Editors Note: The following preview was written prior to Luke McCown being traded.
AFC West: DEN | KAN | OAK | SDG
NFC West: ARI | STL | SFO | SEA
It would probably be shorter to tell you what isn't new. The news in Tampa really started last December, when longtime defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin announced he was joining his son's staff at the University of Tennessee.
So, the Bucs announced Kiffin's replacement, young Raheem Morris. An 0-4 December then led to the dismissal of Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen. After the interview process, Morris was given his second promotion in about a month, and was named the teams' next head coach.
Mark Dominik joins him as a first year general manager. One of Morris' first moves as coach? See ya later, Derrick Brooks. The long time linebacker was released by the Bucs, along with Warrick Dunn, Joey Galloway, and Cato June.
What are some of the additions to the team? Morris did hire Jim Bates to run the defense and Jeff Jagodzinski to run the offense. The Bucs also traded for Kellen Winslow, and signed Derrick Ward, Angelo Crowell, and Byron Leftwich. Jagodzinski wouldn't last, as he was fired just recently.
In the draft, Tampa Bay first added young signal caller Josh Freeman, a potential Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco type of player. Later, the team bolstered its defensive line by adding Roy Miller and Kyle Moore. And the late round pick of Sammie Stroughter is looking very good.
Three Burning Questions
How long before Freeman becomes the leader of the team?
Leftwich was named the starter over Luke McCown at the end of the preseason and the Bucs are toying with the idea of carrying four quarterbacks into the season.
But the question is, how does Josh Freeman look, and will he be the man soon? Freeman has actually looked like a rookie. He's shown the potential that made him the 17th pick in the draft, but he's also shown that he is still green.
No matter how the season goes, Freeman is probably best served sitting for at least ten games, if not all season.
The Tampa-2 is going away, how will the defense cope?
With Bates and Morris, a new philosophy is coming to Tampa. While the Tampa-2 will still make an occasional appearance, the team is looking for a more aggressive, blitzing defense.
Problem is, the Bucs may not have the personnel to become an aggressive unit this year. Angelo Crowell has been put on injured reserve, and with Tanard Jackson facing a four game suspension, the experiment to move Jermaine Phillips to linebacker is on hold, as he moves back to safety.
Quincy Black has really emerged this pre-season, and Barrett Ruud is widely regarded as a top five middle linebacker in the NFL, but it's probably not enough.
What can the Bucs expect from the offense?
For the first time in a very long time, the offense could end the season as the team's premier unit.
The defense could expect to struggle, but the offense all of a sudden has quietly amassed a plethora of play-makers. Antonio Bryant had a huge season last year, and though he has been kept out of the preseason, he should be ready come week one.
Michael Clayton re-emerged late last season, Maurice Stovall has shown signs of life this preseason, and Stroughter has played very well.
Certainly not the most feared wideout unit in the league, but when you add a three-headed running attack with Cadillac Williams, Derrick Ward, and Earnest Graham, and two of the most talented tight ends in the league with Winslow and Jerramy Stevens, the Bucs offense looks like it may have some potency this year.
Good play: Despite the improved offense, the only high rounder will be Bryant. Derrick Ward and Winslow should get looks in the middle rounds.
Avoid: Do not play the Bucs defense this year. With the new philosophy, and players out with injuries and suspensions, it could be a long year on that side of the ball.
Sleeper: The sleeper for Tampa Bay, other than Stroughter, is Cadillac Williams. The coaching staff is so enamored by Caddy that they named him the team's starter when healthy. He looked very good in preseason game three, and he could be in for a great season, especially since he'll have plenty of help in carrying the load.
For the prognosis and final record, read the originally posted article here.
This is an original article by Pigskin Heaven Staffer, Sascha Bartels. You can read it, more of Sascha's articles, and more from the Pigskin Heaven staff here.