With the 2016 season wrapped up following a 9-7 record, PewterReport.com takes a look at each individual unit and offers up our grades. Take a look and see if you agree, and comment the story to share your thoughts.

2016 FINAL OFFENSIVE RANKINGS
TOTAL OFFENSE: 18th, 364.4 per game
PASSING OFFENSE: 16th, 245.4 yards per game
RUSHING OFFENSE: 24th, 101.0 yards per game
THIRD DOWN: 6th, 43.72 conversion rate
SCORING: 18th, 22.1 points per game
SACKS: 17th, 35 sacks allowed

QUARTERBACK
Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston followed up his Bucs rookie record-setting performance with some NFL history, becoming the first quarterback to throw for over 4,000 yards in each of his first two seasons. His 4,090 pass yards and 28 touchdowns also bested Josh Freeman in the team’s record books, and led the Bucs to their first winning record (9-7) since the 2010 season when Tampa Bay won 10 games.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

Despite the accolades and improvements in some areas, Winston also saw his turnovers rise, with 18 interceptions and 10 fumbles, six of which were lost. In his defense, some of the interceptions were desperation throws, (Hail Mary, last second throws etc) but there were plenty that fell directly on him, mainly because of poor decision making. The organization, and Winston himself, knows that he must improve if he wants to see his game rise from good to great. 

Inaccuracy was also an issue during games this season, something that also needs to be corrected before he makes the jump, but Winston has pledged to work on these things in the offseason. 

With that said, Winston’s value to the team can’t be understated. From his leadership, work ethic, ability to help teammates raise their play and other intangibles, Winston is already head and shoulders above where even the most die-hard Winston fans thought he would be after just two seasons. Winston was tough and durable this season, avoided injury, and his uncanny ability to make plays while the pocket broke down bodes well for the future. He certainly can be better, and most likely will be in the future, but for now Bucs fans should rejoice in what appears to be the Bucs finding that elusive franchise quarterback the team has sought since 1976.
GRADE: B- 

RUNNING BACKS
What was expected to be a major strength of the 2016 Buccaneers offense turned out to be an utter disaster marred by injury and after injury, and then capped off with starter Doug Martin being suspended for the final game and the first three of the 2017 season for violating the NFL’s drug policy. 

The duo of Martin and Sims led the NFL in 2015 with combined yards from scrimmage but never came close to replicating their prior success. Martin was injured in Week 2 agains the Cardinals and missed a large chunk of the season, appearing in just eight games and managing just 421 yards (2.9 avg.) on the ground and 134 as a receiver with only three touchdowns. 

Bucs RBs Doug Martin and Charles Sims – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Sims was given the opportunity to be the featured back, but also struggled to find his footing, and missed nine games to injury, finishing with just 149 yards rushing, 190 receiving yards and two scores. 

Tampa Bay then turned to Jacquizz Rodgers who played the best of all the backs, but Rodgers was also injured by mid-season and Tampa Bay brought in former Falcons running back Antone Smith, who, you guess it, was also injured. 

Undrafted rookie Peyton Barber managed to stay relatively healthy all season for Tampa Bay, but finished with only 223 yards on 51 carries.

The Bucs M*A*S*H unit of running backs ended up averaging 101 yards on the ground through 16 games in 2016, but the uncertainty of Martin’s return means the Bucs will likely look to add talent at that position this offseason. While some of the struggles can be traced to inconstant line play, the backs themselves played a part in the inability to have an impact as well.
GRADE: C-

WIDE RECEIVERS
For Tampa Bay Bucs wide receivers, 2016 was defined by Mike Evans, injuries and lesser-known names trying to fill voids. The Week 5 injury to Vincent Jackson exposed the team’s depth issues at the position further.

