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2015 Team Report: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Quarterbacks

Starter: Jameis Winston [R]
Backup(s): Mike Glennon

Starting QB: Tampa Bay ultimately pulled the trigger on Jameis Winston as the No.1 overall draft pick in 2015. All signs point to the rookie opening the season as the starter. Winston's most significant flaw during the draft process was his questionable profile off-the-field with immaturity and shoddy decision-making. On the field, Winston is a pure pocket passer with the ability perform in critical moments and with imminent pocket pressure. With three super-sized targets in Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Winston has a strong weapon set compared to the average top-drafted quarterback coming into the NFL.

Backup QB: Mike Glennon had a strong statistical season in 2013, where he threw 19 touchdowns to only nine interceptions while absorbing 40 sacks and a 4-9 record. Tampa Bay promptly replaced Glennon with journeyman and Marc Trestman Chicago product Josh McCown in 2014, which produced middling results. Now with No.1 2015 draft pick Jameis Winston in the picture, Glennon will need an injury or complete meltdown fron Winston to see the field much in Tampa Bay. Glennon projects as one of the better primary backup quarterbacks in the NFL.

Running Backs

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

Starting RB: Despite the Tampa Bay offensive line grading out as an above-average run-blocking unit in 2014, Doug Martin continued to struggle since his 2012 rookie breakout. Martin rarely broke a tackle, was average as a pass-catcher, and struggled in pass protection. In consecutive seasons nearly every Tampa Bay ball carrier, from Charles Sims to Bobby Rainey to Mike James to Brian Leonard has been more productive within the same offense as the struggling Martin. There is plenty of buzz that Charles Sims is a legit threat to Martin's tenuous hold on the starting job. Martin, a former first round NFL draft pick, is now in a make-or-break season. In early August Tampa Bay head coach Lovie Smith named Doug Martin the starting running back.

Backup RBs: Charles Sims is gaining steam as a challenger to the starting job in Tampa Bay. Sims has one of the strongest receiving profiles of any running back prospect in recent memory and has similarities to fellow Day 2 selections Matt Forte and DeMarco Murray. Sims was solid in the pass game, as expected, as a 2014 rookie, with upside to develop between the tackles. Bobby Rainey has exceled with an expanded role over his two seasons with Tampa Bay, eclipsing 125 rushing yards in each of his games with three of the four games logging 20 or more attempts. While Doug Martin and Charles Sims have more name recognition and draft pedigree, Rainey is a solid NFL backup at a minimum. Mike James is a more rugged between the tackles option than Rainey or possibly Charles Sims with above-average athleticism for his prototypical frame. While James is down the depth chart, he also has a 100-yard game under the belt from 2013 in place of an injured Doug Martin.

Fullback:

Wide Receivers

Starters: Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson
Backups: Louis Murphy, Russell Shepard

Starting WRs: Mike Evans rose to the top of the Tampa Bay depth chart quickly as a highly-regarded 2014 rookie. Evans size and wingspan translated to the NFL level even with poor quarterback play from Josh McCown for a majority of the season. Vincent Jackson downshifted to one of the better secondary receivers in the NFL and remains a productive mismatch down the field. The duo split red zone targets last season, but Evans turned those opportunities into six close-range touchdowns while Jackson managed two scores. As the tallest starting tandem in the NFL, Evans and Jackson are poised to make life easy on rookie quarterback Jameis Winston in 2015.

Backup WRs: Louis Murphy has largely underwhelmed in his NFL career despite prototypical size and enviable athleticism coming out of Florida. Murphy has NFL journeyman status and no Tampa Bay receiver outside of Mike Evans or Vincent Jackson is likely to see much work. Russell Shepard emerged to make the 53-man roster, a receiver with deep speed entering his second NFL season.

Tight Ends

Starters: Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Backups: Brandon Myers, Luke Stocker

Austin Seferian-Jenkins has prototypical size, above-average athleticism, and produced at a high level early in his college career. During an injury-shortened rookie season, Seferian-Jenkins exceled as a run blocker and flashed occasionally as a receiver. Brandon Myers is uninspiring short-term depth years past his volume-based productive season with the Raiders and Giants. Luke Stocker is a decent athlete than has not amounted to much since being a mid-round draft pick in 2011. Tampa Bay has brought in alternatives to Stocker every step of the way, signaling his replacement-level status in the NFL hierarchy.

