Beckwith [R]

Starting LBs: The duo of Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander clicked beautifully last season and were a big part of the Bucs' defensive turnaround. Alexander in particular went from an afterthought to one of the most talented young linebackers in the league, racking up tackles for fun. David, for his part, saw his tackle output fall dramatically, but his play remained at a steady pace. With these two in tow, the Bucs have the ability to hang with any offense. Devante Bond is the presumptive starter on the strong side, but he will be taken off the field in subpackages and is untested.

Backup LBs: Former Panther Adarius Glanton is a useful fill-in option if the Bucs are stuck, but beyond him they are lacking depth at linebacker and could add some bodies prior to camp kicking off. Kendell Beckwith should slot in immediately as a quality backup and special teams option.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Brent Grimes, CB Vernon Hargreaves III, SS T.J. Ward, FS Chris Conte
Backups: CB Josh Robinson, CB Robert McClain, CB Javien Elliott, S Keith Tandy, CB Ryan Smith, S Justin Evans [R]

Starting DBs: Vernon Hargreaves looked the part in his rookie season, playing all 16 games and recording 68 solo tackles on a much improved Bucs defense. Head coach Dirk Koetter stated this offseason that he wanted Hargreaves to play with more of an aggressive streak, an element of his game that will come with time. Opposite the precocious 21-year-old cornerback is the crusty, cantankerous veteran Brent Grimes, who at 34 years old still has a nasty streak. His veteran presence will help Hargreaves' game develop and he can be a safe pair of hands in the back end. Safety is a bit more in flux, although the roster cuts allowed the Bucs to pick up veteran T.J. Ward on the cheap. J.J. Wilcox was traded to the Steelers for a draft pick after the Ward signing, so it is likely to be a Ward/Chris Conte combination in the back end.

Backup DBs: The Bucs are lacking true difference makers among their backup defensive backs, but former Viking Josh Robinson is a name to keep an eye out for. J.J. Wilcox was brought in on a two-year deal but was traded to the Steelers after the signing of T.J. Ward. Justin Evans will compete as well for starting snaps, although the rookie will have to be patient to unseat the veteran incumbents. Koetter has sung the praises of second-year cornerback Ryan Smith in minicamps. He is a candidate to back up Hargreaves and Grimes. Keith Tandy enters his fourth season as a pro with the Bucs, and will look to build on his four-interception campaign of 2016.

Last modified: 2017-09-05 16:39:08