Evans solidified himself as one of the NFL’s top receivers and he turned in a huge year despite opposing secondaries keying in on him throughout the season. Evans posted career-highs in receptions (96) and yards (1,321) and tied his franchise-record mark of 12 touchdown catches originally set as a rookie in 2014. Knowing he possessed a limited number of quality targets to work with, Winston sometimes forced passes to Evans to try and get his playmaker’s hands on the ball as much as possible. This led to Evans receiving an NFL-high 173 targets but owning a low 55.5 percent catch rate.

WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Getty Images

When Jackson was lost to injury, slot receiver Adam Humphries became Winston’s second-best option at the position. The second-year pro doesn’t have the size or skillset necessary to be much of a field-stretching threat, but he is reliable and shifty enough to pick up a few extra yards on catches made in space. Humphries caught 55 of his 83 targets (66.3 percent catch rate) for 622 yards and two touchdowns. He saved his best for last when he snagged a career-high 10 receptions for 94 yards Week 17 against the Carolina Panthers.

Winton’s other receivers throughout the year were Russell Shepard (23 catches for 341 yards and two touchdowns), Cecil Shorts (11 for 152), Freddie Martino (eight for 142, one score), and Josh Huff (three for 41). Despite missing the last 11 games, Jackson finished fourth on the team among receivers with 15 catches for 173 yards.

Speed will be the theme most likely this offseason when the Bucs look to upgrade their receiving corps. Fortunately for Tampa Bay and GM Jason Licht, this draft appears to be deep for playmakers who can burn. 
GRADE: B-

TIGHT ENDS
The tight end position got a big, early shakeup when Austin Seferian-Jenkins burned his final bridge in Tampa Bay and got the boot after playing sparingly in the first two games. Although Cameron Brate was already beginning to settle in atop the depth chart prior to Seferian-Jenkins’ unceremonious departure, the cut made it imperative for Brate to step up.

Head coach Dirk Koetter preferred Brate to begin with and the Harvard grad rewarded him with a borderline Pro Bowl-worthy effort. Brate finished tied with San Diego rookie Hunter Henry for the NFL lead in touchdowns by a tight end, with eight, and his 57 receptions for 660 yards ranked him second behind Mike Evans among Buccaneers pass catchers.

TE Cameron Brate – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Coming into camp with a bulked up physique, Brate also made positive strides improving his run- and pass-blocking abilities. Those stat-less responsibilities were primarily tasked to Brandon Myers and Luke Stocker again. Myers played all 16 games and Stocker suited up for 13. Considering the Bucs rushing attack fell to 24th in the NFL (101 yards per game, 3.6 yards per attempt) and Winston was hit 108 times (fifth-most) and sacked 35 times, everyone tasked with blocking deserves a little bit of blame in that regard. In the passing game, Myers finished with eight catches for 59 yards and one touchdown, and Stocker caught five passes for 23 yards.

The Bucs also received a spirited effort from undrafted rookie Alan Cross. The tight end/fullback started the year on the practice squad but played sporadically throughout the final 14 games. Cross ended up with six receptions for 38 yards and caught his first NFL touchdown during Tampa Bay’s Week 11 win in Kansas City.
GRADE: B

OFFENSIVE LINE
Inconsistent would be the word that best described the Bucs offensive line in 2016. At times they could be dominate, then a series later have two penalties, a tackle for loss on a running play, and then a third down sack. And it wasn’t just one player, all the linemen seemed to take turns making technique and mental errors, and a lot of the time, at the worst possible time. 

Bucs RG Ali Marpet – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The inconsistency can somewhat be blamed on some injuries this season, starting with free agent J.R. Sweezy who never saw the field for the Bucs after coming over from the Seahawks. Tampa Bay had planned on Sweezy taking over for a retired Logan Mankins, but a back injury kept him sidelined all season. Kevin Pamphile filled in surprisingly well by most accounts, and while he was part of the inconsistency issues at times, his development in 2016 should pay dividends down the road. Pamphile was injured with a concussion and missed two games this season, along with Demar Dotson who was also knocked out for action for three games. Center Joe Hawley was banged up for most of the season, missing one game, along with backup center Evan Smith who missed time with a knee injury. 

