Bucs QB Jameis Winston - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
On February 7, immediately following the Super Bowl, ESPN posted their “way-too-early 2016 hierarchy,” also knows as their 32-team power rankings, with the Buccaneers coming in at No. 28 overall.
Here’s the brief explanation for that February position:
The Bucs improved in 2015 with a rookie quarterback running the show — Jameis Winston posted the third-highest passing total for any rookie since the merger — but then fired the head coach, which isn’t the surest way to get the Power Rankings committee excited. There are also questions about whether Vincent Jackson and Doug Martin will return in 2016.
ESPN revisited the power rankings after free agency, updating the list on March 29. In their staff’s opinion, the addition of defensive players Brent Grimes, Daryl Smith and Robert Ayers, and offensive signee J.R. Sweezy, did nothing to improve Tampa Bay’s place in the league. Once again, the Bucs checked out at No. 28.
“The Buccaneers allowed opponents to complete 70 percent of their passes last season,” ESPN wrote in their explanation of the second offseason power rankings. “Cornerback Brent Grimes will help lower that, but the Bucs will need to find more secondary help in the draft.”
While Grimes has made three straight Pro Bowls – 13 interceptions and 43 deflections in 47 games – and missed only one start in that span, he turns 33 before the season and likely needed the Bucs to give him more help in the secondary. They did exactly that.
Yet despite adding arguably the draft’s top cornerback, Vernon Hargreaves III, and later selecting NC Central defensive back Ryan Smith in the fourth round, ESPN doesn’t believe those moves did enough to improve Tampa Bay’s position in league standings. In fact, they believe the Bucs regressed after the NFL Draft.
The Bucs were jumped by Jacksonville, as the addition of Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack moved the Jags from No. 29 to No. 23. Tampa Bay, for its post-draft standing according to ESPN, moved down to No. 29.
Here’s the explanation for the May 10 ranking:
The Bucs fired their coach after their franchise quarterback’s first season — a move that looks patient by the Titans’ standards but makes you wonder how close they believe themselves to be. If nothing else, this could be a fun developmental year for Jameis Winston and his receivers — as long as the line can protect him.
Considering the Jaguars free agent additions – Malik Jackson and Tashaun Gipson – and landing two of the best overall prospects in the first two rounds a month later, it makes sense that they would climb their way out of the bottom four in most analysts’ opinion.
But the Bucs also addressed key areas, signing a top-market cornerback and defensive back before doubling down on both positions and taking top prospects – Hargreaves and Noah Spence – in the top two rounds in April. They also added veteran experience on defense, Daryl Smith, and found a viable replacement for Logan Mankins in J.R. Sweezy.
Such moves would seem to warrant recognition of offseason improvement, and a strong argument could be made that the Bucs are in better position than Los Angeles or Philadelphia, teams ranked No. 26 and No. 22, respectively, that are likely to start a rookie quarterback – or Case Keenum and Sam Bradford.
While ESPN noted lack of stability for the Bucs at head coach, some in Tampa Bay would argue that the main reason for the team firing Lovie Smith was to keep Dirk Koetter at the helm of last year’s fifth-ranked offense, one that was led by a rookie Pro Bowler in Jameis Winston. A case could be made that the Bucs have more coaching stability than the Bears, who lost offensive coordinator Adam Gase, or the Dolphins, who hired him away to become their head coach. It certainly seems like Tampa Bay has more promise at the quarterback position than either of those teams, which rank No. 26 and No. 24, respectively.
In all, power rankings are, of course, just a guess and you can expect plenty more between now and August. But for a team with a successful rookie quarterback, now going into his second year in the same offense, with nearly all the same teammates, combined with a defense that added an influx of talent and a widely respected coordinator (Mike Smith), it’s hard to imagine Tampa Bay regressing from February, let alone January, when they finished as the 24th best team in the NFL.
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: [email protected]
Jameis Winston is the x-factor in the ascent of this year’s Bucs. I think it’s pretty stunning to see them sitting at 29, when they had a legitimate chance to go 8-8 last year. This team is more talented and experienced that last year’s squad. If Mike Smith can get this defense clicking early enough with his entirely new system, I think we could all be talking potential playoffs by the end of the season. (Okay, somebody cue up JIm Mora.)
PLAYOFFS!!!!! Forgot the rest of his rant!
