2015 NFL Preview: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2015 NFL Preview: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Whenever an NFL franchise drafts a quarterback number one overall, it ushers in a brand new era for said franchise. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signaled a new era when they selected Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston number one in April’s draft. The same Jameis Winston who won a national championship and Heisman Trophy in 2013, and the same Jameis Winston who was mired in off the field troubles during his two years as a Seminole. From a physical standpoint, Winston has the arm and mechanics to excel at the professional level. From a maturity standpoint, he still has a ways to go before he understands what it takes to behave like an adult. Head coach Lovie Smith’s present and future in Tampa depends on whether Winston develops quickly, or flames out like so many other highly-touted collegians. Here’s a preview of the 2015 Tampa Bay Bucs.

Outlook: There is plenty of offensive talent in the passing game for Winston to lean on, speaking of veteran receiver Vinnie Jackson, stud in the making Mike Evans, and promising tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. However, the backfield is a four-headed monster led by one-year-wonder Doug Martin, who was downright awful in 2013 and 2014; Martin has looked bad even when healthy, and health has been a big issue since 2012. Meanwhile, the defense lacks elite playmakers outside of Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy. Relying on rookie signal-callers to elevate a rebuilding team to contending status is wrought with danger. Unless Winston is another Andrew Luck, the Bucs will struggle to notch wins.

Later, dude: Pass rusher Michael Johnson was a free agent bust in 2014, so cutting him loose was the right thing to do; Johnson returned to Cincinnati armed with a fat new contact, so don’t feel bad for him. Defensive lineman Adrian Clayborn had two great years and two injury-riddled years in Tampa; he’s now a Falcon. Linebackers Dane Fletcher and Mason Foster were average at best, which explains why neither was retained.

Welcome aboard: In addition to Winston, the 2015 draft class produced offensive linemen Donovan Smith (a projected starter at left tackle), and Ali Marpet, who could push for playing time sooner than later. Linebacker Bruce Carter flashed promise in Dallas, but injuries hindered his overall development; perhaps a new setting will allow him to reach his full potential. Ex-Lion pass rusher George Johnson recorded six sacks in 2014; the problem is those were the first six sacks in his six-year career. Now he’s being penciled in to start at defensive end. The trio of Sterling Moore, D.J. Swearinger, and Chris Conte were all inked to deepen a suspect secondary. Henry Melton should provide solid snaps backing up McCoy and Clinton McDonald in the middle of the defense.

Over/Under wins – 6: They better load up on wins early, because the schedule gets scary after Week 9 with Dallas, Philly, Indy, St. Louis and three divisional matchups on the docket. Six is doable, but no more than that.

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