With the 2014-2015 NFL season about to wrap up it is time to take a look back and break down each team’s seasons. We here at the Grill will spend the next two or so weeks breaking down two teams a day, in the draft order, focusing on what went right and what went wrong for each team and how each position unit on the team performed. We will also analyze how the future looks for each team and what positions they could address in the draft. This post will focus on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who possess the first pick in the first round this year. Today you will get just one post, then we will continue on Tuesday after devoting Monday to Super Bowl coverage.
The Bucs were simply dreadful this year and did not show much promise or potential under first year Head Coach Lovie Smith. Their best player was easily rookie wide receiver Mike Evans and he gives them some hope that perhaps the new regime is going to be able to build this franchise up to what it once was back in the early 2000s. The Bucs were probably not as bad as their record showed as they lost many close games this year, including starting the year off with two losses by a total of eight points. With a few more bounces of the ball, they could have put together a five or six win season and they are due for a pretty good jump next year if all goes well.
Follow us after the jump for some more details on the Bucs season
Best Win: The Bucs only had two wins this season but there best one was clearly their shocking upset over the 11-5 Pittsburgh Steelers in Week Four. In this win, Mike Glennon showed real upside and poise, leading a huge comeback while throwing for 302 yards. However, after this win everything went downhill for the Bucs as Doug Martin went down with an injury, the defense imploded and so did Mike Glennon.
Worst Loss: Their worst loss came two weeks after beating the Steelers, when they got trounced 48-17 by the Ravens in Tampa Bay. This game actually featured a pretty decent performance by Glennon, who threw for 314 yards and 2 touchdown’s but he was sacked five times and the Bucs defense allowed Joe Flacco to throw for five touchdowns. This was a rare blowout loss in a season full of late game collapses from the Bucs.
What Went Right: The Bucs offense this year had two thousand yard receivers in Vincent Jackson and rookie Mike Evans. Mike Evans was one of the best rookies in the NFL this year, catching 68 balls for 1,051 yards and 12 touchdown’s while Jackson caught 70 passes for 1002 yards and 2 touchdowns. Having these two wideouts gives the Bucs hope that there offense is just a quarterback away from being good. Rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins started to come on late in the year as well. Another bright spot was from UDFA kicker Patrick Murray. Murray hit 20 out of 24 field goals including hitting from 55 yards and showed that he has the ability to be a top end NFL kicker. On the defensive side of the ball, Lavonte David compiled an incredible 146 tackles this year while looking like one of the best linebackers in the NFL. He also forced an impressive four fumbles this year. Gerald McCoy had a healthy season and continued his reign as one of the best DTs in the game putting up an impressive 8.5 sacks this year.
What Went Wrong: Outside of their top two receivers, the Bucs next best receiver was Louis Murphy with only 380 yards. They need to identify a third option on offense to become a more well-oiled machine. Also, they still do not have a quarterback for the future as Mike Glennon does not appear to be the answer. They still have major issues at running back, where neither Bobby Rainey nor Doug Martin is ever healthy, both have fumbling issues, and neither eclipsed 500 yards this year. The offensive line still has major question marks. The offense as a whole ranked 30th in overall yards and if they want to be competitive, they need a major rehaul on that side of the ball. On the defensive side of the ball, they were in the bottom third of the league in sacks and need to get more consistent pass rushing options other than Gerald McCoy. They gave up a ton of yards, good for 8th worst in the league at 368.9 yards per game and 25.6 points per game. Another issue with the Bucs was a lack of discipline. They compiled 935 penalty yards this year, good for 11th worst in the NFL. In order to turn some of those close losses into wins, they need to cut down on the free yardage they gave to opponents and start playing more disciplined football. Another major issue for the Bucs is the lack of a true play-maker at the safety position. While Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks proved to be a solid duo of cornerback’s they lacked a quality safety. Mark Barron has not lived up to his potential yet and safety is a position they could look to address early in the draft.
How the Future Looks: When you look up and down the Bucs roster they have some nice pieces in place. They have two stud wide receivers, a talented young tight end, and a few solid pieces on defense. To go along with that, they have a phenomenal coach in Lovie Smith, However, they still appear to be several key pieces away from being a real contender in the NFC South. They still need a franchise quarterback, a running back, a couple offensive linemen, and a play-maker at safety and at defensive end. The signing of Michael Johnson hasn’t paid off yet but maybe next year he breaks out as a pass rushing defensive end. Bobby Rainey and Doug Martin are decent backs but neither one has proven to be able to stay healthy and take care of the ball. I could easily see a 6-7 win season next year if they pick up some of these key pieces in this year’s draft, and having the number one overall pick, they should be able to at least add a franchise quarterback in Jameis Winston or Marcus Marriota.
Off-season Needs: The Bucs have several key needs heading into this offseason. To me, the pieces are there for a much improved defense next year and therefore, most of the focus this offseason should be on the offensive side of the ball. I fully expect the Bucs to take a QB with the number one overall pick, whether it be Winston or Marriota I am not sure yet. After that, they Bucs need to add at least one starting quality tackle and one starting quality guard to the offensive line as well as look for a dynamic running back and another wide receiver. On defense, they will look to add to the safety position as well as finding a defensive end and a defensive tackle to pair with Michael Johnson and Gerald McCoy.
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