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Preseason Power Rankings No. 26: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Lovie Smith AP

It’s possible that there wasn’t a team in the league that needed blowing up more than the Buccaneers last year.

They threw a lot of money at problems, and there never appeared to be any solutions, at least any Greg Schiano appeared capable of solving.

From a former first-round quarterback who lost his way to one of their highest-priced players never quite looking like himself, the Bucs were kind of a mess.

So they got a new coaching staff, a new quarterback, and a new sense of hope.

Strengths.

First off, the Bucs have upgraded their coaching staff.

The NFC South’s a loaded division from a coaching standpoint, and new boss Lovie Smith doesn’t have to take a back seat of any of his neighbors.

While he had his critics in Chicago, he kept a team consistently successful, and made a Super Bowl with something called Rex Grossman starting at quarterback. That merits some kind of lifetime achievement award, but Smith’s strength isn’t simply Xs and Os.

After the Schiano era, anyone is going to seem personable and relatable, but Smith has a calm, collected style borrowing from his mentor Tony Dungy, and the Bucs needed that.

The Bucs also have the makings of a very good defense, even by their own standards.

Gerald McCoy has emerged as a legitimate star, and with free agent pickup Michael Johnson coming over from the Bengals, they have a legitimate edge rusher to keep the pressure on.

With emerging star linbebacker Lavonte David and playmakers in the secondary in Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson, the Bucs have the kind of speed and explosiveness to match up with the varying brands of offenses in their own division.

Weaknesses.

There are reasons to look at their offense and hope, but it’s hard to know exactly what the Buccaneers are getting.

Bringing in quarterback Josh McCown lends a steady, respected veteran who is coming off a hot streak.

But his run of good form with the Bears (subbing for an injured Jay Cutler) might be hard to replicate without Marc Trestman, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.

With Vincent Jackson and first-rounder Mike Evans, the Bucs have some downfield targets, and second-round tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins could become one soon). But they’re still mixing the ingredients together under new coordinator Jeff Tedford, so they’re still an unknown commodity.

Their biggest problem is their offensive line, where they still can’t be sure what they’re going to get out of big investment Carl Nicks, and they’ve otherwise blown up the old line.

They added tackle Anthony Collins and center Evan Dietrich-Smith in free agency, but they’re shaky in the middle, and that might make it tough for everything to gel for a team building an offense from scratch.

Changes.

Oh, pretty much everything. That’s all.

A new General Manager (Jason Licht) and a new coach usually means a lot of turnover, but the rate at which the Bucs cleaned house was amazing.

They cut players (Darrelle Revis, Donald Penn, Davin Joseph), they traded players (Mike Williams, Jeremy Zutttah), and they held the door for most of their own free agents.

Considering the investments the previous regime made in some of those players, the change is dramatic, which should serve as a clear message to the few old guys who remain.

But while the incomings might lack some of the star power, and no islands are named after them, they bought in bulk.

The result could be a team with a drastically different look in 2014, but that was needed after going 4-12 twice in the previous three seasons.

It will be curious to see how former starting quarterback Mike Glennon responds to his benching in favor of McCown. If he develops into a legitimate starter, the Bucs have a chance to build something here around some young skill-position players.

Camp Battles.

With part of the money they didn’t give Revis for another year, the Bucs spent on Titans free agent Alterraun Verner.

But there should be some healthy competition opposite him, with former Cowboys first-rounder Mike Jenkins and 2013 second-rounder Johnathan Banks.

The other big mystery is right guard (and that’s assuming that Nicks gets back on the field).

Patrick Omameh worked there during offseason camps, but they also bright in veteran Oneil Cousins and could look to Jamon Meredith there as well. Nick’s health exposes a lack of depth in the middle, but they hope Dietrich-Smith lends some stability there.

They’ll also be looking for a reliable third receiver among an odd lot of contestants (from rookie Robert Herron to journeyman Louis Murphy), as well as a backup to running back Doug Martin as they hope to spread the carries a bit.

Prospects.

In another division, the Bucs prospects would be much brighter.

But for all the changes elsewhere, they’re battling against proven programs with recent success.

If McCown is able to maintain the kind of clean play he gave the Bears last year, they have a real chance to make strides. He has a respect level among players and an underrated athleticism, so there’s a chance he could make them stable.

That might be all they need, as Smith should make the defense better by scheme alone.

