Pewter Report’s Mark Cook takes a look back at Tampa Bay’s 2013 season and grades the performances of the team’s offensive, defensive and special teams units and offers up an early season outlook for each Buccaneers unit.QUARTERBACKS2013 GRADE = C-
A season that started with promise, turned into a total disaster in Tampa Bay, and a lot of that can be attributed to the quarterback play in 2013. Incumbent starter Josh Freeman, who set franchise records just the year before, was expected to improve and help lead the Buccaneers to the playoffs in his second season in the Mike Sullivan-designed offense. But after three weeks of sub-par play, controversy and national headlines, Freeman was benched, and then released, leaving the starting job to third-round rookie Mike Glennon.
Glennon’s play was a mixed bag of looking comfortable and in command at times, but every bit of that of a rookie at other times. Glennon's 19:9 TD to INT ratio was impressive and he set numerous Bucs rookie records, but there are still as many question marks as there are answers as the Bucs head into the offseason. Many things contributed to the 4-12 season, including the lackluster play of the quarterbacks at times.
For the season the Buccaneers quarterbacks finished with 3,181 yards on 291-of-541 passing and 22 touchdowns to go along with 12 interceptions.2014 OUTLOOK:
The new coaching staff and management are still in the evaluation process of the incumbent Glennon. Word from Bucs sources at the East-West Shrine Game and at the Senior Bowl is that Glennon can fit nicely in new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford's system, which demands a strong arm, accuracy and high football I.Q. The Bucs will need to add some additional competition at the position as they currently have just Jordan Rodgers under contract. If the Bucs end up determining Glennon is the guy in 2014, they could look to the free agent market or target a developmental guy in the mid-to-late rounds in the upcoming draft. If not, the Bucs may draft a quarterback with a premium pick in May.
RUNNING BACKS2013 GRADE = C
Starter Doug Martin was looking to improve on his 1,454-yard and 11 rushing touchdown breakout season in 2013, but never seemed to get on track early and was injured Week 6 at Atlanta. Martin was later placed placed on injured reserve and had shoulder surgery. He finished the season with 456 on 127 carries and one touchdown.
The Buccaneers rushing attack didn’t take a dramatic nose dive initially, as sixth-round draft pick Mike James came in and averaged 4.9 yards per carry in relief before also being bitten by the injury bug in Tampa Bay’s first win of the season against the Miami Dolphins on November 11 in front of a nationally-televised audience on Monday Night Football.
After James went down, the Buccaneers turned to free agent running back Bobby Rainey who responded well and finished the season with a team-high 532 on 137 carries (3.9 avg.) and five touchdowns on the ground to go along with one TD reception.
Veteran Brian Leonard filled in primarily as the Buccaneers third-down back and added 182 yards on 47 carries. Leonard also had 29 receptions for 179 yards.2014 OUTLOOK:
With Martin and James expected back fully healthy in time for a majority of the offseason workouts it appears the Buccaneers are set up well at the running back position for 2014. In addition to Martin and James, Rainey will be back along with Michael Smith, who spent the entire season on injured reserve. If Jeff Demps is available for a full football season, and healthy, there will be some tough choices to be made come late August when Lovie Smith and his staff have to finalize the 53-man roster.WIDE RECEIVERS2013 GRADE = C-
Like the running backs, the receiver position took a big hit when Mike Williams found his way to injured reserve after suffering a hamstring tear that required season-ending surgery. Prior to being placed on injured reserve Williams had just 22 receptions for 216 yards and two scores after signing a big contract extension.
One big bright spot offensively was Vincent Jackson, who for a second consecutive season, went over 1,000 yards (1,224) and set a personal best with 78 catches, while also hauling in seven touchdown receptions. Jackson wasn't perfect, suffering a number of drops, but many of those were the result of Jackson trying to make a play before securing the ball.
