2018 TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS FOOTBALL PREVIEW

HEAD COACH: Dirk Koetter (Third Year)

RECORD WITH BUCCANEERS: 14 – 18

CAREER RECORD: 14 – 18

2017 RECORD: 5 – 11

2017 DIVISIONAL RECORD: 1 – 5

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Todd Monken

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Mike Smith

STADIUM: Raymond James Stadium (65,890)

 

2018 SCHEDULE

September 9 at New Orleans

September 16 Philadelphia

September 24 Pittsburgh

September 30 at Chicago

October 7 BYE

October 14 Atlanta

October 21 Cleveland

October 28 at Cincinnati

November 4 at Carolina

November 11 Washington

November 18 at NY Giants

November 25 San Francisco

December 2 Carolina

December 9 New Orleans

December 16 at Baltimore

December 23 at Dallas

December 30 Atlanta

 

2017 RESULTS

Chicago 29 – 7

Minnesota 17 – 34

NY Giants 25 – 23

New England 14 – 19

Arizona 33 – 38

Buffalo 27 – 30

Carolina 3 – 17

New Orleans 10 – 30

NY Jets 15 – 10

Miami 30 – 20

Atlanta 20 – 34

Green Bay 20 – 26 OT

Detroit 21 – 24

Atlanta 21 – 24

Carolina 19 – 22

New Orleans 31 – 24

 

FIVE – YEAR WINNING TREND

2013: 4 – 12

2014: 2 – 14

2015: 6 – 10

2016: 9 – 7

2017: 5 – 11

 

STARTERS RETURNING OFFENSE: 9

STARTERS RETURNING DEFENSE: 8

 

2017 TEAM STATS

OFFENSE:

TOTAL: 363.5

RUSHING: 90.6

PASSING: 272.9

SCORING: 20.9

THIRD DOWN%: 43.4

PUNT RETURN: 9.6

KICK RETURNS: 21.6

 

DEFENSE:

TOTAL: 378.1

RUSHING: 117.5

PASSING: 260.6

SCORING: 23.9

INTERCEPTIONS: 13

SACKS: 22

TURNOVER MARGIN: -1

 

2017 INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

PASSING: Jameis Winston, 282 – 442 –3,504 – 19TD – 11INT

RUSHING: Peyton Barber, 108 – 423 – 3.9 – 3TD

RECEIVING: Mike Evans, 71 – 1,001– 14.1 – 5TD

TACKLES: Lavonte David, 101

SACKS: Gerald McCoy, 6.0

INTERCEPTIONS: 4 players tied with 3

 

2018 TAMPA BAY DRAFT: B

DT Vita Vea, Washington

RB Ronald Jones II, USC

CB MJ Stewart, North Carolina

CB Carlton Davis, Auburn

OL Alex Cappa, Humboldt State

S Jordan Whitehead, Pittsburgh

WR Justin Watson, Penn

LB Jack Cichy, Wisconsin

 

KEY PLAYER MOVEMENT

ADDITIONS

DT Beau Allen, Philadelphia

K Chandler Catanzaro, NY Jets

DE Vinny Curry, Philadelphia

C Ryan Jensen, Baltimore

LB Cameron Lynch, LA Rams

DE Jason Pierre – Paul, NY Giants

DT Mitch Unrein, Chicago

 

SUBTRACTIONS

OT Kevin Pamphile, Tennessee

DT Chris Baker, Cincinnati

RB Doug Martin, Oakland

 

OFFENSE PREVIEW

The Bucs will head into the 2018 season with a new offensive coordinator. Todd Monken was the receivers coach in 2017 and will undoubtedly make some changes in how Tampa Bay will execute on offense. QB Jameis Winston will be sitting out the first four games because of a suspension delivered in the off-season. Winston was only 3 – 10 as a starter last season, and he struggled throwing the football deep. The impact of Winston’s shoulder injury cannot be understated. He threw for 3,504 yards, but had only 19 touchdowns and threw 11 interceptions. What is a mystery for the Buccaneers is Winston hasn’t totally put things together in his first three seasons. There are times he looks like an All-Pro, then there are times he makes terrible decisions and forces throws. Coaches are hoping they can keep Winston from trying to do too much. Until Winston returns veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick will get the start for the Buccaneers. Fitzpatrick threw for just over 1,000 yards with seven touchdowns in 163 attempts last season.

The running attack has been anemic at best with Doug Martin at the helm. Martin is now gone and the Buccaneers will put their trust in USC running back Ronald Jones II. Jones will be used primarily on first and second down, with Peyton Barber getting carries in other situations. Charles Sims III and Jacquizz Rogers are also in the running to get carries in 2017. As a group, Tampa Bay’s ground game must improve markedly for Winston’s play – action to work. The Buccaneers haven’t run the ball well consistently since 2015.