Schiano was overmatched in the pro game, and his lack of any kind of interpersonal skills made it worse. You can only play the Bill Belichick tough-guy act if you win, and Schiano never did.

Smith doesn’t have an act, he’s simply a good coach. That’s enough to make the Bucs better in a hurry.

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46 Responses to “Preseason Power Rankings No. 26: Tampa Bay Buccaneers”
  1. wydok says: Jul 10, 2014 9:02 AM

    So, you are telling me that Browns are AT WORST 25th?!?

  2. suns11111 says: Jul 10, 2014 9:06 AM

    So how again is Tampa ranked ahead of the Viks or Jags?

  3. southpaw2k says: Jul 10, 2014 9:06 AM

    Every year since 2003, there has been at least one team who finished last in its division and rebounded the following year to win the division outright (a couple times there were two teams the same year to do so). This is no fluke.

    This year’s edition of that stat is going to be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Calling it now: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, your 2014 NFC South Champions.

  4. andrejohnsonforpresident says: Jul 10, 2014 9:07 AM

    Considering they brought in an old qb I was shocked at the o-line cuts. I guess Penn and Joseph might have been a little overrated but to cut them was shocking. I don’t tend to like the idea of cutting o-lineman with no one to take their spot.

  5. dynast77 says: Jul 10, 2014 9:08 AM

    The Browns are easily the worst team in football… have been for a long, long time. How are they not in your bottom 7?

  6. lionswinsuperbowl says: Jul 10, 2014 9:08 AM

    Should be very tough defensively with Lovie. Have a lot of pieces on offense. I thought they should of stuck w/Glennon but McCown did play well last season. This team has enough talent to compete for a Wild Card spot.

  7. ariani1985 says: Jul 10, 2014 9:14 AM

    Green Bay or Tampa Bay same thing….

  8. btellington says: Jul 10, 2014 9:18 AM

    Weaknesses: Some of their players think McCown is as good as Brees, indicating a severe inability to scout opposing offenses.

  9. tjacks7 says: Jul 10, 2014 9:26 AM

    I can’t wait to see the argument for why Houston and Cleveland aren’t the worst teams in the league.

  10. calhounlambeau says: Jul 10, 2014 9:28 AM

    These rankings are terrible. Anything original? Probably not.

  11. iowamiah says: Jul 10, 2014 9:28 AM

    “he kept a team consistently successful, and made a Super Bowl with something called Rex Grossman starting at quarterback. That merits some kind of lifetime achievement award”

    Yeah BUT….if he wouldn’t have foolishly stood behind Grossman for YEARS he would have a Superbowl under his belt.

    Pretty sure Brees went to New Orleans in 2006. 6 years 60 million. You can’t tell me that even if his arm had fallen off he wouldn’t have been better than Grossman. Smith and Angelo both deserve to be run through the mud with the Grossman bit.

  12. bbeachler says: Jul 10, 2014 9:29 AM

    Before anyone says it: Yes, they ranked the Bucs behind the Jags, Browns and Vikings. There, I saved you from having to comment.

  13. bassplucker says: Jul 10, 2014 9:31 AM

    Any Bears fan will tell you that Lovie Smith had significant limitations as a HC during his tenure in Chicago. His inability to ever hire a competent OC resulted in teams with world-class defense and special teams but not have the offense necessary to win critical games against quality opponents — resulting in too many missed playoff appearances, which ultimately did him in.

    That being said, there is evidence that Lovie learned some lessons during his year off. If the guy Lovie hired as OC is legit, and if Lovie is willing to defer personnel decisions to others in the organization who are better at evaluating talent then he is, he could have a nice rebirth in Tampa. And if that happens, the Bucs could show some nice improvement in a short time.

  14. bucfanforlife says: Jul 10, 2014 9:36 AM

    I can tell you right now the bucs will not be picking sixth overall at the next draft, I am willing to put everything I own up on that

  15. doctormantistoboggan says: Jul 10, 2014 9:40 AM

    Would the Bucs ever change their mascot to an over-tanned party bro ala “The Situation”? Seems more appropriate to me.

  16. crenshawpete714 says: Jul 10, 2014 9:42 AM

    I completely disagree with them being this low. Having added Michael Johnson, Alterraun Verner, and Lovie Smith, their defense will be at worst top 10. Offensively, McCown is an upgrade over Josh Freeman, not to mention the fact that they actually have a viable #2 receiver in Evans and a healthy Doug Martin. I don’t want to speak too soon, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this team won 7 or 8 games.

