Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 5 Reasons for Their Disappointing Season
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have disappointed in more than one way this season.
They were supposed to come in this year and compete in the NFC South. They were supposed to make a run in the playoffs, and possibly even win a few of their playoff games.
This Buccaneers team was supposed to show resolve and fight like they did for most of last year.
LeGarrette Blount, Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn were supposed to improve on impressive rookie seasons. Brian Price, Gerald McCoy, Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers were going to combine to form one of the best young defensive lines in the country.
However, none of this played out quite the way that it was supposed to. The Buccaneers are currently 4-8 and in last place in the NFC South. After starting 4-2, the Bucs have posted six straight losses. This young team has not played as well as anyone hoped that they would.
Let's look at five reasons why the Bucs have failed to meet expectations this year.
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One of the main reasons that the Buccaneers have faltered this season is because of the high expectations that surrounded them going into this year.
We have seen this time and time again. A young team performs well one season and the next year we expect them to improve upon the previous year.
This happened in 2007, when the Saints finished 7-9, only a year after making an appearance in the NFC Championship Game. It happened last year with the Houston Texans. They showed great improvement in 2009, when they finished the season at 9-7. Coming into 2010, people expected a lot from the Texans and they started fast, but finished the year at 6-10.
Sometimes high expectations and added pressure on a young team can have a bad effect.
This team started quickly this year. After losing their first game, they won four of their next five, knocking off the division-leading Saints along the way.
However, since their Week 6 win against the Saints, they have not been the same team. The team that finished last year at 10-6 and started this year at 4-2 seems to have regressed in nearly all aspects of the game.
Pressure tends to crack young players and bring out the worst in them. At this point of the season, we have seen head coach Raheem Morris overreact at times and players get frustrated on the field.
Not all of this can be blamed on the expectations of this 2011 season, but the stress of performing well seems to have exasperated this young Buccaneer team.
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The good thing about young teams is that they typically have fiery, passionate guys who give it their all.
If a young team is doing well, the whole team's morale seems to be boosted and the players feed off of each other's energy. However, if a young team starts to get frustrated, then that negative attitude can spread like wildfire.
The Buccaneers are still an immature group that is led by the youngest head coach in the NFL, Raheem Morris. Many people have blamed Morris for this season and his team's implosion. While Morris is ultimately responsible for his team's actions, there are many more factors that go into this equation.
The Buccaneers have a roster that is filled with guys that are known for not having the best attitudes. Among them are players such as Kellen Winslow, LeGarrette Blount, Tanard Jackson and Aquib Talib. These types of players can be lethal to a team's morale.
Despite having great leaders like Ronde Barber, Josh Freeman and Davin Joseph, a locker room can only handle so much. Once the Buccaneers started to lose and struggle on the field, you could see the chemistry falling apart.
The Buccaneers problems did not start here, but somehow the team has fallen apart. If they want to be contenders in the future, then they need to mature and play more like they did in 2010.
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A big problem for the Buccaneers this season has been their injuries.
It is hard for any team to overcome injuries—especially a young team like this one. After suffering injuries early in the season, the Bucs performed well. Guys filled in and did their jobs, but as the season continued and injuries started to pile up, the Buccaneers began to struggle.
There are a lot of Buccaneer players that have missed time this season.
Safety Cody Grimm was placed on injured reserve early in the season.
Blount went down in the beginning of the season and, shortly after, Earnest Graham, his replacement, was put on injured reserve with a season-ending injury.
Gerald McCoy started this season well, but was hurt in Week 6 and ended up on injured reserve. Defensive end George Johnson was also placed on IR.
Most recently, starting quarterback Josh Freeman suffered a shoulder injury and missed last week's game against the Panthers. The Buccaneers are hoping to have Freeman back this week, but if he is unable to come back, it won't bode well for the Bucs.
Injuries are a part of the game in the NFL, but it is difficult for a young team like the Buccaneers to overcome such significant losses in a season.
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On top of everything else that the Buccaneers have faced this season, they have also played a difficult schedule.
Coming into the season, it looked like the Bucs would have a relatively easy schedule. Based on teams' 2010 records, the Buccaneers had the 18th toughest schedule at the beginning of the 2011 season. However, that ranking is very misleading.
The Buccaneers have played many contenders this year. They have faced the top three teams in the NFC in the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers. They have also played arguably the best team in the AFC in the Houston Texans. Also on the Buccaneers schedule this year were the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons.
The teams that the Buccaneers have played so far this season have a combined record of 83-61. That comes out to a .576 winning percentage, which is .021 percentage points higher than the Panthers' toughest-ranked schedule coming into this year. That number is also .08 points higher than the Bucs' projected schedule difficulty.
Out of the Bucs' last four games they will play two teams that are competing for NFC playoff berths in the Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys.
The Buccaneers' extremely tough schedule has played a big role in how their 2011 season has played out so far.
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We often talk about how certain teams are models of consistency in the NFL. Well, the Buccaneers have been the definition of an inconsistent team in 2011.
Josh Freeman's play has been nothing like it was in 2010. He has thrown 16 interceptions, lost two fumbles and posted a 74.5 quarterback rating thus far. Freeman has not played well, but he is not, by any means, the only Buccaneer to blame. The offensive weapons around him have not played as well this year either.
Receiver Mike Williams has only caught three touchdowns this year, compared to 11 grabs last year. He is averaging 11.7 yards a catch this season after he averaged 14.8 yards last season and was a constant threat to defenses. He has, for the most part, been contained this year.
Blount has played well this season, but still has not performed up to the level he sustained last year. He is averaging 4.5 yards a carry, which is good, but down from the 5.0 average he set in 2010.
Young players like Gerald McCoy, Brian Price and Da'Quan Bowers were also expected to make impacts this year. The only player that we may be able to say exceeded expectations is first-round draft pick Adrian Clayborn.
These young playmakers have done okay this season, but they have not played well enough for the Buccaneers to be a consistent threat.
This team as a whole has been unable to play at a high level all season. In their first game, the Buccaneers jumped out to a 10-3 lead on the Lions at home, but failed to show up again until the end of the fourth quarter and lost 27-20.
Against the Bears in Week 7, the Bucs started slow and ended up losing the game 24-18. They scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but it was too little, too late.
The point is that the Buccaneers have looked good at times this year, but they have been unable to put it all together and perform the way that they can.
The talent and skill is there for this team to succeed, but their overall lack of consistent play has prevented them from doing so.