Place Kicker

Patrick Murray: Murray took over for Connor Barth last year and performed well enough by team standard, making 83.3% of his attempts, but the low number (24) kept him in the bottom of fantasy rankings all season. Murray did have the best conversion rate from 50+ yards of any kicker that attempted at least six (he went 5-of-6), and his offense could improve with Jameis Winston at quarterback, but he is still well outside of the consideration as a kicker we would draft. If the Bucs are on the upswing, Murray could be a great bye/injury replacement or cheap DFS option.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Adam Humphries [R], Bobby Rainey, Rannell Hall [R]

Tampa Bay was not content with their returners in 2014, cycling through Marcus Thigpen, Solomon Patton and Bobby Rainey as well as signing Trindon Holliday for a game. The team tried to address the situation in the draft this year with the selection of wide receiver Kaelin Clay. Clay was released at the end of camp, however, leaving the door open for other players. Running back Bobby Rainey's 26.3 yard average on 6 returns last season was enough for the Bucs to feel comfortable using him as the backup, but the starting job has gone to rookie receiver Adam Humphries. Rannel Hall could also see opportunities this season if Humphries fails to impress.

Punt Returners: Adam Humphries [R], Bobby Rainey, Rannell Hall [R]

As with kick returns, the release of Kaelin Clay leaves the punt returner job unsettled. Rainey returned 7 punts last season, his only experience with punts in the NFL. Tampa Bay is giving Adam Humphries the first chance during the season to make the job his own. Humphries returned 69 punts in college, but for a very pedestrian 6.9 yards per return.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Donovan Smith [R], LG Logan Mankins, C Evan Dietrich-Smith, RG Ali Marpet [R], RT Demar Dotson
Key Backups: G Kadeem Edwards, T Kevin Pamphile, G Patrick Omameh, T Matt Patchan, C Garrett Gilkey

The Bucs used a high second round pick on left tackle Donovan Smith out of Penn State and the team reportedly will give him the lead at taking that job as a rookie. Smith is known for having "dancing bear" tendencies and there's a real shot of him doing a decent job as a rookie. Teams will likely target this player but most rookie left tackles don't have the benefit of playing next to Logan Mankins. Traded from the Patriots last year, Mankins is still one of the best guards in the game and is a stalwart on this line. At center Eric Smith (formerly Eric Dietrich-Smith) has shortened his name, and that's good news for the equipment managers that apply the jersey names. As a player, Smith is actually very good and completely underrated on a national level. At right guard, another rookie, Ali Marpet, will battle Patrick Omameh for the starting job. Look for Marpet to win this job as the team will give him every opportunity to do so. Finally, right tackle Demar Dotson is a load in the run game and provides a decent bookened across from Donovan Smith. Overall this line has some interesting young talent but they will be relying on more rookies than most teams and could have an adjustment process early in the season. As the line settles, this unit could rise in the rankings.

Team Defense

The Buccaneers defense did not have a good 2014 under new head coach Lovie Smith. They finished in the bottom ten in points and yards allowed and sacks. Big free agent signing Michael Johnson was a bust and is already back in Cincinnati. Three defensive scores and five multi-interception games helped Tampa contribute as a streamer/DFS play if you had the guts to play them on the road against the likes of the Falcons and Saints (and Washington, which was easier to see coming). The team did not make any major upgrades on defense, but Jameis Winston should make them much more competitive as long as the offensive holds up, which could make them more prominent in our streaming defense and cheap DFS option ranks.

Defensive Line

Starters: DT Gerald McCoy, NT Clinton McDonald, DE Henry Melton, DE George Johnson
Backups: DT Tony McDaniel, DE Jacquies Smith, DT Akeem Spence, DE Larry English (inj), DL T.J. Fatinikun, DE William Gholston

Starting DL: The Bucs will be hoping to put a disappointing 2014 behind them with a better effort up front on defense. The talent is there to be a strong unit, and adding veteran backup Henry Melton was a smart move. Gerald McCoy is an ideal fit as a 3-technique in Lovie Smith's scheme, not to mention an all-world talent. McCoy suffered a sprained knee towards the end of last season, cutting his impressive season short. The Bucs signed McCoy to a $108m contract this offseason – they expect him to be the anchor of this front four for a long time. Clinton McDonald will slot in at nose tackle after being re-signed by the Bucs on a four-year, $12m deal this offseason. McDonald filled the 1-technique role very well last season and his space-eating should allow others to make plays up front. Relative unknown Jacquies Smith was slated to start at left defensive end, but Melton has played early downs in preseason, relegating Smith to a pass rushing role. George Johnson has flashed in preseason, but the defensive end job opposite Melton is still up for grabs.

