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November 16, 2011 @ 12:30 am
Current rating: 4.50 Stars/2 Votes

Youth, Hard Schedule Proving Tough For Bucs To Overcome

Written by Mark
Mark Cook


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While no one inside the Buccaneers organization is pleased with how the 2011 season thus far, a closer look at some key numbers point to some specific reasons this 4-5 Tampa Bay team has struggled this year.

When a football team looks as bad as the Buccaneers did Sunday in their 37-9 loss to the Houston Texans, the old adage “the sky is falling” comes to mind. Frustration boils over for the coaches, players, management and the fans. PewterReport.com decided to look at some numbers and facts to try and determine what may be part of the problem, as the Buccaneers currently sit at 4-5 and three games out of the NFC South lead.

First, it is important to remember that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a young football team. In fact, the Buccaneers have the youngest roster in the NFL for the second straight year. While the debate will carry on that this is the fault of the Buccaneers for not signing enough veteran players, general manager Mark Dominik, for better or worse, is following a plan he and the Glazers set in motion during the 2009 season to build through the draft and develop Tampa Bay’s talent from within.

Looking at Tampa Bay’s roster there are 38 players with four or less years experience. The average age of the entire 53-man roster is 25 years old. The offensive starters average 25.8 years of age and the defense averages 25.9 years old.

Breaking it down a step further when looking at the skill position players on offense the Buccaneers' average age is 24.3 years.

Now let’s look at the same figures for the defending Super Bowl champs and Buccaneers' next opponent, the Green Bay Packers. Green Bay has a relatively young team, but its youth is found mostly in the backups – not the starters. The Packers carry 36 players with four or less years of experience. But the average age of the offensive starters is 27.1 years of age and the defensive average age is 27.3.

Looking closer at the offensive skill position players and the number jumps up to 28.7 as compared to Tampa Bay’s 24.3, equating to approximately four more seasons of NFL experience.

NFL scouts, coaches and general managers will tell you the most important developmental year is the one between the first and second seasons of a player’s career. Out of Tampa Bay's 53-man roster a whopping total of 26 players have had no offseason with the Buccaneers. Some were with other teams over the last few seasons, but a majority of the 26 were either brought in during the 2010 season, drafted in 2011 or signed prior to this season. And out of those 26 players without the benefit of any offseason program this year due to the NFL lockout, 13 have started games for the Buccaneers in 2011.

Even the players that have had an offseason with the Buccaneers in the past, such as quarterback Josh Freeman, wide receivers Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn, running back LeGarrette Blount, linebackers Geno Hayes and Quincy Black have struggled this year with their production and could have used an offseason at One Buccaneer Place with the coaches.

Now let’s take a look at the schedule this season versus last year. The Buccaneers' opponents last season were 96-112 with a winning percentage of .462. Of the teams that Tampa Bay defeated, only one – the Saints – had a winning season as the other nine victories came against sub .500 teams.

This season the Buccaneers schedule is the second most difficult in the NFL, as opponents they have already or will face, are a combined 65-55 currently with a winning percentage of .541. After facing the undefeated, Super Bowl champion Packers this Sunday, the Bucs will have played the toughest schedule in the NFL through 10 games.

Of the teams that Tampa Bay has played this year, only two – Minnesota, which stands at 2-7 and the winless Colts – have a losing record. Aside from facing the NFC North-leading Packers, which have the best record in the NFL, the Bucs have lost to the best team in the NFC West and second-best team in the NFL in San Francisco (8-1), lost to a team that is tied for the AFC conference lead in Houston (7-3), split with the NFC South-leading Saints (7-3) and lost to two NFC North teams that are poised for a playoff run in Chicago (6-3) and Detroit (6-3).

Tampa Bay just missed the playoffs in 2010 with a 10-6 record, and with the ease of schedule, which is no fault of the Bucs, it may have set up false expectations for the 2011 season. It's worth noting that the Buccaneers had to rally in the fourth quarter to come from behind and beat the likes of Cleveland, Cincinnati, Arizona and St. Louis, in addition to beating San Francisco and Seattle to go 4-0 against the putrid NFC West.

With a much tougher schedule in 2011, a young roster combined with the NFL lockout, which meant no OTAs or mini-camps, the struggles of the Buccaneers maybe aren’t as bad as they appear. In retrospect, adding more veteran free agents in 2011 might have made a difference in the team's games this year and there is a much more likely chance that the Bucs will use free agency more in 2012.

Dominik and head coach Raheem Morris have both publically stated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are by no means a finished product. But will the Glazer family have the patience to see the slower-than-fans-like approach through? The last seven games will go a long way in determining what the future of the franchise holds.

– Scott Reynolds contributed to this report

Last modified on Wednesday, 16 November 2011 12:20

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  • avatar

    Raheem likes to say that stats are for losers. Well, these are all excuses for losers. Detroit and San Francisco had the same, if not bigger challenges and you don't see them whining about it. All these reasons for losing you pointed to were known ahead of time and in fact, by design. They could have brought in Joseph and some other young free agents that were just coming into their prime, but we were told the want to build from within. So they signed players like Black to huge contracts, who have never done anything, but just happened to be on the roster last year. Well, this is what they get when they do that. This team is like watching "Children of the Corn" or "Lord of the Flies". It is the blind leading the blind out there. There is no veteran leader out there. _____________________________________________________________ People will say that this is the way that Dungy did it. Well, they forget that Dungy had an ace in the hole already on the roster when he arrived. A couple years earlier, the Bucs were smart and signed a relatively young free agent lb from the Steelers named Hardy Nickerson. I can remember reading a story about as soon as he showed up, he kicked one loafer's *censored* and basically said you are not going to do that on my team! He played smart, hard and fast and he practiced that way too. More importantly, he demanded that everyone else do the same. With a couple excellent drafts by Rich Mckay and Dungy was brought in, constantly focusing on the basics like tackling, the team turned the corner late in 1996 to finish strong. They never had a losing season until after they won a super bowl. Strong veteran leadership is required to win in the NFL. Do you think Sapp, Brooks, Lynch or any of those guys would have turned out the way they did without a veteran bringing them up by their boot straps and leading the way? I don't think so and I don't think that Nickerson gets the credit he deserves for the leadership he provided for that young team. ___________________________________________________________ This is where this team is delusional if it thinks that it can put a bunch of draft picks on the field and win the division. Winning the division was Raheem's goal this year afterall. That seems like a distant memory now. If Raheem and Dominick are smart and want to save their jobs, they will bring in a Hardy Nickerson type player and leader to guide this team.
  • avatar