The third receiver spot was a disappointment for the Buccaneers as they started the season with Kevin Ogletree in that role before releasing him early in the season. Tiquan Underwood was re-signed after being cut after the preseason and played decent, nabbing 24 catches for 440 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. Underwood still had issue with drops and separating from defenders, which is something that has followed him throughout his career.
Skye Dawson, Eric Page, Chris Owusu managed just 19 receptions combined and never showed much in terms of development throughout the season.2014 OUTLOOK:
Sources told PewterReport.com at the Senior Bowl that the new staff is excited to find ways to utilize Jackson in Tedford's offense. But other than Jackson there are several question marks, including if Williams rebounds from a poor 2013 season and if his head is in the right place to excel. Williams' off-field shenanigans were something that was extremely concerning to the previous staff, and it will be interesting to see how Smith and new general manager Jason Licht will handle it. There is no question the Buccaneers need to add speed and athleticism to the wide receiver corps. Will it come via free agency or will the Bucs look to add some playmakers, such as Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, in the NFL Draft?TIGHT ENDS
2013 GRADE = C
The tight end position also failed to escape injury problems, as projected starter Tom Crabtree was hurt in the Buccaneers final preseason game against the Redskins and never made an impact after returning, before ultimately being placed on injured reserve midway through 2013.
In Crabtree’s absence the Buccaneers did manage to find a diamond in the rough with converted receiver to tight end Tim Wright. Wright, an undrafted free agent, came on midway through the season and ended the year as the team’s second leading receiver with 54 receptions for 571 and five scores.
Nate Byham contributed just three receptions for the Buccaneers in 2013 before being placed on injured reserve, and Luke Stocker missed the whole season and has been a bust thus far.2014 OUTLOOK:
Say what you want about Greg Schiano and his influx of Rutgers players, but you can't argue that he nailed the Wright acquisition. Wright was converted from wide receiver to tight end and exceeded everyone's expectations. Stocker is still under contract, but it appeared the previous staff were ready to move on from the former Tennessee tight end. Can the new staff get anything out of Stocker to justify his fourth-round selection in 2011? The Buccaneers will need to address the position before training camp and could look to sign some help in free agency. Licht's former team, the Arizona Cardinals have some options with Jeff King and Kory Sperry in free agency. Both would be better blockers, and King has had some good NFL production as a pass catcher.OFFENSIVE LINE
2013 GRADE = D
What was expected to be one of, if not the strongest unit on the team, the Bucs offensive line was easily the most disappointing. Things started poorly with starting left guard Carl Nicks being diagnosed with MRSA prior to the start of the season, then after returning, ended up on injured reserve for the second season in a row with a recurrence of the MRSA. In two seasons with Tampa Bay, Nicks has started just nine games for Tampa Bay.
The Buccaneers tried a number of combinations to replace Nicks including Gabe Carimi, Jamon Meredith, Jeremy Zuttah and Ted Larsen. Meredith ended up playing the most games at guard before fading down the stretch and eventually losing the starting job by Week 17.
Starting left tackle Donald Penn had the worst season of his career, although some of his less-than-stellar play can be attributed to the musical chairs at the guard position.
One bright spot was right tackle Demar Dotson who started all 16 games for the Buccaneers, and while he may not be looking at a Pro Bowl any time soon, certainly outplayed the other members of the offensive line including center Jeremy Zuttah, who was inconsistent at times.2014 OUTLOOK:
It is hard to imagine this underperforming unit not undergoing some sort of overhaul. Donald Penn and Davin Joseph both had subpar 2013 seasons and are set to command salaries between $6-7 million in 2014. Both could very well be back, but may not at their current-slated salaries. The odds of Carl Nicks returning aren't great although the Bucs most likely will do their best to get him on the field it at possible with the guaranteed money he will be paid in 2014. While most are expecting the Buccaneers to take a defensive player with the No. 7 pick in the draft, don't be surprised to see an offensive lineman's name called in the first round.DEFENSIVE LINE 2013 GRADE= B-
With the Buccaneers organization allowing Michael Bennett to walk in free agency, the starting job was handed to Da’Quan Bowers who admittedly wasn’t in shape when training camp began. Bowers (seven tackles, one sack) was never able to beat out Daniel Te'o-Nesheim (15 tackles, one sack) and eventually gave up snaps to rookie William Gholston (31 tackles, two sacks) late in the season. The gamble to not re-sign Bennett was a big mistake and will be something the Buccaneers will most likely need to address via free agency or the draft this offseason.
