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PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 24: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Josh Freeman AP

Maybe it’s something in the NFC South water.

But like their neighbors the Panthers, the Buccaneers are a team that it’s hard to find a consensus on this offseason.

On one hand, they aggressively addressed their biggest weakness from last year. At the same time, they’ve left the biggest question for the future of any franchise dangling awkwardly.

So as much as you want to like their chances based on adding legitimate stars such as cornerback Darrelle Revis and safety Dashon Goldson, everything they’re doing this year will hinge on the performance of quarterback Josh Freeman.

If they get Good Freeman, there’s no reason to think they can’t be a playoff team.

If they get Bad Freeman, they could sink, and be forced to start over with a new quarterback at a time when many of the other pieces are well in place, and match the style of their second-year coach, Greg Schiano.

Strengths.

The Bucs have the capability to be both balanced and explosive on offense.

Wide receiver Vincent Jackson averaged 19.2 yards per catch last year, and running back Doug Martin was nothing short of a revelation, with more than 1,900 yards from scrimmage.

Once they get Pro Bowl guards Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph back on the field, it should help create more opportunities for Martin.

But the most unlikely strength, considering they were last in the league in pass defense last year, is the secondary.

Making a trade with the Jets for Revis and signing former 49ers standout Goldson to yet another free agent splash deal should solidify things, and help second-year safety Mark Barron grow into the player he appeared close to turning into at times last year. They went from a disaster to good enough that there wasn’t room for Ronde Barber, so the improvement is clear.

Weaknesses.

If they apply the same approach next offseason, the Bucs will obviously be loading up on defensive linemen.

They let defensive end Michael Bennett and nose tackle Roy Miller walk away, without apparent (or at least established) replacements on hand.

Miller’s an easier fix, but Bennett led the team with 9.0 sacks last year, putting all the eggs in the broken baskets that are Da’Quan Bowers and Adrian Clayborn.

Both have shown flashes of being good pass-rushers, but neither has proven they can stay on the field, with Clayborn’s ACL and Bowers’ Achilles only the latest problems.

If they can’t stay well, the Bucs are dangerously thin up front.

Changes.

Taking a wrecking ball to the secondary was the main one, unless you consider letting Freeman twist.

Letting him enter the final year of his rookie contract is a final prove-it play by the organization, and it’s either going to cost them time or money.

When Freeman is on (2010, first half of last year), he’s all the quarterback a good team needs.

When he’s not (2011, late last year), he’s well short of the guy you stake a franchise to.

If Freeman comes up with a good season, the Bucs will be forced to cough up the money or franchise him.

But the way coach Greg Schiano played word games this offseason — saying rookie Mike Glennon had a chance to start, then saying Freeman was his guy — makes it clear that it’s all just a motivational ploy.

It might be genius. It might cost them more money.

It better work.

Camp Battles.

The Bucs have a few slots that couldn’t be filled by big-ticket buys.

They have an odd cast of defensive tackles trying to replace Miller, and fourth-round rookie Akeem Spence has as good a chance as any. Otherwise, they have a group of Panthers cast-offs including Gary Gibson, Derek Landri and Andre Neblett.

There’s also a vacancy at strongside linebacker, after Quincy Black’s neck injury. Someone from the group including Adam Hayward, Jonathan Casillas and Dekoda Watson will need to emerge to round out an acceptable group.

They’re also looking for someone to make the tight end position his own, with either former Packer Tom Crabtree or Luke Stocker the leading candidates, though the offense isn’t such that they’re counting on either being a regular target.

Prospects.

The degree to which their entire season hinges on Freeman is fascinating, and layered.

Keeping the offensive system in place should help, but the pressure of knowing your own financial future and the direction of a franchise sits on your shoulders has to be a burden.

The Bucs have done a good job of putting parts in place around Freeman to make it easier to succeed, specifically by giving him a second year with offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan. That kind of stability is necessary for him to develop confidence.

At the same time, there are enough questions up front to make you wonder whether the big expenditures in the back will help.

As good as Revis is, if quarterbacks are never pressured, opponents will find cornerback Eric Wright’s guy more easily.

They’ve done an admirable job of addressing needs, but it’s still unclear if they’ve built on a stable foundation.

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35 Responses to “PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 24: Tampa Bay Buccaneers”
  1. iced107 says: Jul 13, 2013 9:08 AM

    How is the secondary a strength? Eric wright and barron graded out as some of the worst players in coverage according to PFF, revis is coming off an acl , and their lb’s aren’t good in coverage either. Combine that with no pass rush and this is a strength?

