Preseason power rankings: No. 29

The firing of Jon Gruden and G.M. Bruce Allen in Tampa after a four-game losing streak to end 2008 was sensible and dangerous at the same time.

There was understandable frustration that Gruden and Allen relied too much on veterans in their never-ending quest to win now, even if it came at the expense of developing talent. On the other hand, Gruden and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin coached up rather mediocre rosters to winning records in three of the last four years.

The Bucs may find out how good they used to have it under new coach Raheem Morris, because this team may have to get worse before it gets better.

Tampa is making huge schematic changes on both sides of the ball.  The team will employ a zone-blocking running attack under new coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski.

The young offensive line may be the strength of the team, and Morris will lean heavily on their solid backfield: Free agent acquisition Derrick Ward, Earnest Graham, and possibly Cadillac Williams.

Byron Leftwich looks like the pick at quarterback, but he has his work cut out for him with a lame wideout group after injured number one Antonio Bryant.  The Bucs placed a risky bet on tight end Kellen Winslow, giving up draft picks and big money for the injury-prone former Brown.

So much for building for the future.

On defense, the Bucs will move away from their “Tampa Two” scheme.  The team dropped a number of aging starters like Derrick Brooks, but it’s debatable how well the roster fits coordinator Jim Bates’ scheme.  They will need linebacker Barrett Ruud and defensive end Gaines Adams to develop into stars. The front seven looks especially thin.

The Bucs still appear to have a muddled, mediocre roster.

Without Gruden and Kiffin around to coach them up, this looks like a team that learns the hard way that drastic change can be painful.

Key Player: Ruud. The linebacker group is shaky looking around him (Quincy Black, Geno Hayes, Angelo Crowell, converted safety Jermaine Phillips), so Ruud will have to hold together a run defense that could be a huge liability.

Rookie to watch: Josh Freeman.  The Bucs don’t want to rush their future starting quarterback, but it would be a surprise if the athletic Kansas State product wasn’t playing in December.

Best veteran acquisition: Ward.  He gets to run behind another great offensive line.  With power, blocking, and receiving skills, Ward is the complete package.

Key game: Week Seven, vs. Patriots in London. Tampa’s eighth home game is really a neutral site affair against one of the best teams in the league.  That makes a tough schedule that includes the NFC East even more challenging.  

5 responses to “Preseason power rankings: No. 29

  1. Who can really blame the people that ranked the teams if Leftwich is the possible starter. I do hope for a miracle that the Bucs can be a team that surprises this season.

  2. lets see here, they dont have a QB, no running back worth note (no, the Giants back-up doesnt count), still no WR’s even Bryant knows he wont have as good a year, and they lost their mainstay at D Coord. and thus their defense sucks… oh plus they got knocked out of the playoffs by the Raiders last year but I guess since their coach didnt punch anyone they are better then the Raiders.

  3. you guys should really put a listing of which team is which number on each of these, or at least have that information in a link in the next entry. i had no idea which team was ranked at this spot before i clicked the link, and no way to know who were the lower-ranked teams

  4. Yeah Gruden/Monte did win with some slumps but keeping those slumps around and cutting or just not using promising young players couldnt go on for ever.
    Kiffin is great but Gruden just has a short shelf life, he cant build a roster for the future to save his life. At least the NFL knows that now, maybe he even learned from his mistake.
    Still the Bucs didnt completely dismantle their team and arent as bad as everyone thinks imho. However their schedule is brutal so the nay-sayers will probably be proven right…

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