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2013 Team Report: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Quarterbacks

Starter: Josh McCown
Backup(s): Mike Glennon, Mike Kafka

Starting QB: After a spotty 10-year NFL resume with four previous teams, Josh McCown found his stride starting five games for an injured Jay Cutler in Chicago in 2013. After a league-low interception rate, a 3-2 record, and efficiency across the board, McCown found a starting role in Tampa Bay via free agency. The trio of a pass-catching back in Doug Martin and big-bodied outside targets Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans recreates the weapons McCown thrived with in Chicago. Prior to last season, McCown was a career 58% passer with 37 touchdowns to 44 interceptions. While changing stripes in his mid-30s is possible, Josh McCown needs to prove he was not a product of the Marc Trestman offensse in Chicago.

Backup QB: After a very promising rookie season, despite a poor team record, Tampa Bay was quick to address the starting quarterback position instead of hitching their wagon to Mike Glennon. The 4-9 record as a starter clouds a season where Glennon threw 19 touchdowns to only nine interceptions while absorbing 40 sacks. Josh McCown is the projected starter, but Glennon is one of the best backup options in the NFL waiting in the wings. Through four NFL seasons, Mike Kafka has thrown just 16 regular season passes and has been a clipboard carrier on the sidelines more than enticing backup option.

Running Backs

Starter: Doug Martin
Backup(s): Charles Sims, Mike James, Bobby Rainey
Fullback(s): Lonnie Pryor

Starting RB: After bursting onto the scene as a 2012 rookie with nearly 2,000 total yards, Doug Martin was inefficient then injured for the second half of the season in his sophomore campaign. Reserves Mike James and Bobby Rainey largely outplayed Martin in his absence, calling Martin's overall impact into question. Doug Martin was one of the few complete backs in the NFL in 2012, now he must rebound from injury and poor performance a year ago. Martin's 368 touches as a rookie will be a tough ceiling to achieve with Mike James and Bobby Rainey returning as between-the-tackles options and Charles Sims as one of the premiere pass-catchers from the 2014 draft class.

Backup RBs: Mike James was a surprise performer in the absence of Doug Martin last season. James' highlight performance came averaging over 5.6 yards-per-carry on 30 touches in Seattle midseason prior to his own season-ending injury. After James' brief stint as the starter, Bobby Rainey was the next man up as he had six touchdowns and two games of 125 or more yards in the second half of the 2013 season. Both James and Rainey are early-down grinders that are depth chart options more than lead back talents. Charles Sims was added to the mix as an early third-round pick. Sims was arguably the best pass-catching back in the class and athletically above-average. In a best-case scenario, Charles Sims is a poor man's DeMarco Murray as a prospect.

Fullback: Lonnie Pryor returns as Tampa Bay's fullback after signing with team after being on the Jacksonville practice squad. In addition to his blocking skills, Pryor has a running back background adding to his versatility on offense.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans
Backups: Robert Herron [R], Chris Owusu

Starting WRs: Vincent Jackson has flourished in his two seasons in Tampa Bay, his best statistical years in the NFL. Jackson fit well with strong-armed rookie quarterback Mike Glennon in 2013 and now gets Josh McCown under center, who exceled with similar outside targets Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery in Chicago. Jackson is the primary target, but now has a legitimate running mate in Mike Evans, Tampa Bay's top-10 selection in this year's draft. Evans, like Jackson excels with the ball in the air using his frame and strong hands to make plays down the field. Without much on the receiver depth chart, Evans will see significant playing time in addition to single coverage.

Backup WRs: Rookie Robert Herron fits the mold of a slot receiver with his Wes Welker-like dimensions and quick-twitch athleticism. Herron had average production throughout his career at Wyoming, but has the skillset to excel in a secondary role in the NFL. With Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans clearing a majority of the coverage, Herron has a golden opportunity to carve out a consistent offensive role from the slot position. Through two NFL seasons, Chris Owusu has battled injuries making his progression to a consistent role an uphill journey. Owusu has excellent acceleration and speed, joining a size profile that making him an ideal situational deep threat. As a third or fourth receiver on the depth chart, Owusu will have advantageous matchups if he can remain healthy.

