Buccaneers Preview Capsule
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (5-11)
NEW FACES: Coach Bruce Arians, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, LB Devin White, DL Ndamukong Suh, LB/S Deone Bucannon, LB Shaquil Barrett, P Bradley Pinion, WR Breshad Perriman, CB Sean Murphy-Bunting, CB Jamel Dean, S Mike Edwards, RB Andre Ellington, OL Earl Watford, K Matt Gay, S Darian Stewart.
KEY LOSSES: Coach Dirk Koetter, DT Gerald McCoy, LB Kwan Alexander, WR DeSean Jackson, WR Adam Humphries, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, DE Vinny Curry, CB Brent Grimes, RB Jacquizz Rodgers, P Bryan Anger.
STRENGTHS: Jameis Winston is entering fifth — and final — season of contract he signed as No. 1 overall pick in 2015 draft. He’s less than 200 yards shy of becoming franchise’s all-time leading passer, yet still trying to prove he’s club’s long-term answer at quarterback. GM Jason Licht has assembled some impressive players around him to give him chance to succeed, including WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and TEs O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. Moving ball hasn’t been problem; Winston’s propensity for turning it over has. Bucs led league in passing offense and ranked third overall in 2018. Nevertheless, they were 12th in scoring and missed playoffs for 11th consecutive season.
WEAKNESSES: Anemic pass rush and porous secondary have undermined Bucs for years. Former New York Jets coach Bowles brought in as defensive coordinator and installed attacking 3-4 scheme Arians hopes will make difference. Six-time Pro Bowl DT McCoy is out, replaced by Suh. LB Jason Pierre-Paul missed training camp after being injured in offseason car accident. Team remains hopeful he will play at some point this year. LBs Barrett and Bucannon were signed in free agency, rookie ILB White is stepping in right away after being drafted fifth overall, and Arians has slew of young players acquired in recent drafts, including Vernon Hargreaves III, as well as trio of 2019 picks — S Mike Edwards and CBs Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting — to make difference in secondary.
FANTASY PLAYERS TO WATCH: All eyes are on Winston, who should benefit from working with Arians, who also coached Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer at various points. Evans, Godwin, Howard and Brate have all prospered with Winston throwing them ball. Sleeper could be RB Ronald Jones II, second-round draft pick who played little as rookie in 2018. Arians describes him as explosive player who figures to get more opportunities to run, as well as catch, in Tampa Bay’s new offensive scheme.
VEGAS SAYS: Win Super Bowl 100-1. Over/under wins 6 1/2.
EXPECTATIONS: Arians, who stepped away from football after leading Arizona Cardinals from 2013 to 2017, was lured out of retirement to end what’s currently second-longest postseason drought in NFL. Tampa Bay hasn’t made playoffs since 2007; only Cleveland (2002) is stuck in longer stretch of futility. Hope is Arians’ proven track record as QB guru will help Winston realize potential while also lifting team out of NFC South cellar.