  2. bucswin10 says: Jul 13, 2013 9:15 AM

    Bucs win 10…Mark it down. Weather its post season or not Bucs take a big step foward. Josh is fine and deserves to be treated as a Franchise QB. Who would you replace him right now? When you are ripe you are rotten and when you are green you are growing aplies to the Bucs, and for me that makes a sucessful and fun year.

  3. lgbarn says: Jul 13, 2013 9:21 AM

    No way the Bucs are 24th. This team should surprise a lot of people. Second year in new offense that broke franchise records last year and the most glaring hole (pass defense) was fixed via free agency.

  4. vegaskid21 says: Jul 13, 2013 9:41 AM

    Kinda on the low side there Chief.

  5. ozymandias121 says: Jul 13, 2013 9:49 AM

    Shocking how a team who almost finished .500 is this low. They will only have the Muscle Hamster one year more improved and they signed a healthy? Revis. Freeman knows this is his make or brek year so I expect him to try again. They also signed the hammer in Dashon.

  6. packerbackernj says: Jul 13, 2013 10:02 AM

    “Second year in new offense that broke franchise records last year…”

    That’s really not saying much.

  7. flavordave says: Jul 13, 2013 10:13 AM

    Eagles are clearly better and should be ranked higher. Bow down to Chip and his 11 headed offensive monster machine.

  8. youarejealousof6rings says: Jul 13, 2013 10:16 AM

    They are one of the more underrated teams right now.

  9. glazerh8er says: Jul 13, 2013 10:23 AM

    Not including PRO BOWLERS: Dashon Gholston, Darell Revis, Gerald McCoy, Davin Joseph, Carl Nicks, Donald Penn, Doug Martin, and Vincent Jackson,

    we have potential PRO BOWLERS: Lavonte David (snubbed last year because the league slobs over 3-4 backers I think he lead the league in TFL), Adrian Clayborn, Josh Freeman, and Mark Barron.

    Eventually this team is going to win either despite Freeman, or Freeman is going to get consistent and you are looking at a top 5 team.

  10. glazerh8er says: Jul 13, 2013 10:29 AM

    You can add Jeremy Zuttah (Center who lead a makeshift offensive line to a good season with two pro-bowlers out for year and the kid can play both guard positions which he did last year, could be our best o-lineman), Da’Quan Bowers to the potential list and both our kicker and punter are top tier. Garbage ranking. Garbage. Even Josh Freeman is better than the 24th ranked QB and that is what you are calling the big “X” factor. PS, at one point wasn’t Revis considered THE best defensive player in the league. If he’s healthy isn’t it at least a top 5 best CB?

  11. bigginfragable says: Jul 13, 2013 10:53 AM

    Iced107:
    Barron graded out as terrible in coverage because thats not his strength. He is best when he is playing down low close to the box and hitting people hard. Ronde also excelled at that so he was playing deep. Now that Goldson is back there, Barron will be a much more impact player this season. Also, Wright is terrible and playing #1 spot. This year he will be the nickel corner to limit his exposure at covering players

  12. bunjy96 says: Jul 13, 2013 10:56 AM

    Buc belong about mid teens.

  13. jfreeisthebeesknees says: Jul 13, 2013 11:27 AM

    I understand the ranking. On paper we look great but we haven’t played any games yet to warrant a higher ranking.

    Yet your whole argument about it hinging on Freeman seems remotely off base. I can think of several games last year (every game?) where our secondary just completely let down almost nullifying anything our offense could do. Case and point, the Giants game.

    The secondary HAS to be improved and that alone should be good for a couple more wins. A 7-9 2012 record with possibly the worst secondary play in league history and inconsistent quarterback play has me super excited for this year. Getting our Pro Bowl guards back to give Freeman more time and open up even more holes for Martin. Also, Freeman shouldn’t have the added pressure of trying to over compensate for the defense. All speculation at this point though. 24 works for me. Let the Bucs fly under the radar.

  14. swampcannons says: Jul 13, 2013 11:50 AM

    It’s gonna be a much improved season and this team is way underrated. I believe it’s a good thing and they will surprise a lot of people. No SB prediction here just a really good chance of challenging for the division. This team is balanced on D and not having that hurt us more last season than Freeman’s inconsistent play. Everything seems to be coming together well and as a Bucs fan I’m grateful.

  15. tyelee says: Jul 13, 2013 11:50 AM

    SOOOO many people bring up 2010 Josh…. How long ago has that been now?

    As one who has actually seen this guy play many games, I foresee some time in the never near future he will be seen on the NFL network show making the list one the top “1 year wonders.”… Their have been quite a number of them in the past and JF looks to be 1 in the making!