I wouldn’t call it an accurate ranking to put the Bucs at #29, but I do think it’s pretty fair not to move the Bucs much based on our offseason moves. Yeah we got a little better, but so did every other team with that picked in the top 3rd of the 1st and 2nd rounds of the draft. Yeah we added players in FA, but so did most other teams. We didn’t land any top free agents. No, we didn’t find a viable replacement for Mankins in Sweezy. So in short, yes between the draft and FA we marginally improved, but so did every other team. Yes, we have more experienced players now but our schedule will be much harder this year. So while our ranking probably isn’t accurate (none are this time of year) I can’t say that it’s not fair.
I don’t give a rip what BSPN thinks!!
TMZ….I mean ESPN, hasn’t been worth paying attention to for quite some time.
I think the ESPN is tired of saying that this is the year for the Bucs. The did not happen for many years. So, let’s not do that until they show some some “playoffs”.
I disagree completely with our ranking. We’ve definitely hit every position of need. While Sweezy will definitely have to prove himself a viable replacement for Mankins, the rest of our additions seem like sure improvements over last year.
Grimes is definitely an improvement at CB, as is VH3. Spence brings a much needed improvement at DE. Smith is a definite upgrade on ST and possibly at S.
I don’t see how anyone can look at our additions objectively and NOT see improvement.
Rankings mean nothing until teams hit the field in September. I don’t think they should be that low. They finished with 6 wins and got lot better on paper. Lot of changes though. As bad as the defense was I can see why they would think it won’t be much better on the surface, but when you factor Kwon playing more games, better defensive coach and secondary coach, and added talent through draft and free agency I think it’s going to be quite a bit improved. How much is very unknown and debatable.
Going to ESPN for news and analysis is about as useful as trying to sell ice to an Eskimo.
ESPN’s power rankings are an awesome idea in theory, but have consistently been a waste of time. They rarely if ever go beyond the very superficial. Nevermind that we now KNOW that our defensive coaching tactics last year were objectively awful, or that we’ll likely have much healthier receiving weapons this year, or that we had a lot of promising youth last year that’s likely to show major development. I mean, we couldn’t defend the slant last year, and we fired our head coach, so we must suck, right? Again, their analysis is shallow to the point of being painfully simple. I couldn’t care less.
Winston makes us a legitimate threat on offense. With Martin, Evans, Jackson and Sims we have a powerful offense in the making. Our shortcoming was on defense and we have addressed it to a degree. Time will tell. This organization has worked hard to turn around its fortunes. We are still rebuilding but hope springs eternal. I think we are only a year or two away.
I agree the Jaguar’s had a good draft; they had to finally hit on a good one because they had so many poor ones in the past. Titans did the safe thing and only time will tell if it was worth it.
That ranking does nothing to temper my enthusiasm for this upcoming season! Hopefully it fires up the players a bit, though. BTW, it sucked to see the Cousins thing on the TOP 100 players show
I can understand why drafting a LB with a bum knew that might go out on him at any moment would cause a team to jump over us in the power rankings.
I’m just surprised that the return of a first round pick who spent the entire season on IR with serious knee injury would cause such a high catapult by itself.
ESPN gets its logic from the George W, Bush school of concise strategery.
You were doing real well until you decided to go political.
I pay zero attention and give zero credibility to Draft grades, pre-season predictions and power rankings regardless of whether or not these speculations favor our Bucs. Until we prove otherwise, the prognosticators will continue to look down their noses at us.
Why not just rank teams by their draft position since it’s where they were when season ended?? Like it’s said above…..All teams improve in the off season so it’s status quo until they are actually playing games. ESPN is useless anyway. Only thing they care about is Dallas, New York, Boston and LA now. Play to the big markets.
Start with Denver and work your way back up draft board.
If we had had the better coaches and players we have now but last year we would have already made the playoffs last year and now would have a better ESPN rating. All the national pundits do not understand our team as well as we, and especially PR do. I am happy for Jacksonville’s improvements given that their HC at one time was a defensive position coach for the Bucs years ago and he is on the bubble this year, and their rise in the rankings is accurate, but we beat them fair and square last year despite bumbling Lovie ruining our Defense and we have improved this year just as well as Jax have done if not more counting so many better coaches, so ESPN blew it on our rating as long as we don’t have an abnormal amount injuries this year.
When they start you at the bottom you can only move up… These filler articles are basically useless as they don’t even qualify as bathroom reading…let’s just see what happens once the season is underway
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