Buccaneers News NFL: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin may not start when he returns from his four game suspension.



Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2017 Season Preview




Chris Ransom follow @DraftUtopia Posted on 7/31/2017.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Free Agency Recap


Tampa Bay got a few former Washington Redskins in wide receiver DeSean Jackson and defensive tackle Chris Baker who is moving from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense. Tampa Bay also added J.J. Wilcox a free safety from the Dallas Cowboys to be their new strong safety. The Buccaneers also brought in Ryan Fitzpatrick as their backup to replace Mike Glennon after Glennon took a starting gig with the Bears.



Tampa Bay Buccaneers Draft Recap


The Buccaneers got O.J. Howard in the first round at tight end out of Alabama. Their next pick was Texas A&M safety Justin Evans who may push for playing time. Third round pick Chris Godwin is another player that is going to be pushing for playing time as a rookie. Kendall Beckwith is pushing for the 4-3 left outside linebacker job as a rookie. Jeremy McNichols may not see the field, but depending on how the other running backs do in the preseason he may see playing time. Stevie Tu'ikolovatu is a defensive tackle for depth behind Chris Baker that Tampa Bay drafted out of USC in the seventh round.




Tampa Bay Buccaneers Quarterback Summary: Jameis Winston returns as the starting quarterback in year three after having 4,042 passing yards as a rookie and 4,090 passing yards in his second season. Winston built on his 22 passing touchdowns as a rookie and had 28 passing touchdowns in his second season. Ryan Fitzpatrick is an ideal replacement for Mike Glennon.


Dirk Koetter is an offensive genius. Tampa Bay's head coach is awesome at developing quarterbacks and did a phenomenal job developing David Garrard, Matt Ryan, and Jameis Winston in the NFL. Mike Bajakian enters his third season as the Buccaneers quarterback coach after being an offensive coordinator at Central Michigan, Cincinnati, and Tennessee. Winston really cleaned up his act and focused on football with Koetter and Bajakian guiding him in each of his first two seasons. It didn't matter if the Koetter was offensive coordinator or head coach. The point is Tampa Bay found their quarterback with Winston and have the coaches around him to succeed with Koetter as a head coach/mediator who specializes in developing quarterbacks along with Mike Bajakian.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Running Back Summary: Doug Martin will be suspended for the first four games. Jacquizz Rodgers will begin the season as the starter with Charles Sims as the backup and Jeremy McNichols the rookie out of Boise State as the third stringer during Martin's suspension.


Tampa Bay's GM Jason Licht said that Martin's job isn't safe meaning he may get released at the end of the year to save space. Rodgers contract runs through 2019, but there is no dead cap penalty and Tampa Bay can save $1.6-million if they release him in 2018 assuming he does poorly. Charles Sims is a Free Agent in 2018 and McNichols is a developmental player that can replace Sims in his backup role down the road. Tampa Bay could get two more running backs next offseason, one in the 2018 NFL Free Agency period and one in the 2018 NFL Draft.


Running backs coach Tim Spencer has had a lot of success with running backs. He developed Matt Forte on the Chicago Bears until 2014 when he left Chicago to go to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Spencer is now in his fourth season with Tampa Bay.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Wide Receiver Summary: Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson are Winston's top two receiving targets. Adam Humphries is projected as the teams slot receiver and is an RFA after this season. Tampa Bay may not use their RFA on Humphries or use a level 1 tender where a team only has to give up a seventh round pick for Humphries. The reason I say that is because Humphries is struggling against guys on Tampa Bay's secondary where as Chris Godwin, the Buccaneers third round pick out of Penn State is already torching Vernon Hargreaves III, Tampa Bay's 2016 first round pick in coverage which is a very good sign.


I think we will see two wide receiver sets with Evans and Jackson. We will also see three wide receiver sets with Humphries in the slot as well as three wide receiver sets with Godwin on the outside and Jackson in the slot. We could even see some four wide receiver sets with Evans and Godwin on the outside with Jackson and Humphries both lined up in the slot. All these options and possibilities make Tampa Bay's passing game so deadly.


Offensive coordinator Todd Monken is Tampa Bay's wide receivers coach. I think that Monken will do a good job calling plays to get the most out of Tampa Bay's passing game. He didn't have much to work with last year after their starters got injured and will have more to work with in 2017.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tight End Summary: Cameron Brate and 2017 first round pick O.J. Howard make a good tight end tandem. Howard could easily supplant Brate as the starter in Tampa Bay, but I expect both tight ends to get catches from Winston. You also got Ben Steele entering his first season as a tight ends coach. I feel like Steele will do well as a tight ends coach.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offensive Line Summary: Tampa Bay has Donovan Smith starting at left tackle, Kevin Pamphile starting at left guard, Ali Marpet starting at center, J.R. Sweezy at right guard, and Demar Dotson at right tackle. I feel like this is a good run blocking unit, but also a suspect pass blocking unit that will struggle to keep Jameis Winston from getting sacked.


George Warhop is Tampa Bay's offensive line coach. That tells me Tampa Bay will focus on run blocking to set up the running game while letting Winston use his mobility and scrambling to extend plays out of the pocket rather than improve the pass protection at this point. That's what Tampa Bay did in 2016 even though Winston played more from the pocket which is why Winston took more sacks and threw ore interceptions in 2016.


Tampa Bay ranked in the top 20 in every offensive category in 2015. The Buccaneers ranked 18th in points per game, 18th in total yards per game, 16th in passing yards per game, and 24th in rushing yards per game. Tampa Bay did worse in the running game, but improved offensively everywhere else in 2017. The top 10 offense that I thought Tampa Bay may have last year is something I expect this season with all the talent they got to boost the passing game.



Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defensive Line Summary: Tampa Bay has Robert Ayers starting at 4-3 right end. He had 9.5 sacks as the Giants 4-3 left end in 2015 against mediocre right tackles. William Gholston is starting at 4-3 left end. Noah Spence is the backup 4-3 right end and Jacqueis Smith is the backup 4-3 left end. Gerald McCoy returns as the starting defensive tackle and Chris Baker compliments McCoy at 4-3 defensive tackle. Stevie Tu'ikolovatu is a depth player behind Baker since McCoy is a three-down defensive tackle who is the best player on this defensive line.


Jay Hayes was a defensive line coach with the Cincinnati Bengals from 2003-2015. Hayes will help improve this defensive line. Hayes enters his second season as Tampa Bay's defensive line coach.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Linebacker Summary: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have Lavonte David at 4-3 right outside linebacker. Kwon Alexander is going to start at middle linebacker. Devante Boyd will likely start at 4-3 left outside linebacker. Tampa Bay has excellent starters at linebacker. The depth at linebacker is a little bit better with Cameron Lynch as a backup 4-3 right outside linebacker to Lavonte David, along with Adarius Glanton as a backup 4-3 middle linebacker for depth, and finally Kendall Beckwith one of their two third round picks as a 4-3 left outside linebacker for depth.


Mark Duffner did okay in year one. That was mainly due to Mike Smith, the former Falcons head coach who went 66-46 as Atlanta's head coach being the defensive coordinator on a Buccaneers team that went 9-7 last year. Smith has more depth to work with at linebacker this year and will develop even more quality linebackers.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defensive Backs Summary: The Buccaneers have excellent depth at cornerback. Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves III will start across from each other at cornerback with Grimes as a field cornerback and Hargreaves III as a boundary cornerback. J.J. Wilcox will start at strong safety with Keith Tandy and Justin Evans pushing each other for the safety spot across from Wilcox. Tandy could begin the year as the starter, but like with O.J. Howard and Chris Godwin we may see Evans supplant Tandy as the starting safety.


Ryan Smith is the teams nickel cornerback. Josh Robinson was a solid dime cornerback on Tampa Bay. Jude Adjei-Barimah is the teams quarter cornerback. Chris Conte is an awful backup safety. You got three safeties that can be solid starters with Wilcox being the one guy they cannot lose to injuries along with Chris Conte being the one safety that they cannot play at any cost. Tampa Bay has a defensive backs coach and a secondary coach along with a lot more depth on the secondary.


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did well in Mike Smith's first year as a defensive coordinator. Tampa Bay went from 14th in sacks under Lovie Smith to 10th under defensive coordinator Mike Smith. This defense went from 26th in points allowed under Lovie Smith to 15th in points allowed under Mike Smith. Tampa Bay's total yards allowed per game, passing yards allowed per game, and rushing yards per game all declined under Mike Smith though. Tampa Bay went from 10th to 23rd in total yards per game on defense. The Buccaneers were 22nd in pass defense and 23rd in run defense in 2016. They kept all their defensive coaches and should be better in 2017.



Tampa Bay Buccaneers Special Teams Summary: Rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo and Nick Folk are battling for the kicker job. Punter Bryan Anger is a solid punter. I don't trust Adam Humphries as a return specialist, but he's been limited to a punt returner role with Ryan Smith being the kick returner. Nate Kaczor was the Titans special teams coordinator the last three years before joining Tampa Bay. Kaczor kept his job so I'm interested to see what he does in his second year.




Tampa Bay Buccaneers Worst Case Scenario: Tampa Bay goes 9-7 again. They get the final wild card in the NFC as a result.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Best Case Scenario: Tampa Bay goes 13-3. They win the NFC South Division and get home field in the NFC with a 13-3 record. Tampa Bay has never had home field in the NFC in the entire history of their franchise.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2017 NFL Schedule


Week
Date
Opponent
Time
Cable Network
Result
Week 1
Bye Week
Week 2
September 17
VS
1 PM EST
FOX
W
Week 3
September 24
AT
1 PM EST
FOX
W
Week 4
October 1
VS
4:05 PM EST
FOX
W
Week 5
October 5
VS
8:25 PM EST
CBS
L
Week 6
October 15
AT
4:05 PM EST
FOX
W
Week 7
October 22
AT
1 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 8
October 29
VS
1 PM EST
FOX
W
Week 9
November 5
AT
1 PM EST
FOX
W
Week 10
November 12
VS
1 PM EST
CBS
W
Week 11
November 19
AT
1 PM EST
FOX
W
Week 12
November 26
AT
1 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 13
December 3
AT
1 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 14
December 10
VS
1 PM EST
FOX
W
Week 15
December 18
VS
8:30 PM EST
ESPN
W
Week 16
December 24
AT
1 PM EST
FOX
W
Week 17
December 31
VS
1 PM EST
FOX
W


Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2017 Projected Record (12-4): I initially had Tampa Bay losing to Miami in week 1, but Mike Smith returns as defensive coordinator while Vance Joseph is no longer Miami's defensive coordinator that may make a difference. Either way I expect Tampa Bay to be a playoff team this year, and so does most of the country with every pundit I know unanimously declaring Tampa Bay a playoff team for 2017 despite never going to the playoffs under Jameis Winston as he enters his third year in the NFL.


Spoiler Alert! Tampa Bay was my only team to reach 12 wins in a super competitive NFC. Therefore, they are my 1 seed in the NFC and will clinch home field for the first time in team history this season if my prediction comes true.









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