Which Buccaneers will emerge as star performers in Tampa Bay this year? Who are the Most Improved Offensive and Defensive Players? Which rookie will get the honor as the Best Rookie? Pewter Report makes its annual Pewter Predictions and provides the analysis to back it up.
BUCS 2015 OFFENSIVE MVP – RB Doug Martin
While wide receiver Mike Evans was Tampa Bay’s offensive MVP last year with a breakout rookie season that included 1,051 yards and a franchise-record 12 touchdown receptions, Evans will be the focal point of defensive coordinators’ game plans. Factoring in that a rookie quarterback in Jameis Winston will be throwing the ball may diminish his stats in his second NFL season.
After shedding some excess weight, Martin looks revitalized and averaged 5.9 yards per carry while scoring a touchdown in the preseason while not eclipsing 500 yards rushing in an injury-filled 2014 campaign. Martin is in a contract year, and if he can stay healthy he could be in for a monster season. With a rookie quarterback this year, the Bucs will have to rely on Martin running and catching the ball well to take some pressure off Winston. Evans will be a close runner-up for this award.
Bucs DT Gerald McCoy – Photo by: Mark LoMoglio/PR
BUCS 2015 DEFENSIVE MVP – DT Gerald McCoy
McCoy battled through injuries, including a broken hand in Week 2, to record 8.5 sacks en route to his third Pro Bowl before injuring his knee late in the year against Detroit. That injury caused him to be placed on injured reserve, which is how McCoy has seen three of his five seasons end since entering the NFL in 2010 as Tampa Bay’s first-round pick.
McCoy has accomplished a lot over the past five years, including three Pro Bowl berths and the recognition that comes with being an All-Pro. His 27 career sacks earned him a mega contract extension last October, but there are two goals that McCoy has yet to reach. The first of which is a double-digit sack season. He came close in 2013 with 9.5 sacks. The second of which is a playoff berth. If McCoy can stay healthy and dominate on defense to reach double digit sacks that will undoubtedly aid Tampa Bay’s chances of making the playoffs. McCoy edges linebacker Lavonte David for the MVP honors.
BUCS 2015 SPECIAL TEAMS MVP – K Kyle Brindza
The Bucs traded reserve tight end Tim Wright for Detroit Lions backup kicker Kyle Brindza to challenge struggling starter Pat Murray, who was dealing with a knee injury, and Connor Barth in the preseason. Upon his arrival in Tampa Bay, Brindza put his cannon leg on display, nailing field goals from 57 and 55 yards in his debut against Miami in the fourth preseason game.
That performance solidified his standing as Tampa Bay’s kicker, and he gives the Bucs unprecedented long-range field goal opportunities for this coming season. The fact that he was accurate – nailing all five of his field goal attempts – is even more important than the distance he can put on his field goals and his kickoffs. Brindza isn’t just a kicker. He’s a weapon.
MOST IMPROVED OFFENSIVE PLAYER – RB Doug Martin
Martin has failed to rush for 500 yards in each of the last two seasons as he battled injuries and ineffectiveness. But after losing weight and having all the incentive in the world, as Tampa Bay did not pick up his fifth-year option, Martin plans on coming back in 2015 with a vengeance as a runner and a receiver.
Tampa Bay’s first-round pick in 2012 ran with purpose and authority unseen since his record-setting rookie campaign during the 2015 preseason. Martin spent too much time dancing around in the backfield looking for a hole over the past two seasons. This year, he’s creating his own holes with power or choosing to squirt through a tiny hole he would have avoided in the past. Martin beats out left guard Logan Mankins to win this award.
Bucs CB Alterraun Verner – Photo by: Mark LoMoglio/PR
MOST IMPROVED DEFENSIVE PLAYER – CB Alterraun Verner
Verner was a big free agent signing last year, who didn’t live up to his contract as he struggled in coverage over the first half of the season and only recorded two interceptions. But Verner came on down the stretch once he fully grasped the Tampa 2 defense after the bye week and showed marked improvement along with other defensive teammates.
Verner has full command of the Tampa 2 scheme now and showed off his playmaking skills in the preseason as a deadly run stopper with eight tackles on the perimeter, a team-high three pass breakups and a pick-six against Cincinnati. With quarterbacks staying away from Johnthan Banks, look for Verner to have even more passes coming his way and making teams pay with more pass breakups and interceptions. Verner edges free safety Bradley McDougald for this distinction.
LEADING SACKER – DE George Johnson
While McCoy has been Tampa Bay’s leading sacker the past two seasons and will be in contention for that mark again in 2015, don’t be surprised if new defensive end George Johnson emerges with the most quarterback captures. Johnson, who had a career-high six sacks in Detroit last year as a reserve defensive end, has a nice combination of size and speed and will likely see plenty of one-on-one blocking against right tackles, while McCoy will be see constant double teams.
With Tampa Bay’s defensive tackle position, which is led by McCoy, being the best in the NFL, opposing quarterbacks will have a hard time stepping up in the pocket to throw, and they will be flushed outside from the Bucs’ interior pass rush. With most QBs being right handed, they will roll right – and right into Johnson, who could reach double digit sacks this season in Tampa Bay.
Bucs FS Bradley McDougald – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
LEADING INTERCEPTOR – FS Bradley McDougald
Both of Tampa Bay’s cornerbacks – Verner and Banks – have good ball skills and the ability to rack up interceptions, especially with a second year of experience in Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 defense. But McDougald, a former cornerback in college, also has very good hands and a knack for making picks, as he showed in Week 17 last year after cracking the starting lineup, and again in the preseason this year.
McDougald will benefit from better underneath coverage from Tampa Bay’s improved linebacking corps, forcing opposing quarterbacks to throw the ball high to get it past the linebackers. Those high throws will allow McDougald plenty of opportunities to record as many as six interceptions this season, which should lead the Buccaneers.
BEST ROOKIE – MLB Kwon Alexander
Winston, the team’s first overall draft pick, seems like the easiest choice for the best rookie in Tampa Bay, but he will undoubtedly go through some growing pains this year and take some sacks he shouldn’t have and throw some picks he would like to have back. For that reason, Alexander, who became Tampa Bay’s starting middle linebacker after the first preseason game, will be the Bucs’ best rookie this season.
Not only will Alexander, the Bucs’ fourth-round pick, push David to be the team’s leading tackler in 2015, he’ll also chip in a few splash plays – sacks, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries and interceptions – along the way. With blazing speed, hard-hitting ability and a high football I.Q., Alexander is a star in the making on defense, and a Day 3 steal from the NFL Draft.
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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If all these accomplishments come to pass, it will be a great season for the Bucs!
Mike Glennon threw at least one TD in his first 8 starts (first time ever for a rook) He also threw 10TDs to 1INT in his first Ten TDs (also a rookie first)
These are Easy things for JW to shoot for since he has better weapons and the Full support of the coaching staff
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The field is going to be an advantage or disadvantage. The team that uses it as something positive will win this game. Get this win! Go Bucs!
No matter what happens today, can we take the game as a learning experience and grow from there. Go Bucs!
Lets hope we trade Glennon, and go 0-16 so the new regime can draft a QB. Winston’s footwork still stinks. He still sticks with his presnap read whether there or not.
Another Jimbo QB who is of NFL backup caliber at best.
42-14 Let’s have no more argument on which QB we should have taken and which is NFL ready.
If Verner is best improved player on defense we are in more trouble than last year. He sucked today.
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