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2010 Team Report: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Quarterbacks

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

Starting QB: Tampa Bay's quarterback play (actually, the entire offense) was terrible in 2009. As a result, the Buccaneers finished the season 30th in points scored and 28th in total yards. On a game-by-game basis, they were shut out once and held to single digits in four other games. In nine contests, the passing game was held below 200 yards and has fewer than 100 yards twice. Pretty inept. On the bright side, however, was the decent finish. Over the last six games, the Buccaneers passes for more than 200 yards four times and even surpassed the 300-yard mark once. Josh Freeman started the second half of the season and was as inconsistant as most rookie quarterbacks are. There were three games with more than 250 passing yards and four with fewer than 200. There were three multi-TD outings and five with multiple INTs. Fairly typical for a first-year signal caller on a bad team. The best thing we saw last year was Freeman's demeanor. Despite struggling at times, he kept his poise and never seemed overwhelmed. Also, due to his on-field experience, he now completely understands how the game speeds up compared to college, and he seems to have put in a lot of work over the offseason. Buccaneers quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt says Freeman has done a lot of growing by watching film and understanding the offense better. Further, he is saying all of the right things about taking workouts seriously and leading his team to wins. We expect him to improve in 2010, but he still will be hampered by a receiving corps that lacks dynamic, experienced players. When the receivers improve, Freeman's numbers will as well, and that makes him a better pick in a dynasty league than in a redraft.

Backup QB: Josh Johnson started four games in 2009 after he replaced Byron Leftwich in Week 3. Johnson never had a game with more TDs than INTs and finished his month-long stint behind center with four scores and eight picks. He slots into the backup role simply because Rudy Carpenter and Jevon Snead aren't ready to be on the field. Snead is a mildly interesting case. A year ago, he was whispered as a Heisman candidate but struggled mightily as a college junior. He then surprise many by declaring for the NFL Draft and then surprised few by not even being selected. He's considered a long shot to make the final roster. The Buccaneers have clearly handed the team over to Freeman, but they are in a lot of trouble if he misses time.

Running Backs

Starter: Cadillac Williams
Backup(s): Derrick Ward, Clifton Smith, Karem Huggins
Fullback(s): Chris Pressley, Earnest Graham

Starting RB: The ground game as a whole wasn't horrible last year as the Buccaneers finished 23rd in rushing yards. However, like the entire offense, the rushing was inconsistent, with eight games over 100 rushing yards and four with fewer than 60. There was a bright spot, though - the return of Cadillac Williams. While Williams had only one 100-yard outing, the 2009 season was successful simply because he played all 16 games. This was particularly notable because Williams became the first player in league history to successfully return from torn patellar tendons in both knees. Going into the 2009 campaign, Williams was expected to be part of a 3-man committee with Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham, but this quickly became Williams' team. He began the season with a 97-yard effort against the Cowboys and had 14 double-digit carry games (compared to five for Ward and zero for Graham). Plus, Williams had arguably the best receiving season of his career, with 28 catches for 217 yards and the first three receiving TDs as a pro. The team will lean on Williams and the running game as Josh Freeman continues to learn how to be a quarterback.

Backup RBs: After a very nice 2008 campaign with the Giants, Derrick Ward cashed in on his free agency status and joined Tampa Bay with the hopes of being their starting back. However, Cadillac Williams' return to health pushed Ward into the No. 2 slot, and we watched him struggle to find his prior form. He battled injury, missing two games and averaged over a yard fewer than his career per-carry average (3.6 in 2009 compared to 4.7 for his career). It was widely thought that Ward was unhappy as a backup, but he recently said otherwise. Rather, he was displeased about not winning and has vowed to work hard and have a stronger 2009. He probably will improve, but Ward will remain the backup to Williams. Still, the Buccaneers will rely on their ground game, which will give Ward plenty of opportunities. Clifton Smith is very good in the open field, but barring injuries ahead of him, he doesn't have much of a role in the backfield.