As noted above, the Bucs running game took a step back last season, partly because of the shuffled lineup due to injuries and the up and down play of the offensive line. Pass protection wise, it was much of the same, with some very good games followed up by games where Winston was running for his life.

It is easy to lay all the blame on the offensive line, and there is no question that some is due their way. But if you ask Dirk Koetter, and Winston, they both will tell you, they like the personnel currently, especially with younger players like Ben Gottschalk and Caleb Benenoch gaining experience this season.

Addressing the line, as some fans are clamoring for, is easier said then done. The draft isn’t top heavy with top caliber talent, and the free agent maker most likely will be thin, which means the few players that make it that far will get paid big time most likely. The Bucs most likely star pat and hope Sweezy can return and provide some stability and more importantly, more leadership lost when Mankins retired.
GRADE: C 

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About the Author: Mark Cook

Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at [email protected]
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EastEndBoy
EastEndBoy
5 years ago

I’d say that if OL opportunities are limited in both FA and the draft, then this would be the opportune moment for Jason Licht to prove me wrong about him and find us an upgrade or two. If he’s really a top tier GM then this is the time to deliver. Any arm chair GM can get a WR upgrade this offseason, only a stud can find one at OL. I would be happy to be proven wrong about him…but I’m expecting the preverbial “stand pat”.

matador
matador
5 years ago

“Addressing the line, as some fans are clamoring for, is easier said then done. The draft isn’t top heavy with top caliber talent, and the free agent maker most likely will be thin…” And this is why the Aguyo pick is so damning. We spent two picks, which could have landed us one or two upgrades at positions of need and instead got subpar play from a position easily addressed outside of the draft. The GM is supposed to be looking two or three moves ahead yet here we sit with Marpet and a collection of players who are marginal… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  matador
5 years ago

The flaw in your reasoning on the Aguayo pick is that every single draft pick carries with it the opportunity cost of not picking some other player. Licht’s reasoning for picking Aguayo late in the second round is debatable, but the same is true of every pick that Licht and every other GM makes. And if you’re going to continue berating Licht for making that pick that you didn’t like, then you also have to give him credit for bringing on Cameron Brate as an undrafted free agent who led the league in TDs at the tight end position. Just… Read more »

chetthevette
chetthevette
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 years ago

I too am also tired of the RA bashing. How could that pick ruin the offensive line I have no idea, for any unit for that matter.
Hopefully in 5 years Matador can say “man that guy can kick” about RA.
Fingers crossed on my part.
GO BUCS

scubog
scubog
5 years ago

I sure hope that someday real soon we stop rehashing the choice if Roberto Aguayo. It’s no worse than the multitude of suspect Draft picks we’ve made the past 40 years. Anyone recall the Bret Moritz selection? That’s my nomination for worst Draft pick ever. The offense this season was negatively impacted more by injuries, a DUI, no depth at WR, and Doug Martin falling prey to the curse of the Scubog game jersey and his off the field lifestyle than the line-up at the start of the season. Winston’s never say die attitude is his greatest asset but it… Read more »

Horse
Horse
Reply to  scubog
5 years ago

Scubog that wasn’t a very positive message you usually sing? This is a much improved team and we actually had reserves who performed better than some of the starters.

scubog
scubog
Reply to  Horse
5 years ago

I didn’t mean to come across as negative, just my perception when analyzing the roster. Our skill positions are very weak. We’re fortunate to have a rising star in Cameron Brate and Mike Evans. But after those two youngsters………….zilch. We simply have to address it this off season and if an opportunity presents itself to upgrade a piece of the O-line, Licht and Warhop should consider that too.

chetthevette
chetthevette
Reply to  scubog
5 years ago

Hey scubog,
I’m sorry that is not even close to the worst draft pick ever. And that was a pretty bad one.
I nominate Bo Jackson as the most totally screwed up pick ever. Maybe on any team, but I’ll give that to Jamarcus Russle.
GO BUCS

scubog
scubog
Reply to  chetthevette
5 years ago

Bret Moritz was the worst Draft pick for the Bucs not the league. The selection of Bo Jackson wasn’t the problem. The inability to sign him was.