Tight Ends

Starters: Brandon Myers Luke Stocker
Backups: Tim Wright, Austin Seferian-Jenkins [R]

After a healthy volume of targets with the Raiders and Giants the past two seasons, Brandon Myers is the de facto starter in Tampa Bay this season. Tim Wright, a converted college receiver, manned the slot duties last season. Wright is a man stuck between two positions that reeped the benefits of an offense without a clear secondary target to Vincent Jackson in the passing game. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, a highly talented rookie tight end from the University of Washington, is the intriguing name on the depth chart. Without a lingering foot injury, Seferian-Jenkins was a challenger to Eric Ebron as the top tight end in the draft class. Seferian-Jenkins has prototypical size, above-average athleticism, and produced at a high level early in his college career. Brandon Myers is the uninspiring short-term starter, but Seferian-Jenkins is the future at the position for Tampa Bay.

Place Kicker

Rian Lindell, Lawrence Tynes [NFI], Connor Barth [IR]: The Bucs provided a little friendly competition for all three returning specialists. Kicker Connor Barth would have faced Nate Kaeding, but a re-aggravated injury led the latter to retire. Then that picture changed significantly in mid-July when Barth was lost for the season with a torn ACL. Enter veteran Lawrence Tynes, whom the Giants opted not to re-sign this past offseason. But a toe injury and staph infection thwarted his season... enter Rian Lindell, whom the Bills released. He ended winning the job over Derek Dimke. Michael Koenen, who handles punting, kickoffs, and holding, was joined by Chas Henry. Long snapper Andrew Economos kept an eye on Andrew DePaola. The Bucs climbed to 14th in attempted kicking points last year, after have spent three years near the bottom.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Jeff Demps, Eric Page, Bobby Rainey

Eric Page had the lead on both the kick and punt returner jobs after Michael Smith went on injured reserve. When Jeff Demps finally rejoined the team, he has taken over as the primary kick returner, with Page filling in during injuries. Bobby Rainey was signed after being released by the Browns, and stands a good chance of being a backup if needed.

Punt Returners: Eric Page, Jeff Demps

The confusing muddle of players that Tampa Bay went into the preseason with have begun to sift out, as wide receiver Eric Page is listed as the punt returner on the team's first depth chart. Page was a Consensus All-American in college in 2010, though primarily for his kickoff returns where he netted three touchdowns. Tampa Bay has released most of their other candidates for the job, making it unclear who will handle returns if Page does not. Speedster Jeff Demps would be one possibility.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Donald Penn, LG Carl Nicks, C Jeremy Zuttah, RG Davin Joseph, RT Demar Dotson
Key Backups: T Mike Remmers, G Roger Allen, G Jamon Meredith, C Ted Larsen

The league has an award for come back player of the year, and this Tampa Bay offensive line could be the come back story of the year. Left guard Carl Nicks ended last season on the injured reserve list (toe injury). Before that point, Nicks had never missed a game in his career. This team greatly improves with him back in the lineup. Right guard Davin Joseph hurt his knee in preseason and spent the year on the injured reserve list. Joseph is a former first round pick and former Pro Bowl selection. The team getting him and Nicks back from injury would be huge improvements. Left tackle Donald Penn is a former undrafted free agent who made good. Penn has become a Pro Bowler known for his aggression, and is a capable performer in pass protection. Some trivia, Penn caught several passes and blocked an extra point in 2009. Right tackle Demar Dotson is another former undrafted free agent who signed a four-year deal to remain with the team in the offseason. Dotson is known as a workmanlike player with upside to improve over the long term. Center Jeremy Zuttah is solid and known as an extremely versatile lineman, having starting experience at both guard spots. Swing tackle Jamon Meredith did not perform well when pressed into a starting role and might be in the process of being phased out (some depth charts list him as a backup guard). Other depth names include tough guy Ted Larsen in the interior and new undrafted free agents Jason Weaver, Bryce Schwab, Jace Daniels and Nick Spellers. I usually wouldn't mention undrafted rookies in this article, but the Bucs seem to emphasize these types of players. This line is built in a unique fashion, paying huge money to the guards but finding athletic and inexpensive tackles. Overall this is an extremely talented (and expensive) offensive line, and can rise in the rankings to be one of the best if they remain healthy.

