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2019 Team Report: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Offensive PhilosophyJameis Winston has consistently been among the most downfield-oriented passers in the NFL. He's led the league in percentage of completions that picked up a new set of downs in each of the past two seasons, and since he was drafted the only quarterbacks with a higher yard per completion average are Jared Goff and Carson Palmer. This offseason, Winston gained a new head coach in Bruce Arians, the man who memorably described his offense as "no risk it, no biscuit" and who was responsible for Palmer's stellar per-completion average in Arizona. Expect the combination of the two to result in an aggressive passing game focused on the intermediate and deep zones in favor of short passing and yards after the catch.
QuarterbacksStarter: Jameis Winston
Backup(s): Ryan Griffin, Blaine Gabbert Starting QB: Jameis Winston's up-and-down career continued in 2018 as his season started with suspension and included a midseason benching for streaky journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick on the maddeningly inconsistent Tampa Bay offense. Winston sheds Fitzpatrick as the backup for the Buccaneers and adds the guidance of Bruce Arians, notable strong offense-maker and quarterback optimizer in the NFL. Winston showed progress with a career-high 64% completion rate and 5% touchdown rate last season, but the below-average interception rate remained, a trend for his aggressive down-the-field style through four seasons. Winston has a strong collection of weapons, however, with Mike Evans, a developing Chris Godwin, and a returning-from-injury O.J. Howard as centerpiece targets. Cameron Brate is also one of the best secondary tight ends in the NFL. While a critical year for Winston to have his best season yet entering the final year of his rookie contract, he is set up for success from the coaching staff to myriad of pass targets. Backup QB: Ryan Griffin has bounced around as an ancillary quarterback and yet to throw an NFL regular season pass. Blaine Gabbert joins the depth chart offering more rushing upside as a quality athlete more than polished quarterback. Gabbert is on his fifth NFL team after fizzled as his No.10 overall draft position in 2011. Dating back to his rookie season, Gabbert has as many interceptions as touchdowns.
Running BacksStarter: Peyton Barber
Backup(s): Ronald Jones II, Andre Ellington, Shaun Wilson, Dare Ogunbowale, Bruce Anderson [R]
Fullback(s): Starting RB: Peyton Barber did not see much of a challenge from incoming second-round rookie selection Ronald Jones in 2018, keeping the lead role for the entire season. Barber's biggest hurdle was a struggling run game overall and a consistent negative game script by a team logging turnovers and stopping few opposing defenses. Barber's 16 touches-per-game more than double his previous career high and the depth chart is largely unchanged entering 2019. Barber has slimmed down from his peak weight exiting Auburn, gaining agility while keeping his power base as an interior runner with more savvy than overt athletic traits to his game. Backup RBs: Ronald Jones had rookie season starting aspirations following a second-round draft pedigree and a relatively wide-open depth chart in Tampa Bay for 2018. However, Peyton Barber proved to be the classic pesky veteran capable of holding a lead role and Jones struggled through a midseason hamstring injury to stunt any potential progress, which was minimal with his 1.9 yards-per-carry through the opening five games of the season. Jones' profile exiting college was lacking as a receiver and considering his middle-of-the-road size, there is greater pressure to develop as a high-impact runner with explosive elements. Andre Ellington joins Tampa Bay on his last gasp for NFL viability after not playing in 2018 and bouncing around in 2017. Ellington at his best offers receiving acumen but lacks athleticism for his size and was never considered much of an interior power runner. Fullback:
Wide ReceiversStarters: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin
Backups: Justin Watson, Breshad Perriman, Scott Miller [R], Bobo Wilson, Anthony Johnson [R], Damarkus Lodge [R] Starting WRs: Mike Evans has emerged into one of the top receivers in the NFL with 135 or more targets in each of the past four seasons including a career-high 1,524 yards and 17.7 yards-per-catch. Evans is the perfect pairing with the bold downfield passers from last year of Jameis Winston and now-departed Ryan Fitzpatrick. Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich's pairing as the head coach and offensive coordinator fit the mindset and offensive design for 2019. DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries depart the wide receiver depth chart, clearing 179 targets from last year, likely to be filled by Chris Godwin, a now-healthy O.J. Howard after missing six games, and insulation for Evans' strong target share. Evans is one of the safer projections for a high volume of targets in 2019. Chris Godwin progressed nicely in his second NFL season to 95 targets, more than 800 yards, and a promising seven touchdowns. Mike Evans remains as the locked-in top receiver for the Buccaneers and O.J. Howard returns from missing the final six games with injury in 2018, but DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries are notable free agent departures for the Tampa Bay passing game. Humphries was primarily a slot option in the offense, a role Godwin rarely played last season with less than 30% of his snaps. However, Godwin was more production on a per-route basis aligning inside the formation than Humphries. With a shaky depth chart beyond Evans and Godwin (Justin Watson, Breshad Perriman of note), Godwin is poised to take a step forward with 179 vacated targets from Humphries and Jackson even if a secondary option to Evans and, potentially, O.J. Howard. Backup WRs: Justin Watson was a metric marvel from the 2018 draft class with strong movement to his prototypical frame and elite production. Watson sparsely played on offense as a rookie, buried on a quality wide receiver depth chart, with a mere three targets. Watson has a golden opportunity for growth in 2019. Breshad Perriman is in reclamation projection mode after flaming out of Baltimore and his previous Round 1 NFL Draft pedigree. Perriman still offers a strong size-athleticism combination but route running and consistent hands continue to elude Perriman.