EastEndBoy
EastEndBoy
Reply to  scubog
5 years ago

We’ve had so many terrible selections – it’s truly been farcical. And while I love to hate on the selections of guys in the 1st round that were total failures from the get-go….I think I have to agree @chetthevette about Bo Jackson 1st overall…he told us not to select him, he told us he would never play for us, he told us he would never forgive us for screwing-up his chance to play baseball out at Auburn…and we didn’t believe him and chose him anyway!!!!! Why do we refuse to believe people when they tell us stuff, and think “oh… Read more »

chetthevette
chetthevette
Reply to  EastEndBoy
5 years ago

Still painful for me to remember that.
As a matter of fact it’s painful to recall most of our drafts.
Licht is at least competent.
GO BUCS

chetthevette
chetthevette
Reply to  scubog
5 years ago

If he would have played no problem.
Jumpin Jesus, he said I will NEVER play for you, EVER.
And they still did it.
Just like in Billy Jack.
“I’m gonna put my right foot right on your jaw, nothin’ you can do about it.”
The he did it.
Maybe the geezers will remember Billy Jack.
GO BUCS

surferdudes
5 years ago

Limited in free agency, like the draft doesn’t mean there isn’t any options. With loads of cap money would it hurt to bring in someone to compete with Dotson? Goster will be gone, and are you saying there’s no better option at center then Hawley to be signed? EastEndBoy is right, anyone can find a receiver upgrade in this draft. Licht needs to find a way to improve a line that was as said inconsistent. Alex Mack at center was big in helping Atlanta’s offense this year,we can’t stay pat with Hawley, and expect better results. Better find Dot’s replacement… Read more »

jme0151
jme0151
Reply to  surferdudes
5 years ago

I concur!

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
5 years ago

The grades as given seem fair enough. The offensive line is a unit that needs constant, year-after-year-after-year tending to. A team typically carries at least 7 OL on the 53-man roster, sometimes 8. Given the facts of players who under-perform, injuries, losses to free agency, and retirements, a team simply cannot afford to ignore the offensive line in the offseason, even if your line is very good. One of the consistent reasons for Buccaneer futility over the decades is our sporadic attention to the offensive line, sometimes going two or three years without making any serious effort to upgrade the… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 years ago

As for player comparisons, the “model” for what I wish we could get out of the quarterback position is this year’s darling, Dak Prescott. Flying under the radar and being a mere fourth round draft pick not expected to start this season, Dak had the benefit of lower expectations than were had for Jameis Winston. Even so, regardless of the expectations, he suddenly found himself the starter replacing an institution in Dallas … and he performed spectacularly. Prescott threw for “only” 3,667 yards, but man … 23 touchdowns to only 4 interceptions. He took care of the ball, got his… Read more »

chetthevette
chetthevette
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 years ago

I think all most any QB could thrive in Dallas. It’s time to start my manta,
” ooooom , It’s the O line, ooom, It’s the Oline, ooom, It’s the Oline”.
GO BUCS

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  chetthevette
5 years ago

No – a quarterback who doesn’t take care of the football will still throw picks in Dallas. Jay Cutler will still be Jay Cutler, no matter what line he plays behind. Proof? Virtually the same Dallas offensive line also played in 2015, and the end result was 4-12 record and produced the 31st ranked offense. The four quarterbacks (Cassell, Romo, Weeden,and Moore) who collectively started the 16 games a year ago for Dallas produced 16 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. Four of the five starters on the offensive line in 2015 were starters in 2016 for Dallas. It actually makes a… Read more »

Bucnut2
Bucnut2
Reply to  chetthevette
5 years ago

The O-line defiantly helps a lot. But let’s not forget, JW is WIDLEY inaccurate, seldom throws the ball away and takes a lot of unnecessary sacks. Those things are on JW not O-line.