  16. weekendatberniemadoffs says: Jul 13, 2013 11:55 AM

    Much like Carolina, Tampa deserves to be ranked higher. The Panthers were swept by the Bucs, but should’ve beat both ATL and NO twice last season. I don’t think folks are giving either team enough credit. I could see either one of them, or both, at the top at the division this year. I’m not buying the Falcons winning it again, not because no team has ever repeated in the South, but because I simply was not impressed with them in the two games they faced the Panthers. They are good, but not excellent. The gap between the top and the bottom of the division is small. These rankings don’t matter. You Tampa fans probably feel like I do. When the season starts, public opinion will change quickly. Although I hate your team, I believe the South has far and away the best divisional games.

  17. bnwillard says: Jul 13, 2013 12:21 PM

    Gantt, a former Panthers Beat writer – obviously has some biased axe to grind with the NFC South. No way should Tampa and Carolina be ranked this low.

    The KC Chiefs (2-14)have yet to ranked?!?!? , along with the Rams, Dolphins, Titans, Lions, and Cowboys.

    None of whom are any better than TB or Carolina. Ridiculous.

  18. iced107 says: Jul 13, 2013 12:26 PM

    bigginfragable says:
    Jul 13, 2013 10:53 AM
    Iced107:
    Barron graded out as terrible in coverage because thats not his strength. He is best when he is playing down low close to the box and hitting people hard. Ronde also excelled at that so he was playing deep. Now that Goldson is back there, Barron will be a much more impact player this season. Also, Wright is terrible and playing #1 spot. This year he will be the nickel corner to limit his exposure at covering players
    ——————————————————-

    K first off, let’s stop pretending Adrian Peterson is now the norm’ for ACL tears…please, he is the exception.

    Ronde is retired..Goldson is overrated (I am a Rams fan, I watch him a lot since he’s in the division and there’s a reason why that niners defense got exposed when Justin Smith went down..no more holding the guard = no more aldon smith getting sacks = safety’s cant cover.) Why do you think the niners let him go and drafted eric reid?

    Barron may play in the box a lot, but not on every snap – he will play coverage and he will be a liability again (he was like 80th out 88, eric wright was high 70′s.)

    Secondly, this is a passing league – with 60% of most defensive formations being the Nickel package. So this is your starting corners – Revis (Health ‘?’) , Rookie Banks?, and wright…The LB’s have been suspect in coverage (see Lance Kendricks, Rams TE, 80 yard TD)… The Bucs did NOT have a pass rush last season, and their best pass rusher left via free agency. No pass rush = corner’s getting exposed longer.

    So basically, you’re hinging a “strength” defense on a solid but unspectacular safety, a rookie corner, and Revis but coming off a fresh ACL tear… and given 60% of defensive snaps are in the nickel formation, wright will be on the field…and without a pass rush, a lot of times these guys will be on an island.

    yea….good luck with that

  19. bucrightoff says: Jul 13, 2013 12:28 PM

    Unlike Panthers fans I’m not going to cry and complain about this ranking. It’s totally fair based off how the Bucs played last year, the only basis for a preseason ranking. Ranking the Bucs higher based on what they could do is a projection, not a ranking.

    That said, the Bucs have the potential if they play to their talent to win the NFC South, but its all on Freeman. Freeman needs consistent, mistake free football, because the offense talent around him is better than all but a few teams in the league.

    Defense is going to be better, but can it be worse? Pass rush must get better, I don’t care how much the secondary improved they can’t cover guys for 5+ seconds because there is no rush.

    Ultimately I do think the Bucs will be better, and I predict a 10-6 record, but in the stacked NFC that still might not be good enough for the playoffs. It hasn’t been 2 of the last 3 seasons.

  20. tedmurph says: Jul 13, 2013 1:04 PM

    TB is better than KC, Dolphins, Lions,Rams and Cowboys? Wishful thinking by TB fans. Tenn is the only one where you might have an argument. A lot of these teams have a great offseasons too, like Miami(Wallace and a load of D players) and KC(AReid, ASmith added to a roster loaded with Pro-Bowlers). You can’t just go by last yr. Vegas O/U for TB is 6.5 wins and, although there are suprise teams every yr, those guys ain’t dumb. We’ll see when the bullets start to fly. IMO, that QB will never get them there.

  21. iced107 says: Jul 13, 2013 1:31 PM

    bnwillard says:
    Jul 13, 2013 12:21 PM
    Gantt, a former Panthers Beat writer – obviously has some biased axe to grind with the NFC South. No way should Tampa and Carolina be ranked this low.