  17. coldwater32301 says: Jul 10, 2014 9:44 AM

    Well that’s good I believe they will play better as underdogs… They will shock many especially if their starting QB is a decent game manager…Indeed…

  18. hodous says: Jul 10, 2014 9:46 AM

    Bucs two spots to low, Vikings were two spots two high… And who forgot about the Browns? Seriously.

  19. caspius1 says: Jul 10, 2014 9:55 AM

    Buffalo is better

  20. weepingjebus says: Jul 10, 2014 9:58 AM

    Surprised we haven’t seen the Broncos yet. Maybe the Titanic is just listing?

  21. politicallyincorrect says: Jul 10, 2014 10:16 AM

    still perplexed why anyone would have hired Greg Schiano as HC… this had to set back the org several years

    and, despite good rep, and not intending disrespect, I do think the owner was basically “dead” for many years and acted very irresponsibly… Schiano, really?????

    hint – don’t ask BB for advice and don’t value his opinions

  22. charman11 says: Jul 10, 2014 10:21 AM

    lol most of you guys asking about where are the Browns.. they are going to be a pretty good team this year. They have made some moves this off season, well a lot of moves and I for one think they will be tuff. And Yes I am a Browns fan. They will surprise you this year. I can not wait for the season to start. And thank God we will not have to watch Weedon play that alone is enough to have us Dawgs thrilled for this season to get started. Hoyer or Manziel either way we will be so much better and a lot more fun to watch. But I am sure we will be next in line on this list or very soon to follow so be patient.
    You all will have the opportunity to bash us then all you want..as usual.

  23. jagsfan2012 says: Jul 10, 2014 10:28 AM

    Before everyone gets upset, just remember people that the NFL is NOT college football. Rankings don’t matter, it’s the record that gets you into the playoffs, not computers and polls.

  24. nflgiant says: Jul 10, 2014 10:28 AM

    8-8 at best 5-11 at worst

  25. realnflmaster says: Jul 10, 2014 10:36 AM

    Tampa Bay will win 4 games if lucky.

  26. politicallyincorrect says: Jul 10, 2014 10:51 AM

    I do think Jets are worse than some of teams mentioned, particularly the two NFC teams, but they get propped up a bit by playing in such a bad division and conf where they will win a few games and appear better than they are

  27. tae323 says: Jul 10, 2014 10:56 AM

    Did they forget that the Browns are in the league

  28. tjacks7 says: Jul 10, 2014 10:59 AM

    Seriously though, most local high schools could beat the browns best 2 out of 3.

  29. cjbrowns1 says: Jul 10, 2014 11:05 AM

    Cleveland’s defense alone should put them around the 20th spot. The addition of a running game, strengthening of the o-line, and the emergence of Jordan Cameron will give their offense a more competitive opportunity. Gordon’s issues are a killer and QB is still a question mark even though a healthy Hoyer and the drafting of JF provide potential.

  30. rbanks51 says: Jul 10, 2014 11:08 AM

    This could be the best defense in the NFL this year…these rankings are insane.

  31. mousietongue says: Jul 10, 2014 11:09 AM

    I’m a Texans fan and even I’m surprised they haven’t been listed yet….

  32. jjackwagon says: Jul 10, 2014 11:19 AM

    Raiders will never get to 26th.

  33. largent80100 says: Jul 10, 2014 11:23 AM

    Tampa did a great draft picking Evans and Seferian-Jenkins and now they got rid of cancer Schiano.

    But quarterback playing will hold them to go further, McCown will probably act as a game manager but everybody knows that his 5 games in Chicago were two things: a fluke and the ultimate proof of how awful Jay Cutler is.

    New Orleans will probably win the NFC South but ATL, TB and CAR are very close consering their problems (lack of depth, QB and no WRs)

  34. mrfrostyj says: Jul 10, 2014 11:41 AM

    If it makes some of you feel better just look at last years PFT pre season rankings when the Browns were picked 32nd and they said Cleveland wouldn’t win a single game. They went on to finish 27th in the league that year.

    the five years before that the Browns ACTUALLY finished

    2011-28th

    2010 – 28th

    2009 -25th

    2008 – 28th

    2007 – 7th

    In other words they’re not a good team but at their absolute worst there are always teams worse than they are. When they’re average you get that 2007 number (keep in mind Derek Anderson was at QB and Romeo Crennel was their coach that year).