Backup DL: William Gholston logged 600 snaps last year and will rotate at defensive end. Akeem Spence, the second-year pro out of Illinois, endured a trying rookie campaign, and looks to have an uphill battle to earn quality snaps in 2015 after he underwent back surgery in early August. To make matters worse, the league hit him with a one-game suspension for violating the substance abuse policy. Spence will reportedly miss a couple of months, but with the volatility of back injuries he could miss more time. When he returns, he will be tasked with spelling Clinton McDonald at nose tackle, contributing 500-600 quality snaps. Another man in the mix for snaps will be new signing Tony McDaniel, a salary cap casualty of the Seahawks. McDaniel is a solid run-stuffing presence who bolsters this Bucs defensive tackle rotation. Larry English suffered a 'significant' knee injury in the final preseason game and could be out for the year. Jacquies Smith will play as a designated pass rusher and spell Henry Melton if preseason form is anything to go by.

Linebackers

Starters: WLB Lavonte David, MLB Kwon Alexander [R], SLB Danny Lansanah
Backups: LB Bruce Carter, LB Kourtnei Brown, LB Jeremiah George, LB James-Michael Johnson

Starting LBs: Bruce Carter looked like one of the more shrewd moves made by general manager Jason Licht this offseason, but in a sign of the Bucs' displeasure with his play the former Cowboy has been replaced in the starting lineup by rookie Kwon Alexander. All signs are pointing to Alexander playing as a three-down linebacker. Weakside phenom Lavonte David is the only Bucs linebacker who will definitely play in all subpackages. The fourth-year pro may not be the biggest, but he is among the very best at his position. Ideally suited for the responsibilities of the weakside linebacker in the Tampa-2, David will continue to be a force. The Bucs recently signed him to a contract extension, showing their faith for the long haul. Danny Lansanah completes the Bucs’ linebacking trio. He finished second on the team in tackles last season and should be a solid presence on the strongside, but will not see the field in subpackages.

Backup LBs: The Bucs claimed former Texan Kourtnei Brown off waivers and will expect him to be a quality depth option immediately. Bruce Carter will serve as the primary backup option after a disappointing preseason. Jeremiah George was a waiver acquisition from Jacksonville and should contribute on special teams. James-Michael Johnson, meanwhile, has made 18 starts in four seasons and was a waiver claim from Kansas City.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Alterraun Verner, CB Johnthan Banks, FS Bradley McDougald, SS D.J. Swearinger
Backups: CB Leonard Johnson, CB Sterling Moore, S Chris Conte, S Keith Tandy, S Major Wright, CB Tim Jennings, CB Mike Jenkins

Starting DBs: The Bucs coaching staff has raved about safety Bradley McDougald’s potential, according to reports. They believe the young player can be elite. High praise doesn’t always translate to snaps on the field, but McDougald finished last season strongly after earning the starting job in Week 13. Recent reports have indicated veterans D.J. Swearinger has won the starting strong safety job over Major Wright, meaning McDougald will play free safety. Johnthan Banks endured a somewhat difficult sophomore season in Tampa with the entire team crumbling around him, but he will start opposite Alterraun Verner. The latter is an ideal fit for the Tampa-2 and he showed his comfort level last season, albeit struggled in coverage in patches.

Backup DBs: The Bucs, in a tidy piece of business, snapped up nickel cornerback Sterling Moore this offseason. Moore, a former Cowboy, will compete for the nickel role. Safety Chris Conte has a relationship with Lovie Smith going back to their Chicago days and should slot in comfortably as a key special teams player and high-end backup option. The Bucs snapped up former Lovie Smith disciple Tim Jennings after he was let go by the Bears. Jennings figures to compete immediately for snaps at nickel cornerback along with the aforementioned Moore. Major Wright and Keith Tandy figure to contribute on special teams mostly.

Last modified: 2015-09-08 18:31:36