Predicting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Starting Lineup Post Week 1 of Free Agency
We're only a week into free agency, but that doesn't mean it's too early to predict the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' starting lineup heading into the 2013 season.
In fact, with the new additions and departures, it is currently an ideal moment to take a step back from the individual players and look at the team as a whole.
With that said, let's take a look at one man's predictions for the starting lineup of the Bucs in 2013.
Quarterback: Josh Freeman
Although the Bucs don't seem to be in any hurry to re-sign Josh Freeman for 2014, he'll still be Tampa's starter in 2013.
Freeman is entering his fifth year in the NFL and has yet to live up to his full potential. 2012 was a step forward for "Free," as he hit career highs in passing yardage (4,065), yards per attempt (7.29) and touchdowns (27).
His main problem continues to be his accuracy; a completion percentage of 54.8 reflects that.
Then there's his decision-making, which led to a revolting 17 interceptions (to be fair though, eight of those picks came in two weeks).
Should Freeman keep developing his arm, his football I.Q. and his chemistry with his receivers, we could see the 25-year-old's best season yet.
Running Back: Doug Martin
All hail the Muscle Hamster!
Though we've only had one year of Boise State product Doug Martin in the NFL, it's clear that the 5'9'' running back is something special.
In his rookie year, No. 22 recorded 1,454 rushing yards on 319 rushes (4.6 yards per), 12 total touchdowns and 58 first downs.
Martin's combination of speed, quickness, power, vision, toughness and agility will undoubtedly make him a superstar for years to come.
Wide Receivers: Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams
The 6'5'' Vincent Jackson did wonders for the Buccaneers' passing offense in 2012.
Can he and fellow wide receiver Mike Williams build on that success in 2013?
Both Jackson and Williams reached career highs in receiving yards last season, with 1,384 and 996 yards, respectively.
With V-Jax's deep threat ability and Mike-Wills' (nickname created just now) overall talent, the Bucs have one of the better wide receiver tandems in the league.
Tight End: Yet-to-Be-Drafted Rookie
At this time, it is very unlikely that the man who will start at tight end for the Bucs in 2013 is currently on the roster.
Think about it: Dallas Clark, last year's starter, is a free agent, and no moves are being made to sign him. The TEs under contract are all extremely unproven, with recent addition Tom Crabtree and Luke Stocker being the only ones with a real chance at starting. But neither has totaled more than 300 receiving yards in a season.
There's a shortage of starting-caliber free-agent tight ends. The closest guy available is Fred Davis, who has a recent history of injuries.
Without anywhere else to turn (outside a trade, but let's be somewhat realistic), the Bucs will look to the draft for their tight end of the future.
Possible selections include Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert or Stanford's Zach Ertz. Though neither is worthy of the 13th pick overall, at least one of the two should be available by the time Tampa Bay's on the clock in Round 2.
Offensive Tackles: Donald Penn (Left Side) and Demar Dotson (Right Side)
Donald Penn and Demar Dotson form a surprisingly good group of starting bookends for the Bucs offensive line.
Penn may struggle with his consistency, but when he's on his A-game, he's on his A+ game.
Dotson replaced Jeremy Trueblood as the starting right tackle early last season and hasn't looked back since. The 6'9'' giant seems to get better each week.
Guards: Carl Nicks (Left Side) and Davin Joseph (Right Side)
Neither Carl Nicks nor Davin Joseph played in more than seven games in 2012. In fact, Joseph didn't play in any games in 2012. Nicks played just seven.
See, both of the Bucs' starting guards fell to injury before we even hit midseason (Joseph was gone before the season began). Obviously, the offensive line suffered as a result.
But with both guards healthy in 2013, Tampa Bay will have two great interior offensive linemen protecting Josh Freeman and paving the way for Doug Martin.
Center: Jeremy Zuttah
Jeremy Zuttah is a versatile offensive lineman who can play at either guard or center. He played both in 2012.
But with Nicks and Joseph healthy, Zuttah will rest at center in 2013, where the 26-year-old will continue to develop his skills as the keystone of the O-line.
Defensive End: Adrian Clayborn (Right Side) and Da'Quan Bowers (Left Side
The Bucs' first two selections of the 2011 draft both starting at defensive end?
Yes siree. In 2013, Tampa Bay should feature both Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers as starting DEs.
Clayborn played well as a rookie starter in the 2011 season and looked to continue to build his reputation as a fearsome pass-rusher in 2012, but he suffered a season-ending injury in Week 3.
While it wasn't Bowers who filled in for Clayborn (that was Daniel Te'o-Nesheim), he had an important role as a rotational player following his Week 8 return from an Achilles injury he sustained during the offseason. Quietly, he recorded three sacks.
At defensive end, the Bucs could have two emerging stars.
Defensive Tackle: Gerald McCoy and Gary Gibson
In the first 16-game season of his three-year career, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy made the Pro Bowl and was snubbed for a spot on the All-Pro roster.
Though his stats don't say much (30 total tackles, five sacks, two passes defended), McCoy put together a fantastic season in 2012 that just didn't get the media recognition it deserved.
Also at defensive tackle, we have Gary Gibson, who quietly played in all 16 games for the Bucs in 2012, even starting one. He was a good rotational D-lineman who could make the move to starter in 2013.
If Gerald McCoy keeps growing as a DT and Gibson complements him in the interior, Tampa Bay's D-line could be something special in 2013.
Linebacker: Lavonte David (Weak), Mason Foster (Middle), Adam Hayward (Strong)
At linebacker, the Bucs return three starters from 2012.
Lavonte David will continue to rack up tackles on the weak side, while third-year man Mason Foster will hold the middle. On the strong side will be Adam Hayward, who started five games last year after Quincy Black's injury.
Foster and David are excellent run defenders, generating many tackles for losses. As they keep developing, the Tampa Bay defense will keep improving.
Cornerback: E.J. Biggers and Yet to Be Drafted Rookie
Shocking though it may seem, Buccaneers cornerback E.J. Biggers had a decent stretch of games towards the end of the 2012 season. Sadly, we cannot say that about the rest of Tampa Bay's cornerbacks.
In order to have the best possible group of corners on the roster, the team should re-sign Biggers and draft a rookie as soon as possible. Dee Milliner and Xavier Rhodes are the preferred options with the 13th pick overall.
And no, as of right now, I do not see Darrell Revis on the roster come September.
Safeties: Dashon Goldson (Free) and Mark Barron (Strong)
Just by looking at the amount the Bucs have invested in each of these players, one could predict Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron to be starters at safety for 2013.
Tampa Bay used the seventh overall selection in the 2012 draft to grab Mark Barron from Alabama. He was a 16-game starter, and he contributed 88 total tackles and 10 defended passes. As a run defender, Barron plays at an elite level. In coverage, though, he doesn't look as impressive.
The Bucs made their first big move in 2013's free agency by inking former 49ers safety Dashon Goldson to a five-year deal. In his career, Goldson has made two Pro Bowls and was a key to the success of 2012's NFC champions.
Between Goldson and Barron, the Bucs have a solid duo at safety.
Special Teams: Connor Barth (Kicker) and Michael Koenen (Punter)
No need to shake things up on special teams.
Connor Barth is one of the league's top field goal kickers, nailing 28 out of 33 attempts. Four of the misses were from beyond 40 yards.
Michael Koenen landed 22 punts inside the 20 and had a 45.3-yard net punting average.
If the Bucs struggle in 2013, don't blame the special teams unit.