by Justin of The Sportmeisters
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been making several moves this offseason to right the wrongs of the 2008 season. The Bucs will have a new look in 2009 with the hiring of a new head coach in Raheem Morris and new defensive coordinator in Jim Bates.
Along with a new look on the coaching staff, the Bucs have made three potentially great moves to sign TE Kellen Winslow, RB Derrick Ward, and QB Byron Leftwich. In another move, the Bucs also signed former Bills LB Angelo Crowell, who missed all of last season with a knee injury.
Before his injury, Crowell had a productive season in 2007, with 126 tackles, two sacks, and a safety.
But before you can look towards the future, it is important to understand the mistakes of the past. Morris will have the daunting task of taking a team that struggled tremendously on offense in all facets of the game.
I believe the biggest reason for the less than adequate outcome of the season was at the hands of former head coach Jon Gruden. After his dismissal, several former players voiced their opinions about how they felt about Gruden as a coach. Several players stated that they could not trust Gruden’s word about their futures with the team.
Gruden always had a hard time deciding on a QB that he trusted, and would make switches at the drop of a hat. Because the QB is the leader of the entire team, a starter must be named and given the freedom to make mistakes and rebound from those mistakes for an offense to have success.
The Bucs have a new and revived energy because of a new head coach, but what else is needed from a player personnel stand point to improve a team that began the season 9-3, but ultimately missed the playoffs?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Draft Picks
Round One: pick 19
Round Two: pick given to Browns
Round Three: pick 17
Round Four: pick 20
Round Five: pick 19
Round Six: pick 18
Round Seven: pick 8 (from Jacksonville)
Round Seven: pick 20 (from Chicago)
Round Seven: pick 24 (from Baltimore)
Team Need One: QB
Although I feel this need has been met with the signing of Byron Leftwich, he has not proved to be a quality starter in the NFL to date. As a backup for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Leftwich showed that he had the ability to extend plays and make down field throws when Ben Roethlisberger went out of the game due to injuries.
Leftwich now has a third chance to show fans and the league alike that he is worthy of being taken seriously as a QB in the NFL. I believe the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will gamble with Leftwich and use the 19th pick in the first round to pick up a DT.
Team Need Two: DT
On a defense that was pretty stingy until the end of the season, the DT position is the weak link in the chain. In 16 games, only one DT on the roster had legitimate playing time. Chris Hovan started 15 games while Chris Bradwell and Ryan Sims have started only two games between the both of them.
The Bucs need to draft an athlete that can be a commanding presence in the middle of the defense. Tampa ranked ninth in total defense and 19th in rush defense. In Tampa’s base 4-3 defense, an anchor in the middle of the defensive line is a must to shield the second level from the would be blockers on the opposing offensive side of the ball.
Team Need Three: DE
The Bucs desperately need an edge rusher that can put pressure on QBs on passing plays. The total number of sacks for the DE position was 20.5 combined. DeMarcus Ware of the Dallas Cowboys had 20 sacks by himself last year.
Although the Bucs ranked fourth in pass defense in the 2008 season, it could have been better if their edge rushers demanded more attention in blocking schemes. As a result of the lack of sacks from the DE position, the defensive coordinator has to dial up more blitzes to mask the weakness on the line.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the opportunity to move up in the NFC South and become a Super Bowl contender in the upcoming 2009 season. The Bucs must first believe in the new head man Raheem Morris and, second, have more productivity on the offensive side of the ball.
Due to the lack of efficiency on offense, the defense was worn down by the end of the season and could not contain the opposition. Bucs fans, Byron Leftwich does not have to win 16 plus games for Tampa to make a deep run in the playoffs. All he has to do is not lose too many.
If Leftwich can learn to manage the game and take care of the ball, the Bucs will be just fine in 2009.