Over the course of 32 days (or so) I will be previewing all 32 NFL teams, followed by an overall season prediction post, leading up to the start of the 2014 season. This post is previewing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
After back-to-back losing seasons, the Buccaneers got rid of head coach Greg Schiano and hired former Bears coach Lovie Smith to replace him. It was a tumultuous season at quarterback for the team as QB Josh Freeman started the first three games of the season before being released in early October. The Bucs hope for a better season at the quarterback position this year after signing Josh McCown, who had a good season in relief of Jay Cutler in Chicago last season.
After Freeman threw for just 571 yards and two touchdowns in his three starts in 2013, QB Mike Glennon started the team’s remaining 13 games, throwing for 2608 yards with 19 touchdowns, which are decent numbers but not certainly not Pro Bowl material. WR Vincent Jackson was the team’s leading receiver with 1224 yards and seven touchdowns. In the running game, second-year RB Doug Martin was unable to match the success he had a rookie in 2012 as he was limited to just six games in his sophomore season due to injuries. So the bulk of the running-back duties were handled by Bobby Rainey and Mike James, who combined for fewer than 900 rushing yards and just five touchdowns in nine starts.
Change in the offense was inevitable for 2014 as the 2013 Bucs ranked 30th in points scored and 32nd in offensive yards. If McCown can match the stats he put up in his time on the field in Chicago last year, that should be an improvement over the Freeman-Glennon quarterback combo of a season ago. Likewise, if Martin can return from his injury-plagued season and come close to his 2012 numbers — nearly 1500 rushing yards with 11 rushing touchdowns — it’ll help the team score more and not be near or at the bottom of the league in the key offensive categories. Looking ahead at the schedule, it looks like there are a couple of tough stretches for the Bucs, including back-to-back-to-back games against the Steelers, Saints and Ravens leading up to their week 7 bye. And the Bucs host the Packers and their second game against the Saints in the last two weeks of the season, which could pose a problem if they need to win those games for a playoff spot. But that may be getting a bit ahead of ourselves. While the team should improve upon last season’s 4-12 record, it may not be a playoff team quite yet. But I can see an eight- or nine-win season for Tampa Bay.