    All good, well thought out points by the posters. Much more enjoyable to read than the less than thought provoking, "Morris and Dominik suck and the Glazers are cheap" comment to which some resort. As Ronde would say, "the schedule is what it is." There's a big difference between not being experienced enough and not being good enough. Let's hope our youngsters are the former.
  • avatar

    For anyone who read the article and then said 'yeah but..' go back and re-read the article until it gets through your thick skull. NOBODY IS GOING TO THE PLAYOFFS IN YEAR 2 OF A REBUILD WITH THE YOUNGEST TEAM IN THE NFL. Understand that yet??? Gooooooood. Now try to stop thinking like a fan and start thinking like an owner or GM and realize this is a business. Most businesses don't turn a profit for 5 years and it's really not much different in the business of the NFL when it comes to showing fruition after a rebuild. We're still two drafts away from putting all the pieces in place and after that you 'may' see them pick up any missing pieces in FA but for now it's build through the draft and if you do it right you end up with what Green Bay has BUT it takes time. They won't tolerate lack of effort. That'll be cleaned up and I really think this weekends game will be a better game than most anticipate. I don't think we'll win but I think the Packers will know they were in a football game.
  • avatar

    Nice article. I thought our starters were pretty much the same age as the Packers except where it counts, which is the QB position.
  • avatar

    What I'm about to say is not going to make anybody feel any better, but I hope it will help to keep a few of us from feeling any worse. We are panicking much to soon and some of us have unreasonable expectations for the total rebuild of a 2yr old team. A historical perspective might help. Did you know that those mighty Texans that embarrassed us last week has been in the NFL since 2002 and they have never, thats right never, even been to the playoffs. You know what their record was last year? 6 and 10. The coach has not been fired and their fans have not committed suicide. What they did was hire a senior DC, Wade Phillips, a couple of good FAs, like Jonathan Joseph, CB who is playing at a pro bowl level, and you witnessed the results last week. Just to be sure you're getting my point, those illustrious Green Bay Packers, (the ones that are going to B-slap us this week), had a great year in 2007, Farve's last year, going 13-3 as the Bucs had a great year in 2010 going 10-6. But the very next year 2008 ( Rodgers first start/his 4th year in the league), the wheels fell off, as is happening to the Bucs this year, and they went 6-10. They did not fire the HC and the fans did not revolt. They did what good organizatios do - they fixed the problem. They fired 8 assistant coaches including Bob Sanders DC, and hired Dom Capers the present DC and the rest is history! Look fellows I don't like losing either, but this is hard stuff and you don't solve the problem by killing the HC and GM (that can come later. lol) at the first sign of a problem. You fix the problem by identifying the organizational weaknesses and player deficiencies and moving swiftly to correct them!
  • avatar

    The Bucs NEVER would have won the Super Bowl without a number of free agents!
  • avatar

    Excellent research Mark! The point about the average age of starters is very important. While the norm is to have younger backups than starters, the average age of our starters at the skill positions is below the team average - four years of experience is a lot to give up to other teams!
  • avatar

    I agree with Horse, let's use the rest of the season for try outs. There's going to be alot of head coaches let go this year, so there will be some good D.C.'s, O.C.'s available. I'd give Morris another year, but he need's better asst coaches. I don't believe Freeman will be set back changing schemes, some rookie Q.B.'s are having a better season then Free with no off season, and new coaches.One only has to look at S.F., and Cinncy to see how much of a differance the right coach makes.
  • avatar

    Excuses, excuses. Every team had the same offseason. Teams like San Fran had new coaches and systems to install. Sure the team is young - that's what Dom wanted. Sure the schedule is harder. It's just exposing The Plan and this poor coaching staff.
  • avatar

    i agree the shorter offseason hurt the bucs.but olsen was not a very good play caller last year and really sucks this year, little talent and no offseason are no excuse for having no bread and butter play and being the most unimaginative offense in the nfl.i like morris but he too is geting overmatched.the last saints game,why change the game plan shut down sproles and graham like first game, hell the lambs did it. also tackling has been bad all year, and a lot of that is you are not allowed to practice in pads, for young teams there is no other way but to practice in .fire olsen, bring up gant and cut spurlock this will give us some speed,next oc must show how to draw up rb screens are no interview,they work way better than wo screens.
  • avatar

    If we have another game like The Texan game, then I expect the Glazers to pull the plug. Giving up is wrong whether the players thought they were still trying or not, but the fans saw it as quiting. Freeman is having a bad year; he continues to be in the very bottom tier for starters who have played 8 games or more. Does he have a thumb problem? Once again, we did not make any moves to bring in another RB, TE, CB, Safety, and only filled the DT spot. I just don't see any great potential that would keep, Lewis, Lee, Jones, Lorig, on this team. I would have preferred to at least call up A. Black to see what he can do and use the last five team players spots to tryout some players; maybe we get lucky on one or two of them. Go Bucs! Get Better!
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