Tackle Gerald McCoy made another huge leap in production from his previous Pro Bowl season and almost doubled his sack production, finishing the season with nine QB takedowns to go along with 50 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, four pass break ups and one fumble recovery.
Nose tackle Akeem Spence was solid in the middle (29 tackles, once sack) despite being troubled with a wrist injury that hampered him for a big part of the season.
Adrian Clayborn may never be a 10-15 sack guy in the NFL, but has a nonstop motor that Lovie Smith will love. Coming off an ACL injury in 2012, Clayborn provided the defense with a spark plug from both the right and left side of the field. The former Hawkeye had 66 tackles and six sacks in addition added 19 tackles for loss and forced two fumbles.
Backups Steven Means, Gary Gibson and Derek Landri played sparingly, contributing little on the field in 2012.2014 OUTLOOK:
For Lovie Smith's 4-3, Cover 2 scheme to be successful the defensive line must get pressure on the quarterback rushing just four lineman. There are blitzes in the defense but the basis on the scheme is built around pressure from the front four. Right now the Bucs have one proven player, Gerald McCoy, one potential double-digit sack player in Clayborn, and a raw but unproven pass rusher in Will Gholston. There is no question the Buccaneers will add pieces to the defensive line rotation to battle it out in camp. Look for Tampa Bay to make a strong push to sign Jared Allen or even Greg Hardy in free agency. If they Bucs can lure Allen or another proven pass rusher to Tampa Bay it will allow more flexibility and options come draft day.LINEBACKERS 2013 GRADE= A-
Most agreed Lavonte David would be a good NFL linebacker coming out of college but not many could have predicted the amazing success the former Cornhusker would have in his first two years. After a 144 tackle, 20 tackles for loss, six sacks and five-interception sophomore campaign, David is destined to be star in the NFL.
Mason Foster manned the middle and had his best season as a professional. Taking on blockers to free up David to clean up the play, Foster’s role was somewhat unappreciated by many in 2013. Foster had two terrific interception returns for touchdown this season, including what should have been the game winner in week 2 against the Saints. Foster finished 90 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions.
The strongside linebacker position was handled on a rotation with Dekoda Watson, Jonathan Casillas and Adam Hayward all taking turns in the starting lineup. All three played well at times but it appeared Casillas had settled in as the full time starter before an injury sent him to injured reserve. Watson showed flashes at times at the linebacker position, and also from a standup rush position but suffered a shoulder injury late in the season.2014 OUTLOOK:
Licht and Smith will need to quickly evaluate if Foster can be the middle linebacker than can excel in the Cover 2. The Mike linebacker in the scheme will need to be able to make deep drops in the middle and that is not one of Foster's strengths. Another question will be, do they bring back Dekoda Watson or Jonathan Casillas who are scheduled to be free agents? If both are allowed to walk there will be a need to add to the roster at the strongside linebacker position.SECONDARY
The Buccaneers made a blockbuster deal bringing All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis to Tampa Bay in a trade last spring, and despite never being 100 percent, the former Jet had a huge impact on the secondary, which had finished a handful of yards away from an NFL record worse in 2012. Revis finished with 50 tackles, two interceptions and his second career sack, but most importantly keep opposing teams from testing his side of the field very often.
Rookie Johnthan Banks had an up-and-down season but held up pretty well under the circumstances. Leonard Johnson, Danny Gorrer and Michael Adams were adequate nickel corners, but were unable to make any impact plays for the most part, other than Johnson’s terrific interception return for a touchdown at Detroit.