Team Defense

Anyone could see where Tampa Bay struggled last year: The Buccaneers rush defense topped the league in 2012, but were dead last against the pass. The front office made a big splash in dealing for stud cornerback Darrelle Revis who should go a long way in improving the pass defense. Not finished there, Tampa Bay added veteran safety Dashon Goldson and excellent rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks. The improved secondary will help, but the Buccaneers also lost pass-rusher Michael Bennett. They'll need to find someone to pressure the quarterback because even the best cover guys around can't blanket receivers forever. Overall, there are too many holes in this unit to give them much consideration on draft day.

Defensive Line

Starters: DT Gerald McCoy, NT Akeem Spence, DE Michael Johnson, DE Adrian Clayborn
Backups: DT Clinton McDonald, DE Da’Quan Bowers, DE William Gholston, DE Steven Means

Starting DL: The Bucs bolstered their defensive front with former Bengal Michael Johnson in free agency. Johnson, entering his sixth season, was exception against the run in 2013 and will tighten up the ship in Tampa as far as that is concerned. Adrian Clayborn’s fifth-year option in his rookie deal was not picked up by the Bucs, so this is a contract year for him. He is not an ideal fit for what Lovie Smith likes to do on defense, so this could be his last year in Florida. Gerald McCoy had a dominant season in 2013 and spearheaded the Bucs’ defensive line. In an attacking, downhill three-technique role once more, McCoy is capable of reaching DL3 totals and is only entering his prime. Former fourth round pick Akeem Spence proved a liability at one-technique and has no fantasy value.

Backup DL: The Bucs added former Seattle DT Clinton McDonald to the rotation as Lovie Smith bids to put his stamp on this front. Former second round pick Da’Quan Bowers has been a disappointment and played fewer than 250 snaps last season; he is likely on his last legs in Tampa. William Gholston and Steven Means have no fantasy value.

Linebackers

Starters: WLB Lavonte David, MLB Mason Foster, SLB Jonathan Casillas
Backups: LB Dane Fletcher, LB Marvin Booker

Starting LBs: Third-year tackling phenom Lavonte David leads the Bucs’ linebacking corps and has topped 100 solo tackles in each of his first two seasons in the league. A dynamic player just as adept against the run as he is in coverage, David is a true star and should flourish in Lovie Smith’s defense at weakside linebacker. Mason Foster could prove to be a liability in Tampa’s new defensive scheme. Despite his solid box score totals, Foster lacks the range and coverage ability to be anything more than a decent LB3 with upside in certain matchups. With little competition, Foster should see nickel snaps, however. Jonathan Casillas is on a one-year contract and although he may be solid in coverage, he lacks the all-around difference making talent to carve out a meaningful role.

Backup LBs: Dane Fletcher is a player who flashed at times in his limited action for New England. He could carve out a role if the Bucs didn’t like what they saw from Mason Foster, who isn’t an ideal fit by any means for Lovie Smith’s defense.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Alterraun Verner, CB Johnthan Banks, FS Dashon Goldson, SS Mark Barron
Backups: CB Leonard Johnson, CB Mike Jenkins, S Major Wright, S Keith Tandy

Starting DBs: The Bucs parted ways with Darrelle Revis and replaced him with Alterraun Verner, who will be an excellent fit in Lovie Smith’s 4-3 due to his solid tackling and ability to break quickly on the ball to bat down passes and reel in interceptions. Second-year cornerback Johnthan Banks will have improved for the experience he gained in his rookie campaign, but will remain the target of quarterbacks with Verner opposite him. Banks is a decent CB2 option as a result. Free safety Dashon Goldson hired a tackling coach in the offseason after a multitude of fines for illegals hits last year. Goldson will spend most of his time away from the line of scrimmage and has very little upside from a fantasy perspective. Partner in crime Mark Barron, however, should be featured as a blitzer and box player in single-high looks and remains a strong DB2 option with tackle totals around the 70-20 mark a near lock.

Backup DBs: Mike Jenkins was a solid signing to bolster the Bucs’ depth behind Verner and Banks, but will probably only see the field in nickel packages. Major Wright, a former player of Lovie Smith’s in Chicago, could edge his way into a starting role if Dashon Goldson, who may be in his last season with Tampa, fails to perform.

Last modified: 2014-05-14 06:18:41