The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had what most would consider a mediocre season in 2008. The Buccaneers finished at 9-7 for the year, which is just a few victories shy of earning a post season berth. Tampa Bay was led by quarterback Jeff Garcia, who completed over 64% of his passed for 2700 yards on the year.
The Buccaneers ranked 14th in the league averaging 341 yards per game of total offense. The rushing game failed to produce a 1,000 yard rusher as Warrick Dunn age started playing a factor. WR Antonio Bryant was the offense's biggest playmaker. Bryant caught 83 balls for 1,248 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2008.
The Tampa Bay defense was fairly solid allowing just over 300 yards per game. The defense ranked 9th in total yards and was able to hold teams to 20 points per game. Tampa Bay was just an average team in 2008.
They were able to produce some wins and be effective on both sides of the ball. However, they were just few playmakers short on both sides of the ball to produce anything spectacular. Unfortunately, the Buccaneers will face more hurdles heading into 2009 primarily on the offensive side of the ball.
Tampa Bay did a pretty good job of re-signing some of their key players after the 2008 season concluded. SS Jermaine Phillips and WR Antonio Bryant both reached agreements with the organization stay with the team. The Buccaneers also added some big players over the off season on the offensive side of the ball.
Tampa Bay signed Derrick Ward from the Giants. Ward shared limited number of carries with Brandon Jacobs, but was very effective in the secondary role racking up over 1,000 yards on the year. The Buccaneers also signed tight end Kellen Winslow from Cleveland. Winslow missed six games with a knee injury last season, but is still among the best tight ends in the NFL.
Tampa Bay used their first round pick in the NFL Draft to address their biggest issue heading into 2009 at the quarterback position. Josh Freeman was selected at the number 17 overall pick by the Buccaneers.
Freeman is a former Kansas State standout who has great size at 6’6 and 250 pounds. Freeman has sold arm strength and ability to make all the throws at the next level, but most question his decision making after throwing over 34 interceptions during his 3 years as a Wildcat.
Tampa Bay also selected Roy Miller, a defensive tackle out of Texas, in the 3rd round. Miller was a good snatch at this position of the draft. The former Longhorn has above average quickness of the ball which is rare at the DT position.
Tampa Bay has players in the right positions to be a solid team. Wide out Antonio Bryant is a good target through the air and tailback Derrick Ward should be solid runner especially since he will get many more touches in 2009. We don’t expect Ward to put up any spectacular numbers since the Buccaneers offensive front is not as talented as the Giants, but solid numbers are certain.
The main focus for the Buccaneers is finding a leader under center. Before the NFL Draft, we stated that Josh Freeman would be a solid pick for the Buccaneers., but he needs time to develop. However, Tampa Bay needs Freeman to be effective now.
Luke McCown is an expected candidate, but does not have what it takes to make the throws. The defense is also getting a lot of question marks. Remember how often Ronde Barber was burnt at the end of the season last year?
The defensive front only managed 28 sacks last season which was the biggest strength of the defense just a few short years ago. Unfortunately, Tampa Bay has been on a slippery down slope on the defensive side of the balls and that path continues downward in 2009.
2009 Prediction -
The Buccaneers quarterback issues will be huge factor of how much success Tampa Bay will experience. Tampa Bay must find a way to score points to make up for the defense that continues to show bad signs. The Buccaneers schedule is completely brutal through the first half of the season. We expect things to start off bad and stay that way for most of the year.
Pick: 4th in NFC South (4-12 overall)