Tight EndsStarters: O.J. Howard
Backups: Cameron Brate, Antony Auclair, Jordan Leggett O.J. Howard elevated in his role as a second-year tight end in 2018, nearly doubling his receptions per game and still averaging a robust 16.6 yards-per-reception as a big play maven. Howard's ankle injury derailed his season finish, limiting him to 10 games, after logging at least 50 yards in 8-of-10 games to begin the season. Cameron Brate was clearly a secondary option to Howard, despite being a quizzical free agent resigning last offseason with Howard's draft capital investment. DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries' departures in free agency leave 179 targets unaccounted for and Howard, along with third-year wide receiver Chris Godwin, the most likely uptick candidates in passing game volume for 2019. Cameron Brate is two seasons removed from his best season (57-660-8 in 2016) and O.J. Howard's drafting in Tampa Bay squashed Brate's chances to post another strong year since. Brate excels with contested catches down the seam and in the red zone, but his opportunity has eroded to being one of the backups in the NFL.
Place KickerCairo Santos, Philip Andersen, Matt Gay [R]: The kicker curse the Buccaneers set off by drafting Roberto Aguayo in the second round in 2016 did not subside in 2018. Free agent signing Chandler Catanzaro did not last the season and was replaced by Cairo Santos with seven games to go. Santos wasn't much better than Catanzaro as a field goal kickers, making 9-of-12 attempts, but not missing a kick from 39 yards or closer, including 17 extra point attempts set him apart from Catanzaro, who missed four extra point attempts before his release. Santos signed a one-year, $1 million dollar deal, with only $195 thousand guaranteed, so he's not assured a Week 1 spot on the roster. The team also signed Philip Andersen, a kicker from the German league, and spMatt Bryant is a candidate to return to the team after the Falcons did not pick up his spent an early fifth on Matt Gay, a kicker with a booming leg who could end up being the favorite with a solid summer because of draft capital spent on him - at least it wasn't a second round pick...
Kick and Punt ReturnersKick Returners: Bobo Wilson, Dare Ogunbowale, Shaun Wilson The 2018 Buccaneers waged an extensive battle for their primary kickoff return duties and managed to go the entire season without a clear winner. In 2019, they somehow return all of the key players and seem poised to repeat the experiment. Wilson, Wilson, and Ogunbowale are all players who are good enough to take a few reps but not good enough to lock down the job, so don't be surprised if someone else emerges at some point to steal the role. Also don't be surprised if Tampa's kickoff returner position just remains a mess for another season. Punt Returners: Bobo Wilson, Dare Ogunbowale, Shaun Wilson As much of a mess as Tampa's kickoff return competition is, its punt return competition is even worse. With long-time punt returner Adam Humphries gone and long-time fill-in DeSean Jackson gone, too, the Bucs are left with the same cluster of mediocre options vying for playing time, only this time they're competing at a position they're not familiar with.
Offensive LineProjected Starters: Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet, Ryan Jensen, Alex Cappa, Demar Dotson
Key Backups: Evan Smith, Earl Watford, Caleb Benenoch Notes: The new coaching staff under Bruce Ariens has expressed an interest in reemphasizing the offensive line. Center Ryan Jensen is a tough player and will fit the new system well. This unit has talent on the left side, where tackle Donovan Smith does a mostly acceptable job and guard Ali Marpet signed a 5-year extension prior to last season. The right side has more questions. Alex Cappa is a physical specimen but has very little experience. Cappa will battle veteran Earl Watford to start at guard. Right tackle Demar Dotson is still trusted as a pass blocker but doesn't contribute much in run blocking. The team views Caleb Benenoch as the next man in line for the job. Overall this is a low-tier unit, but has the potential to rise in the rankings with improved production from the right guard and tackle positions.
Team DefenseThe Bucs did not have a season to remember on the defensive side of the ball. The unit was a liability early in the season after a bizarrely good game against the Saints in New Orleans to open the season. They had a few decent games against a banged up Cam Newton and the 49ers without Jimmy Garoppolo, but otherwise made little noise and finished in the bottom five in every team defense scoring system. They open with the 49ers and Panthers, but there's little reason to consider them as a streamer early in the season with Jason Pierre-Paul almost certainly being out for the first month of the season and the team adjusting to a new scheme under Todd Bowles and likely looking for a combination of players in the secondary that will work in subpackages. They'll remain a defense to target when setting lineups.
