Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 5 Major Off-Season Needs
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers entered the 2014 season with a new coach and lots of hope. They will be ending the season in a fight for the first round draft choice, never a good thing.
There is always next year.
And here are their five most pressing needs:
5. Healthy Gerald McCoy
McCoy has suffered injuries in the past. This year he had a hyperextension of his knee, which proved to end his season. The good news? No surgery required. The bad news? It ended his season.
McCoy is the heartbeat of the defense. He graded out as the number two defensive tackle in Pro Football Focus' ratings. Before his injury he collected 35 tackls and 8.5 sacks.
He needs to stay healthy for the Buccaneers to improve next season.
It doesn't bode well when the fourth highest paid safey in the NFL is taken off the field during obvious passing downs. But that is what happened this year, when Dashon Goldson was pulled out the game. "The Hawk" is not living up to his nickname. Golden has 54 tackles and zero interceptions for the season. Since signing his free agent contract in 2013, he has one interception in 20 games.
THe Bucaneers have seven interceptions. Cornerback Johnathan Banks leads the secondary with four interceptions. He is followed by Alterraun Verner with two interceptions and Brandon Dixon with one interception. They are 27th in the NFL with a minus seven takeaway ratio.
When the Buccaneers acquired new head coach Lovie Smith, it was a foregone conclusion the defense would be outstanding. Wrong.
This once vaulted defense mind has a team that is 23rd in passing yards giving up 250.4 yards game. They are 25th in total yards allowed giving up 366.7 total yards a game, while holding down 26th in total points allowed at 26.2 points per game.
3. Defensive line
Yes, a healthy McCoy is a start, but it is only a beginning. While McCoy leads the team with 8.5 sacks, he has some company. Defensive end Jacquies Smith has seven sacks on the season. After that there is a considerable drop off that needs to be addressed. The line needs to become a formidable pass rush and quarterback disrupter.
2. Offensive line
Not good enough. That is an understatement. Part of the ineptitude of the running backs and quarterbacks is due to the porous offensive line.
The Buccaneers' quarterbacks have been sacked 43 times.
Not since week two have their running backs reached 100 yards rushing. In week two against a depleted St. Louis Rams defense, Bobby Rainey rushed for 144 yards. That was the only time this season a running back eclipsed 100 yards. There were even games when collectively the running game did not reach 100 yards.
Combine that with the amount of times opposing defenses are getting to the quarterback, and it is time for the offensive line to become stronger.
The Josh McCown experiment has failed miserably. Mike Glennon has not shown he is much of an improvement.
The only question remaining is will head coach Lovie Smith attempt to go with what is familiar to him? Ahem, there is one Jay Cutler who may be available. Or will he take a dip into the drafting pool where two sought after quarterbacks will be available?
With Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson ready and waiting, getting a quarterback who can utilize those weapons is a must.
Okay, so it looks like a complete overhaul. But it isn't. There are pieces that are really good. The wide receiving corps is formidable. The defensive line holds a foundation to work around, and Doug Martin and Charles Sims are good.
But off-season acquisitions are necessary if the Buccaneers are going to find a winning season.
Follow me on Twitter @neverenoughglt