Bucnut2
Bucnut2
Reply to  Bucnut2
5 years ago

Should have checked spelling before posting. Meant to say definitely and wildly

fredster
fredster
5 years ago

Comparing Winston to Prescott is dumb unless the Bucs have an all pro O-line. Dak very rarely had pressure. When he did have pressure or the run didn’t work like against the Giants he stunk. He went 2-24 on third down during that stretch when he was up in the situation Winston is every week where we can’t run the ball and he runs for his life. As for us quitting whining about Aguayo I’ll quit bitching when he makes FG’s over 43 yards or they cut his ass. Lol. I do agree Winston needs to improve his accuracy for… Read more »

macabee
macabee
Reply to  fredster
5 years ago

Jameis had a birthday Friday, January 6, he is now 23. I had a birthday December 6, I’m now 68. Winston overstrides, I walk real slow (got nowhere to go). Winston gets hyped up, I’m too cool for school (low testosterone). Even though I think youth is wasted on the young, I’d rather be 23 too. Go Jameis. Go Bucs, Go Macabee! Everybody else just Go! lol.

Happy New Year Fredster!

Horse
Horse
Reply to  macabee
5 years ago

Macabee; you’re just a young kid; I’m almost 71. When I hit 70 I started falling apart. Ah, to be 23 again.

chetthevette
chetthevette
Reply to  macabee
5 years ago

Mac.
Reminds of the old joke.
An old bull is standing on a hill with a young bull. There is a herd of cows at the bottom.
Young bull says ” let’s run down there and f**k one of those cows.
Old bull says “let’s walk down there and f**k them all. ”
You are right , youth is definitely wasted on the young.
GO BUCS

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  fredster
5 years ago

The standard of play is the standard of play. Saying quarterback comparisons are dumb, is well, really dumb.

The line doesn’t make the quarterback take dumb risks with the football. The line doesn’t make the quarterback inaccurate with his throws, consistently overthrowing players on throws beyond 10 yards. The line doesn’t force the quarterback to hold onto the ball too long.

That is all on the quarterback. Sorry, the “we don’t have Dallas’ offensive line” excuse doesn’t wash.

As the best coach in all of NFL history says to his players every play on every day …”just do your job”.

Bucnut2
Bucnut2
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 years ago

correct

scubog
scubog
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 years ago

To say the quality of the offensive line, running back and wide receivers doesn’t affect the QB play is just plain ridiculous. If that’s the case then why draft a single offensive player or sign a single offensive free agent? Yes, you can go scurrying for evidence and statistics in an attempt to prove your point. I know what I see sitting in the stands and sometimes wonder if you folks who only see the game on TV pay the least bit of attention to anything but the numbers.

It’s pretty obvious that you and Bucnut preferred the other guy.

Buc 1976
Buc 1976
5 years ago

As far as oline goes there are a couple of ways to go move Ali M to center or Left guard if Sweezy is healthy R guard is what he played in Seattle.
In the draft a couple of centers are worth looking at Ohio States center or Kentucky center both have good size and be drafted 2-5 rounds. If Cory Davis WR is available in first RD PLEASE,PLEASE TAKE HIM. We also need more pass rush somehow.

Horse
Horse
5 years ago

The Stats don’t lie and we are right in the middle of the pack which is fantastic from where we were in the past for years. Lets be positive about a 9-7 2016 record. We have many players on IR which will help to improve our team even if we didn’t have a draft or free agency. We would still be a very competitive team. This is the first time in many a year we don’t have to reach for anything. Let the draft come to us and pick best player available. In free agency we have many options and… Read more »

fredster
fredster
5 years ago

I remember when we signed Sweezy and even thinking he was healthy most weren’t too excited. Now he’s going to be our savior after a year off and bad back? Lol.

We better find ways to get better on O line or it’s going to be another middle of the pack offense at best.