Dashon Goldson (72 tackles, one interception, one forced fumble) was the Bucs big slash free agent signing last spring but didn’t play up to his five-year, $41.25 million contract. Too many breakdowns and too many penalties were the story of Goldson’s season, and the Bucs will need a better season from the former Pro Bowl safety in 2013. Mark Barron (88 tackles, two interceptions and two sacks) improved dramatically over his roller coaster rookie season, especially as far as being a force against the run. Barron clearly still has areas to improve on but is on the right path. Second-year safety Keith Tandy was a pleasant surprise, notching 37 tackles and three interceptions on the year in a part-time starting role.2014 OUTLOOK:
The Buccaneers secondary should be a strength for Smith and his defense in 2014. The starters appear set with Banks, Revis, Goldson and Barron. Tampa Bay could very well decide to add some familiarity by signed Bears free agent Charles Tillman who could step into the starting role opposite Revis or move into the nickel role for Leonard Johnson. SPECIAL TEAMS GRADE= C
Losing Connor Barth to an Achilles injury prior to the start of the season was a big blow to the Bucs special teams and led to the signing of Lawrence Tynes who ended up with MRSA, then bringing in former Bills kicker Rian Lindell. Lindell did a good job after a shaky start to the season, converting 23-of-29 field goals on the season and all of his extra point attempts.
Punter Michael Koenen had a good season, averaging 44.2 yards per punt, and downing 19 inside the 20 while also handling the kickoff duties.
Eric Page averaged 10.9 yards per punt return and 24.9 on his kickoff opportunities last season.2014 OUTLOOK:
Tampa Bay will have Connor Barth back after sitting out the season with an Achilles injury suffered on the eve of training camp, and unless there are any lasting effects, it will spell the end of Rian Lindell's Bucs career. Punter Michael Koenen was outstanding on kickoffs and just average with punting. At $3 million in salary cap space, Koenen could be replaced to save money, or at the very least he can expect some serious competition in training camp. Where the Bucs will most likely be completely different is in the return game. Eric Page was decent in his first season, but Bucs head coach Lovie Smith was quick to point out to the local beat writers that he places a huge emphasis on special teams and thinks they are worth a couple wins per season by themselves. Smith most likely will attempt to lure free agent kick returner Devin Hester to Tampa Bay if he decides there is still some gas in the tank.COACHINGGRADE= D
Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan certainly had his share of challenges dealing with the plethora of injuries across the offensive side of the ball, but also frustrated many with his lack of imagination at times.
Bob Bostad, who many considered one of the best offensive line coaches in the NFL a year ago, couldn’t regain his magic with his patchwork unit up front, and the offensive coaching staff appeared to miss former receiver coach P.J. Fleck and quarterback coach Ron Turner who left last season to take college head coaching jobs.
The best coaching job on both sides of ball easily belonged to Earnest Byner who kept sending inexperienced running backs out there that performed well for the most part.
Defensively, while the Bucs improved from their 29th ranking in 2012, there were still a number of question marks, particularly in the game plan from defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan and Greg Schiano. Numerous stunts and ill-timed blitzes caught the defense out of position often and contributed to a number of the teams 12 losses in 2012.
Schiano, regardless of circumstances, didn’t get the job done and won just 11 games in two seasons, ultimately forcing the Glazers to fire him and his staff. He and his staff failed to make necessary adjustments in numerous games, costing the Buccaneers wins.2014 OUTLOOK:
The fans and organization are optimistic that the new staff will be a marked improvement over the previous one. There is no question that Smith has hired a solid staff that includes Leslie Frazier as defensive coordinator and former NFL players Hardy Nickerson (linebackers) and Gil Byrd (secondary). Offensively the addition of former Browns offensive line coach George Warhop and former Cal head coach Jeff Tedford to lead the Bucs offense. And don't forget defensive line coach Joe Cullen who is a Rod Marinelli clone that is expected to do wonders with the line.
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