Fullback: Chris Pressley is ultra strong and has a terrific work ethic. While that helps his team, it's not much for a fantasy roster. Earnest Graham is more of a runner, but even he knows that he's not the best option on this team. Graham even gave up a series last year so that Cadillac Williams could remain in the game (Graham said that Williams had the hot hand and deserved to be on the field). Still, Graham, despite being listed as a fullback, is actually the third running back. If Williams or Derrick Ward were to miss time, Graham would pick up the slack.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Arrelious Benn (R), Mike Williams (R)
Backups: Sammie Stroughter, Maurice Stovall, Reggie Brown, Michael Clayton, Mark Bradley

Starting WRs: Last year's primary wide receiver, Antonio Bryant, has packed his free agent bags for Cincinnati. On the surface, his departure leaves a wide hole in the Buccaneers receiving corps. However, digging deeper, it looks like Tampa Bay didn't particularly care about Bryant leaving as they did not even offer him a contract. Regardless, the team has brought in new blood in a big way. In the 2010 NFL Draft, they spent a second round pick on Arrelious Benn and a fourth round selection on Mike Williams. Both rookies are explosive, big-play talents and great values where they were drafted. Benn has been compared to Brandon Marshall in that he is aggressive with the ball and uses his size and strength combination. He is very tough to bring down. Williams was graded by some as a first-round talent. However, character issues caused him to slide. Assuming his head is on straight, his blazing speed should help stretch the field and give the Buccaneers passing game a solid big-play threat.

Backup WRs: Sammie Stroughter was selected in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft and turned into a steal for the Buccaneers. He quickly assumed starting slot-receiver role and took over for an injured Clifton Smith as the team's return specialist. Stroughter scored a touchdown in both positions before breaking his foot in Week 15. While not overly fast, Stroughter is simply a good football player. At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Maurice is a big receiver, but he has struggled with injuries and consistency over his four-year career. Reggie Brown was brought in from the Eagles in exchange for a 2011 sixth-round pick. He is said to be in the mix for a starting job but hasn't been a viable option since 2007. Similarly, Michael Clayton has disappointed since 2004. If he couldn't beat out the mediocre bunch that was on board last year, he won't be able to keep the new, young studs on the bench either. In truth, Clayton still has a job only because he makes too much money to be released.

Tight Ends

Starters: Kellen Winslow, Jr.
Backups: Jerramy Stevens, John Gilmore

Kellen Winslow, Jr. may have changed teams, but he still showed that he's a stud fantasy tight end. Despite working with the likes of Byron Leftwich, Josh Johnson, and the rookie Josh Freeman, Winslow finished seventh among fantasy tight ends with 884 yards and 5 touchdowns on 77 catches. He was the team's most reliable receiver and was fairly consistent all season, with six games of 75 yards or more. There are two concerns. First, Winslow didn't catch a single score from Josh Freeman. This doesn't seem too worrisome, however, as Winslow has at least four receptions in every game Freeman started. More worrisome is Winslow's knee - the same knee that was injured in his 2005 motorcycle crash. He has undergone five operations on it since the injury occurred, the latest of which was this past offseason. The most recent procedure was called minor and was just to clear out scar tissue, but the yearly scopes are a reminder that his knee will continue to be an issue. Jerramy Stevens and John Gilmore are role players (Stevens as a parttime receiver and Gilmore as a blocker). Stevens would be worth considering in a pinch if Winslow were to miss significant time.