The receiving corps should be a position of strength for Tampa Bay. Mike Evans led the team in receiving with 71 receptions for 1,001 yards and 5 touchdowns. Evans has the size and speed combination that could make him one of the best receivers in the NFL. Evans signed a five – year, $82.5 million contract in the off-season. Evans will be joined by DeSean Jackson on the other side. Jackson missed two games with the injuries and it took time for him to build chemistry with Winston in this offense. He still finished with 50 receptions for 668 yards. Tampa Bay has an excellent slot receiver in Adam Humphries and pass – catching tight ends in Cameron Brate and OJ Howard. Look for second – year pro Chris Godwin to get more playing time as he did as a rookie.

The offensive line will look a little different thanks to the addition of former Baltimore center Ryan Jensen. Ali Marpet, last year’s starter at center, will move the left guard. Caleb Benenoch is scheduled to start at right guard but could fill in at right tackle as Demar Dotson looks to recover from a knee injury. JR Sweezy will start at left guard with veteran Evan Smith, a former starter, giving the Buccaneers depth at all three interior positions.

 

DEFENSE PREVIEW

Tampa Bay never established their true identity in 2017. Their pass rush wasn’t good at all, their linebackers missed substantial time with various injuries and their secondary was inconsistent and unreliable. DC Mike Smith will expect the defense to be much improved this season with massive changes to their scheme and personnel.

After finishing last in the league in total defense, sacks and third – down percentage, Tampa Bay spent the off-season rebuilding this defensive line. The Bucs signed three – agent tackle Beau Allen (Philadelphia) and free-agent end of Vinny Curry (Philadelphia). They traded for Giants defensive end Jason Pierre – Paul and used their #12 overall selection on Washington Huskies defensive tackle Vita Vea. Noah Spence, who was limited to just six games in 2017 because of injuries, will now be designated as a pass rusher only. One mainstay of the defensive line is Gerald McCoy. McCoy led the Buccaneers with six sacks in 2017. Tampa Bay is hoping to generate more than 22 sacks.

After McCoy, linebackers Levonte David and Kwon Alexander are the two best players on this defense. The coaching staff is hoping they will be more productive in 2018. Injuries caused David to miss three games and Alexander missed four games. David did not have a sack or an interception last season, Alexander came up with three interceptions but no sacks. Kendall Beckwith should be the other starter if he can make a full recovery from ankle surgery.

The secondary will have a new look after the Buccaneers allowed a league – worst 4,169 yards last season. Brent Grimes is their best corner, but he turns 35 this season. They are hoping former first – round pick Vernon Hargreaves will play up to his potential. He struggled on the outside last season so Tampa Bay moved him inside and then used Ryan Smith on the outside. Grimes and Hargreaves are nearing the end of the road. The Bucs used a second – round pick’s on cornerback MJ Stewart out of North Carolina and Carlton Davis out of Auburn. Both could see the field quickly if either starter struggles early. Chrid Conte should be one of the starting safeties with the other job up for grabs between Justin Evans, Keith Tandy and rookie Jordan Whitehead.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

Tampa Bay was 3 – 7 in one score games in 2017. Much of that was because of a disastrous kicking game. They converted only 25–of–34 field-goal attempts. To fix the problem they signed Chandler Catanzaro, who will provide them with a stronger more accurate leg. He made 25–of– 30 field-goal attempts with the Jets in 2017. Punter Bryan Anger regressed a little last season, but Tampa Bay likes his ability to change field position and put the football inside the 20. Humphries is likely to handle punt return duties again, while Rodgers and Sims will return kicks.

 

WHAT THE SCOUTS ARE SAYING

Losing Winston for the first four games may cost Tampa Bay their entire season. The Buccaneers play at New Orleans, home against Philadelphia, home against Pittsburgh and traveled to Chicago to start the 2018 season. They lost their way in 2017 because of expectations from a 9 – 7 2016 campaign. Without the ability to run the football and the inability to stop anyone on defense, Tampa Bay finished with two different five – game losing streaks. Winston must stop trying to do too much. If there running attack doesn’t get better, neither will Winston. Mike Evans signed a new contract and has been nothing short of phenomenal since 2014. Evans will be better only if Winston improves. Adding three key pieces to the defensive line will help Gerald McCoy become more dominant. The linebackers must stay healthy and be more productive. The secondary was substandard, but drafting Davis and Stewart in the second around should make them better. It is clear this team is below the rest of the division from a talent standpoint. Making the playoffs in 2018 is highly unlikely.

 

PREDICTION

The head coach and the general manager are on the hot seat heading into a brand-new season. Tampa Bay is confident they have made enough right moves to make a run at a wildcard. There was no doubt Tampa Bay was disappointed in 2017. Winston must read – establish himself as the quarterback capable of getting this team to the postseason. The schedule is much tougher, especially in September. If this rebuild defense can step up and the offense can be more balanced, the Buccaneers could surprise some people in a tight division. If not, they will finish in last place once again.

 

PROJECTED FINISH: Fourth NFC South.