Hoping Dotson can have a comeback year next year and play like he did before the injury and the big payday.

chetthevette
chetthevette
5 years ago

I think Winston was graded out with a B- as a little harsh. Half the time he was running for his life. So that makes me think that the O Line was graded to high. I would give them a C- at best. But it’s not the lines fault. The blame for the line is years of neglecting that position during the draft. Think of the line as a garden, bear with me here. If you plant seedling and nurture it to maturity it will bear more fruit than planting a mature tree. It takes years to build a line… Read more »

Horse
Horse
Reply to  chetthevette
5 years ago

It all starts with the Center and works out. My guess is the coaches rated it as their biggest need as to the OL.

Bucnut2
Bucnut2
Reply to  chetthevette
5 years ago

The B- grade was generous. QB’s who have as many TO’s as TD’s are average at best. Grade should have been a C

Bucnut2
Bucnut2
5 years ago

Mark- agree in most part with your grades. I would offer the following commentary. First, you state JW is a franchise QB. However, other than hype, there is nothing about his on the field perfomance to support your postion. QB’s who have almost as many TO as touchdowns in their second year, have no claim on the “franchise” label. Look I am rooting for the guy because he is our QB, but his play in the last 8 games was largely bad. The defense carried us in our 5 game win streak. For those who say he lacked weapons, just… Read more »

scubog
scubog
Reply to  Bucnut2
5 years ago

He’s a much better “talker” than your boy Mariota. You got to give him that.

chetthevette
chetthevette
Reply to  Bucnut2
5 years ago

What are you smoking man. To refute your statement I will bring up a hall of famer. Brett Farve. JW is just as good as Brett in the first 2 years. Of course being a gun slinger has consequences. Interceptions and goofy looking plays. I say let him go for it. Who wants a game manager, not me. I want a QB with balls, big brassies that clank around. Terry Bradshaw was so inept in his first years he was benched for a heroin addict. True fact. I doubt Bradshaw could play in today’s game, no one has any patience.… Read more »

drdneast
drdneast
5 years ago

Apparently all of yiou have forgotten the DE formerly known as Booker Reese. Egads. EastEndBoy, I’m sure Jason Licht is losing a lot of sleep tossing and turning while worrying about how u feel about his job performance. After Mankins retired he did go out and get a solid guard to replace him but unfortunately an injury cut short his season. Hopefully he will be ready to play this year. I bieve more than anything else the loss of Mankins and Swerezy hurt this team more than they thougjt it would. Be that as it may I also lament the… Read more »

chetthevette
chetthevette
Reply to  drdneast
5 years ago

Booker Reese OMFG. I’ll need therapy if I keep dredging up the bozos the BUCS have picked.
GO BUCS

EastEndBoy
EastEndBoy
Reply to  drdneast
5 years ago

“I’m sure Jason Licht is losing a lot of sleep tossing and turning while worrying about how u feel about his job performance”…you forgot to sign that one “nananana”. Seriously, why write that – do you think Jason Licht is reading PewterReport? Do you think the Glazers are using PR as an input to their 360 degree reviews? What exactly was the point of your comment?….are other bloggers not allowed their opinions? Only your “B plus” matters? Anyone that disagrees with you or dares to criticize one of the Buc employees should be summarily chastised with one of your quips?… Read more »

drdneast
drdneast
5 years ago

Yes Naplesfan poor offensive line play does make a QB make poor decisions when throwing an INT, They also greatly contribute to INT’s when they fail to make blocks and the QB’s arm is hit while throwing the ball or when he is strip sacked from the blind side. They also contribute by holding on plays or committing personal fouls by putting him in impossible 3rd and 25 situations or because they have bungled around during the entire game and the QB has one last opportunity to pull the game out of his rear end and he makes one last… Read more »

drdneast
drdneast
5 years ago

Well said, chethevette
Loved your comment about having a QB with a big brassy set. LOL.
Faint heart never won fair maiden..

jongruden
jongruden
5 years ago

Luke Stocker 5 catches for 23 yds for the year grade A and will make team again next yr