    The KC Chiefs (2-14)have yet to ranked?!?!? , along with the Rams, Dolphins, Titans, Lions, and Cowboys.

    None of whom are any better than TB or Carolina. Ridiculous.

    ———————————————————-

    LOL! I was AT the Rams @ Bucs game last year, and The Rams Dominated the Bucs from beginning to end. Freeman was sacked 6x, had 4 picks, Martin had 62 yards on 18 carries..

    More half way through the 3rd quarter – Rams up 28 to 6…final score was 28-13.

    How can you claim to be better than a team when you got absolutely stomped by them?

    Do some research before you say something stupid.

  22. nobby821 says: Jul 13, 2013 1:39 PM

    This is Okay…As long as you follow it up at the end of the season with an article about how WRONG YOU WERE.

    Go Bucs, heres your chip

  23. pmgfootball says: Jul 13, 2013 2:06 PM

    NO WAY are the bucs worse than the chargers and titans

  24. wilsonwillbreaku says: Jul 13, 2013 2:06 PM

    Nov. 3rd home 38 away 6

  25. bullethead527 says: Jul 13, 2013 3:04 PM

    I think the Bucs should be ranked higher. Like the Panthers (my team), I think both teams should fall into the 18-22 22 range, but I cant complain it is only ranked a few spots away from where I would rank these two teams.

  26. meandjuliojonesdownbytheschoolyard says: Jul 13, 2013 3:13 PM

    You’re insane. Number 24, and the dolphins are 23? This team was two or three pass break ups from the playoffs last year, even in games Freeman was not good.

  27. glazerh8er says: Jul 13, 2013 3:25 PM

    Rams game was one of 2 terrible games of the season (at which point we had 2 guys playing in the secondary who were signed off the street). I think Giants week 2 was the biggest game, we totally out classed them, were up 20 points, then we decide to call blitzes every play. So instead of having a HUGE statement win in week 2, we have a demoralizing loss where the whole league is talking about that stupid kneel down play at the end and calling for our team to get hurt. Freeman did his job in all but 2 or 3 games (gave us a chance to win). We have a difficult draw in the NFC East, but we now are a team (starting last year) that can beat every team in the league on any given Sunday, which we haven’t been for a long time. It’s on Freeman and I hope Vegas is wrong because he is the entire reason we are longshots (admittedly, for good reason up to now)

  28. glazerh8er says: Jul 13, 2013 3:28 PM

    *NFC West- PS, I’ll take our odds against the RAMS, ESPECIALLY if Revis is healthy. Now I’m going fishing.

  29. shogunassasin30 says: Jul 13, 2013 3:36 PM

    Hmm – coming from a Denver fan (were gonna destroy the league this year) I have a hard time seeing Tampa as the 24th best team. Martin running behind a pro bowl oline, play action to Vincent Jackson, and a D with McCoy, Lavonte David and Revis? They have as many stars as my team. Then again having some dude named PFM helps. I would guess it’s all about Josh Freeman down there

  30. mungman69 says: Jul 13, 2013 4:16 PM

    Just start the season already.

  31. iced107 says: Jul 13, 2013 4:20 PM

    glazerh8er says:
    Jul 13, 2013 3:28 PM
    *NFC West- PS, I’ll take our odds against the RAMS, ESPECIALLY if Revis is healthy. Now I’m going fishing.

    ————————————————————–

    And trust me, we’re take our odds against the Bucs – AGAIN..Especially if your starting QB is Freeman.

  32. wjmoffatt says: Jul 13, 2013 5:23 PM

    Good thing games are won on the field and not on paper or fantasy. Not sure why any sane person would think the Fins or Lions are better than the Bucs

  33. uglyglazers says: Jul 13, 2013 5:43 PM

    Wow, I thought they would have been closer to 20th. They definitely are over pumped by the fair weather Bucs fans though! They think they are better than the Saints and Falcons lol!

  34. onebucplace says: Jul 15, 2013 3:26 PM

    Don’t punish the Bucs because you don’t like the way the Zimmerman trial was handled, it’s not even the same TV market.

  35. bucemdown says: Jul 17, 2013 11:41 AM

    Being a long time Bucs fan I am excited about this season! Freeman has been inconsistent but so has the team as a whole. I wouldn’t say they are Super Bowl bound but I do believe they will surprise a lot of people and will improve over last year/make the playoffs! I am disappointed they let Bennett and miller go but if Bowers and Clayborne can stay healthy(big question mark) I think our D will be ranked in the top 10. Can’t wait to see Revis, Goldson and the rookie corner play! I think this is the best Bucs offense ever and the D will be much improved if they can stay healthy.

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