Place Kicker

Connor Barth, Hunter Lawrence : In 2008 Barth lost the Chiefs kicking competition in preseason, but then regained the job part way through the regular season. He lost it again at the beginning of the 2009 preseason when the new coach went with his drafted kicker, Ryan Succop. Barth was signed by the Bucs part way through the regular season after they had tried Mike Nugent and then Shane Andrus. He'll once again be competing to retain his job, as the Bucs signed rookie Hunter Lawrence from Texas following this year's draft. After two consecutive top ten finishes in kicker scoring, Tampa plummeted to 32nd last year.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Clifton Smith, Sammie Stroughter, Micheal Spurlock, Earnest Graham, Kareem Huggins, Michael Clayton, Derrick Ward, Dennis Rogan

Undrafted RB Clifton Smith took over the job for the final nine games of 2008, and never looked back. In just half a season's work he managed to end up as the 3rd ranked fantasy returner and go to the Pro Bowl as the kick returner. He averaged 27.6 yards on 36 kickoff returns and scored once. Smith's 2009 season was curtailed by concussions (31returns, 29.1 avg.). WR Sammie Stroughter stepped in last year and showed that the Bucs apparently have another talented returner (11returns, 29.5 avg., 1 TD), however he did not finish the season due to a broken foot. The Bucs brought back WR Micheal Spurlock for the final two games last year (8 returns, 20.4 avg.). He entered the trivia books in 2007 with Tampa Bay (16 returns, 27.8 avg.), when he scored their first ever kickoff return TD. Potential backups and upmen include RB Earnest Graham (2 returns, 19.0 avg.), RB Kareem Huggins (2 returns, 26.0 avg.), and WR Michael Clayton (3 returns, 23.0 avg. in 2008). RB Derrick Ward posted very strong numbers in a backup role for the Giants in 2004, and then supplanted Chad Morton for the starting role for the latter part of 2006 (23 returns, 20.3 avg.). Undrafted rookie DB Dennis Rogan averaged 25.8 yards on kickoff returns during his career at Tennessee.

Punt Returners: Clifton Smith, Sammie Stroughter, Micheal Spurlock, Aqib Talib, Ronde Barber, Dennis Rogan

Clifton Smith had impressive results in college, averaging 16.6 yards on 47 punt returns and scoring five TDs. In 2008 year he proved that was no fluke, averaging 14.1 yards on 23 returns and scoring once. Last year he averaged 10.1 yards on 23 returns. Sammie Stroughter averaged 9.9 yards on punts during his stint as the return specialist last year. Micheal Spurlock's experience is primarily on kickoffs, although he made a statement on his three punt returns last year, taking one 77 yards for a score. Potential backups include CB Aqib Talib who had one return for no gain in 2008, and CB Ronde Barber who averaged 3.5 yards on two returns in 2006. Dennis Rogan averaged 5.0 yards on 55 punt returns during his college career. After many years of futility, the Bucs vaulted to third in fantasy returns each of the past two years.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT James Lee, LG Jeremy Zuttah, C Jeff Faine, RG Davin Joseph, RT Demar Dotson
Key Backups: G Jonathan Compas, T Xavier Fulton

The Buccaneers offensive line is currently in disarray. Two starting lineman from last season, Donald Penn and Jeremy Trueblood are restricted free agents and demanding big money deals. The trouble is both players were below average last season and the Buccaneers appear to be hesitant to lock them into long-term contracts. Without those two in house however the Buccaneers have very little to work with in terms of filling the starting tackle positions. Even more surprising is they didn't spend any draft picks on linemen. That could mean that both Penn and Trueblood are in the picture and will be signed before training camp. Both players have good upside if they rebound from a disappointing 2009 season. Davin Joseph, now in his fifth season should be a force for the Buccaneers but he is coming off of his worst professional season last year. He was horrible as a run blocker and must be much better if he is to keep his starting job. The other guard, Jeremy Zuttah was just as bad but not as much is expected from him. The former third round pick from Rutgers has some potential though and could become a decent option in time. Center Jeff Faine has bounced around the NFL and is a decent player. He missed four games last season and like his fellow Buccaneers, did not have a very good season. Looking at the individual parts in Tampa Bay, if everybody does sign there is potential to do much better in 2010. However the team added nothing to the mix this season, has two starters currently unsigned and this entire group underachieved in a big way last season. For those reasons, expect more of the same this year.

