The expectations have already been set; the lines in the sand, drawn.
When needed, discipline was doled out. When unexpected, departures were made. The trail has been blazed for the path to the promised land.
Yet, Year 2 under head coach Greg Schiano has been as equally noisy as his first, but more for the players they've added rather than for those deemed unfit to be "Buccaneer Men."
Cornerback Darrelle Revis and safety Dashon Goldson, both All-Pro defensive backs, were brought on to overhaul a depleted secondary that nearly yielded more passing yards than any team in NFL history.
To Schiano's credit, the additions of Revis and Goldson, along with other notable free-agent signings such as linebacker Jonathan Casillas and tight end Tom Crabtree, have shown that he is a man of his word.
After all, at the end of last season, he addressed the media and said, "the one thing I do believe in is competition at every spot...so I want to have as many good players on our football team as we can at every single position. It’s a little different in the NFL."
Schiano went on to elaborate about his expectations for this season and beyond, saying:
"There were a lot of positives that happened this year. A ton of positive and I look at that as, man, that gives me motivation and encourages me, our fans and our team and everybody involved with the Buccaneers that, hey, there are brighter days ahead and there are opportunities to do what the ultimate goal is. Will we realize them? That’s going to be determined by how we evaluate things, how we tweak them and how we get better. But I’m excited to do that."
Something fans and the media will undoubtedly be keeping an eye on once training camp begins in two weeks is how much he will "tweak" the defense, particularly pass coverage, now that Revis and Goldson have been added to the mix.
Furthermore, how much intensity gets carried over from last year's summer camp? Was last year more of a 'Hey-I'm-in-charge-here" camp or is that what fans and the media should expect from a Schiano-run camp every year?
And of course, what happens once the calendar hits September and the games start to count?
Last season, Schiano coached his way through Kneelgate and endured a five-game losing streak. At times he looked brilliant, like someone with a firm grasp of the concepts and tendencies needed to survive the NFL.
At other times, he looked overwhelmed and unprepared. Like someone with no sense of coaching wherewithal. Worse yet, he even looked out-coached on occasion.
However, that was to be expected, wasn't it? A first-year head coach who was plucked away from a relatively small college (i.e., not a national power) and expected to resurrect a franchise, couldn't have done much more in his first 16 games—right?
He helped increase their win total from four to seven, cut down on turnovers committed and oversaw the stingiest rush defense in the NFL last season.
That begs the question: With a year of NFL head-coaching experience now under his belt, what can he do for an encore?
Can he turn around this horrible pass defense? Can he figure out the pass rush? And for goodness sakes, can he close out a game?
I guess what I'm really trying to ask is: How many games will they win in Year 2?
And better yet, is anything less than a playoff berth considered a failure?
For what it's worth, I like Schiano—he's a straight-shooting, no-nonsense, old-school coach. He has made this team physically and mentally tougher. Slowly, they've regained a little of the swagger that made past Bucs teams something to reckon with.
Are the Buccaneers a finished project? Unlikely. But compared to where they were a year ago, I'd say they've made tremendous strides in the right direction.
And lucky for them, they appear to have the right guy leading the way.
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