Defensive LineStarters: DE Beau Allen, DT Ndamukong Suh, NT Vita Vea, DE Carl Nassib
Backups: DE Jason Pierre-Paul (inj), DT Rakeem Nunez-Roches, DE William Gholston, DE Hunter Dimick, DL Anthony Nelson, DT Terry Beckner Jr. Starting DL: The Buccaneers front seven could have a very different look and feel in 2019. The hiring of new head coach Bruce Arians - and along with him lieutenant Todd Bowles as defensive coordinator - will see the team shift to a 3-4 front, if Bowles' time with the Jets and Cardinals is anything to go by. Vita Vea, a behemoth of a space eater, will play nose tackle, but the end positions are up for grabs. Nine-year veteran Gerald McCoy was released in late May, with the team deciding they did not want to pay his lofty $13m salary. The team took only a day to replace McCoy with Ndamukong Suh, the veteran signing a one-year contract. Meanwhile, Jason Pierre-Paul's status for the 2019 is in serious doubt after he was involved in a single-vehicle crash in which he injured his neck. After seeking advice on how to proceed, he will avoid neck surgery, but his timetable for return is unclear. The favorites to assume the base end jobs in training camp are veterans Beau Allen and Carl Nassib, though there should be fierce competition. What the personnel on the defensive line will allow the Bucs to do is be versatile, something Arians emphasised in his introductory press conference. An attacking, 1-gap style will keep players like Nassib and Allen in the roles they work best at: disruptors. Backup DL: The shift to the 3-4 will mean players will have to adjust, but Carl Nassib has experience in both the 4-3 and 3-4, while Beau Allen profiles as an ideal 3-4 base end. Both players may vault into starting roles with the departure of Gerald McCoy and Jason Pierre-Paul's injury issues. William Gholston will be a valuable body to rotate in to keep both Pierre-Paul - in the unlikely event he plays in 2019 after a neck injury - and Gerald McCoy fresh. Iowa's Anthony Nelson was drafted by the team in the fourth round. A long-limbed pass rusher with good refinement in terms of technique, Nelson should be a quality rotational option in year one. Terry Beckner Jr., drafted in the seventh round, has excellent explosion off the ball.
LinebackersStarters: RILB Devin White, LILB Lavonte David, OLB Shaquil Barrett, OLB Noah Spence
Backups: LB Deone Bucannon, LB Kendell Beckwith [reserve/NFI], LB Kevin Minter, LB Jack Cichy, LB Riley Bullough, LB Corey Nelson, LB Devante Bond Starting LBs: The defensive scheme change to a 3-4 brings with it a new-look linebacker corps, with Lavonte David slotting in as the weakside inside player, flanked by new signing Deone Bucannon, a former Cardinal who will be expected to pick up where the departed Kwon Alexander left off. That stay may be short-lived for Bucannon, however, after the Bucs drafted Devin White of LSU with the fifth pick in the NFL Draft. White has elite closing speed and could even supplant David at weakside, allowing the most experienced player to play strongside. Shaq Barrett was signed to a one-year, $5m contract this offseason after a disappointing tenure in Denver, though he profiles well to Todd Bowles' scheme. Noah Spence, drafted by the former regime to play 4-3 end, could fit in nicely as an edge rusher in a two-point stance, with the flexibility to kick down to a three-point stance in obvious passing situations. Backup LBs: The arrival of Devin White should move Deone Bucannon to the bench, though he may still be used as a subpackage player. Devante Bond played the most snaps among the backups last season, logging 247 in a predominantly two-down role. Kendell Beckwith's future with the team remains in serious doubt after they were forced to place him on the non-football injury list for 2019, ending his season before it even started. Riley Bullough and Jack Cichy are solid special teamers.
Defensive BacksStarters: CB Vernon Hargreaves, CB Carlton Davis, FS Justin Evans, SS Jordan Whitehead
Backups: CB Sean Bunting, CB Jamel Dean, CB M.J. Stewart, CB Ryan Smith, CB DeVante Harris, CB Javien Elliott, S Orion Stewart, S Isaiah Johnson, S Kentrell Brice, S Mike Edwards Starting DBs: The Bucs operated a platoon of sorts at safety last season, with Justin Evans playing full time before getting hurt and Andrew Adams and Jordan Whitehead splitting the other role when Evans was healthy and not quite being full-time players most of the time when Evans was out. The team will hope for more stability at the position entering 2019, with Evans and Whitehead expected to get the starting nod. Bucs general manager Jason Licht admitted that Evans took a step back in 2018, finishing on injured reserve for the second time in as many seasons. Vernon Hargreaves is the standout name in a crowded but young cornerback group. Hargreaves has plenty to prove to the new regime, having played just one game in 2018 as injuries continued to plague him. Carlton Davis played fewer snaps than only one Tampa Bay cornerback - Brent Grimes - last season and has the inside line to start. Backup DBs: M.J. Stewart, Ryan Smith and Javien Elliott all contributed last season in Vernon Hargreaves' absence, but none among them distinguished himself. The trio fit well as decent backups, while at safety Kentrell Brice has a chance to unseat one of Justin Evans and Jordan Whitehead if either falter. The Bucs went to the defensive back well multiple times in the NFL Draft, taking Sean Bunting, who allowed under a 39 percent completion rate into his coverage in 2018, in the second round. They followed that with Jamel Dean and safety Mike Edwards in the third. Last modified: 2019-05-24 17:29:25