    Questioning their placement I totally understand…stating they should be last when they consistently show that bad team = 5 wins in Cleveland when NFL average for the worst team is 2 wins just shows a lack of math skills.

  35. schroepnuts says: Jul 10, 2014 12:47 PM

    I like this ranking a hell of a lot more than that crap they pulled on Fox Sports Live.

  36. jwmickey says: Jul 10, 2014 12:47 PM

    I’m still not sure why TB brought in Josh McCown and crowned him starter over Glennon. He’s still raw but had the best year for last year’s rookie QB class with just one guy to throw to and a crappy O-line. McCown did not all the sudden become good after a career of continuously throwing more INTs than TDs – he had arguably the best receiving tandem in the game and Jeffery made a lot of truly amazing grabs that could have easily been incompletions or interceptions.

  37. zz3712kk says: Jul 10, 2014 1:47 PM

    politicallyincorrect says:
    Jul 10, 2014 10:51 AM
    I do think Jets are worse than some of teams mentioned, particularly the two NFC teams, but they get propped up a bit by playing in such a bad division and conf where they will win a few games and appear better than they are
    —————————————————-
    I don’t think the afc east is nearly as bad as people say it is.

  38. harrybucsfan says: Jul 10, 2014 1:49 PM

    First, its ridiculous you don’t have the Browns and Texans listed yet.

    Second, here is a prediction for you. 1) The Panthers will finish last in the NFCS. It blows my mind they do not have one WR who caught a pass for them last year and also have major questions at LT. 2) As another person said, NO WAY the Bucs are in the top 6 of the draft next year as you predict. The addition of Lovie alone is worth 3 additional wins over what Schiano did – that would put them at 7-9 at least.

  39. ausernamethatisavailable says: Jul 10, 2014 8:12 PM

    Bucs will be much better this year. This ranking is way too low. They are a talented team that was a disaster last year bc of their coach. I think they are the biggest threat to the saints in the division this year, although i think the saints do win the division. Bucs are better than panthers and falcons this year, and fight for a wildcard. Book it.

  40. bucsorbust says: Jul 10, 2014 8:33 PM

    Not even close. Worst case, the Bucs are 15th right now. The only possible holes are the O line, and that goes from being a good squad to mediocre if Nicks is out. QB is an unknown, true, but both QBs can be game managers. That said, I like the Bucs being in the downtrodden slot, because this is where they do well. Raymond James Stadium will bleed Red and Pewter in 2014. Relentless!

  41. evansvc says: Jul 10, 2014 9:39 PM

    What would it hurt to take a look at Vince Young…..
    (NFL Rookie of the Year, 2 Pro Bowls, Playoff experience and Mobility). Vince has a career winning record of 31-19…
    He can help a team…even if it’s only to upgrade the team’s quarterback pool…

  42. keifer1751 says: Jul 10, 2014 10:38 PM

    I have been a Bucs fan for a very long time. There has always been great talent in Tampa, but their coaching was abysmal. Now, finally, there is a real NFL coach and this year, we will have something to smile about. Win the South? Not yet, but a wild card berth is possible. Can’t wait..

  43. acurat says: Jul 10, 2014 10:38 PM

    Wow, they had me fooled – positive comments about the coaching, positive comments about the defense, positive “if” comments about the QB, WRs, TE, bad comments about the line – and a ranking at the bottom of the league – lower expectations than Jacksonville which still has many holes. Seems to me they protest too much about how good Tampa is – they have no confidence at all that Smith will turn it around. Considering the Bucs ended the season last year ranked about the same, all the change netted them the same seeding. I guess that means either they are really wrong, or they wrote this piece for nothing.

  44. Nic says: Jul 11, 2014 12:06 AM

    caspius1 says: Jul 10, 2014 9:55 AM

    Buffalo is better
    ——————————————————-
    Week 14, 27-6. You were saying?

  45. thesuper1 says: Jul 11, 2014 9:26 AM

    doctormantistoboggan says:
    Jul 10, 2014 9:40 AM
    Would the Bucs ever change their mascot to an over-tanned party bro ala “The Situation”? Seems more appropriate to me.
    ____________________________________

    Our mascot isn’t here for your twisted little fantasies.

  46. coloradobuc says: Jul 28, 2014 1:39 PM

    I believe we are going to surprise a lot people this year. GO BUCS

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