2nd Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

We reach the halfway point of our previews of all 32 NFL teams as we conclude our look at the NFC South with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who finished a distant last place in the division last season.

The Bucs got the first pick in this year’s draft thanks to an NFL-worst 2-14 record last season. With that pick, they selected Florida State QB Jameis Winston, who they hope will lead the team for years to come. The team likely won’t see a big bump in record from Winston this season as they have a way to go before becoming competitive in the division.

The Bucs were in need of a good young quarterback because they didn’t get much out of their quarterbacks last season. QB Josh McCown got the bulk of the work, starting 11 games and throwing for 2,206 yards and 11 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. QB Mike Glennon started the other five games, netting 1,417 yards and 10 touchdowns through the air. Despite the below-average quarterback play, WRs Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans each had more than 1,000 receiving yards; Evans had 1,051 yards and 12 touchdowns while Jackson had 1,002 yards with two touchdowns. The Bucs didn’t get much production out of their running backs. RB Doug Martin led the team with just 494 yards and two touchdowns in 11 starts; RB Bobby Rainey had 406 yards and one touchdown in his five starts. In all the team ranked a dismal 29th in the league in rushing offense. As far as the defense, that was slightly better, finishing the season as the 25th best in the league.

Winston should provide a better performance under center than what the team got last season, but you never know how good a quarterback will be in his rookie season. He certainly has receivers, with Jackson and Evans, who can help him out, but his lack of a running game will put more pressure on him as defenses are likely to focus on him more. Martin is still listed as the starting running back on the team’s depth chart, but second-year RB Charles Sims is expected to be the backup heading into the season. Sims averaged just 2.8 yards per carry in limited work last season so I don’t think he can provide the spark that the team needs in the running game. They could get some much-needed offense out of TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who had 21 receptions for 221 yards in just nine games in his rookie season in 2014. If he can break out this season, that would provide another weapon for Winston to throw to.

The first half of the schedule doesn’t feature many opponents who made the playoffs last year, but the second half is where the Bucs face teams that are expected to be good this season. From Weeks 9-12, they have back-to-back home games against the Giants and Cowboys, then get consecutive road games at the Eagles and Colts — a stretch in which the Bucs could easily go 0-4. Despite a relatively soft schedule outside of that four-week stretch, I don’t see the Bucs winning more than about four or five games — at most — with the team they have. I’d expect another last-place finish in the NFC South this season.

Source: http://www.buccaneers.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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