Team Defense

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Stylez White, DT Gerald McCoy, DT Chris Hovan, DE Kyle Moore
Backups: DE Tim Crowder, DL Dre Moore, DT Ryan Sims, DT Roy Miller, DT Brian Price

Starting DL: The Buccaneers are thin at defensive end. Stylez White is the only accomplished pass rusher among the current group and he often needs to be kept fresh in rotation to remain productive. Opposite White, Kyle Moore has slimmed down this offseason and the team hopes he'll be able to provide both pass rush and run support. Inside, the team selected Gerald McCoy with the third overall pick in this year's draft. He's drawn comparisons to Warren Sapp and he'll have a chance to meet those expectations as the new three-technique tackle in the Bucs' Tampa-2 scheme. Chris Hovan is penciled in as the team's veteran presence at nose tackle, but he may be dealt before training camp.

Backup DL: Roy Miller will move back into a reserve role with McCoy likely to start opening weekend. Ryan Sims, like Hovan, is also rumored to be on the trading block. The team added Brian Price, another strong and quick defensive tackle, to the rotation with their second round draft pick. He'll also push for playing time right away. Dre Moore and Tim Crowder will rotate in at end, with Crowder more likely to earn extended playing time if Kyle Moore struggles.

Linebackers

Starters: WLB Geno Hayes, MLB Barrett Ruud, SLB Quincy Black
Backups: LB Angelo Crowell, LB Adam Hayward, LB Dekoda Watson, LB Jon Alston, LB Niko Koutouvides

Starting LBs: Barrett Ruud is unquestionably the anchor of the Tampa defense. He provides range, solid run support and some big play ability for a team without many playmakers. The team was very pleased with the development of both young outside linebackers last year. Geno Hayes has become a solid every-down performer. He's undersized, but has the range and cover ability to thrive in the Tampa scheme. Quincy Black finally earned a starting job last year and impressed with his ability to hold the point of attack and rush the passer at SLB.

Backup LBs: Adam Hayward and Niko Koutouvides have experience with the team, but neither are strong backups. Crowell will have to get through training camp without injury to be considered for a roster spot, but could be a solid backup if he can stay healthy. The team added Dekoda Watson in the seventh round. He's undersized but has flashed some athleticism and pass rush ability. He could be a good fit for the WLB job in time. Jon Alston will compete for a roster spot with his special teams play.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Ronde Barber, SS Sean Jones, FS Tanard Jackson, CB Aqib Talib
Backups: CB Myron Lewis, CB Elbert Mack, S Sabby Piscitelli, S Corey Lynch, S Cody Grimm

Starting DBs: Ronde Barber is the last remaining Buc from the strong defenses earlier in the decade. His play has slipped significantly in recent seasons and he'll be pushed for playing time soon. Aqib Talib is a gambler and a playmaker who will support the run well. He should be considered the team's top corner. Tanard Jackson had a solid 2009 season as the free safety and returns to that role this year. The team wasn't happy with the poor tackling and inconsistent coverage of last year's starter Sabby Piscitelli and signed veteran Sean Jones in free agency. The SS job will be an open competition this year, but Jones should be considered the favorite entering camp. Jones has bounced around the league recently due to his own coverage issues, but he'll be better than Piscitelli in run support and brings more big play potential to the lineup.

Backup DBs: Myron Lewis, the team's third round draft pick has the size and zone coverage skills to begin pushing Ronde Barber for snaps immediately. He'll start out as the nickel corner but will earn more playing time in short order. The Buccaneers have a number of candidates to be the fourth corner. Elbert Mack will have a narrow edge entering camp. Piscitelli will likely back up both safety spots. He's projected to lose his starting job to Jones this summer. Corey Lynch is a strong special teams asset who'll be competing with seventh round pick Cody Grimm for a roster spot in camp.

Last modified: 2010-06-18 13:31:09