It is a new year and with it comes a new Bucs Monday Mailbag where we answer your Twitter offered questions. You can submit your question each week via Twitter using the hashtag #PRMailbag.

Below are the questions we chose for this week’s edition of the Mailbag. Read them over and offer up your thoughts in the comment section.

Question: What is more important for the offseason/draft; a premier RB to help Jameis Winston, or DE to help Gerald McCoy?

Answer: In my opinion it isn’t even close. The Bucs won’t improve on their 2017 defense without finding a way to improve their anemic pass rush. And while having Noah Spence back will be good, can you really roll the dice on him solving the problems entirely? If you are, then there will be a lot of people in this organization looking for employment a year from now. It goes well beyond Spence, who was no Simeon Rice, even before he was injured early in the season. The Bucs must get pressure on the passer. I have said it 100 times, and I will say it again, they can have four Deion Sanders in their defensive backfield, but without a consistent pass rush they will get picked apart.

Some say running backs are a dime a dozen, and even though I don’t agree with that thought, it’s even less true when you are talking about effective 10-plus sack pass rushers that can get to the quarterback. Finding effective, elite pass rushers walking the street or as undrafted free agents is about as rare as finding the winning Powerball ticket blowing down the alley. However, I will take my chances of finding a running back later on in the draft, or even in free agency. And lets face it, you don’t need a 1,300 yard rusher to win Super Bowls.

The Bucs must add some help in the pass rush department via free and the draft and pray they don’t get decimated by injuries in 2018. The scheme needs to improve as well, but as the old saying goes, you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken… you know what.

Question: You hear all the outrage/frustration from fans…what’s the real problem offensively? Play calling? Run game, offensive line? Other?

Answer: The easy answer is to say all of it. And that isn’t untrue. Everything you mentioned contributed to the issued this team had scoring points. If I had to pick one however, I would go with the offensive line. But, here is where I disagree with many offensive line critics. I think there is enough talent to be good enough to win football games, but for some reason there were so many mental errors that killed drives – stupid penalties. missed assignments, poor technique – and it always seemed to come at the worst possible time. We all beat up Nick Folk for the Patriots game, and rightfully so, but we forget Evan Smith had a hands to the face call that negated a touchdown. I think it was Donovan Smith who had a penalty in the Buffalo game that brought back a score against the Bills, if my memory serves me. There were a number of these types of mistakes that absolutely killed drives. I can’t say if this coaching or on the players, but whatever the reason, it has to stop moving forward. And maybe that does mean different players. And Winston also can’t be let off the hook either. There were a number of throws that were just off that were the difference between a touchdown and a field goal attempt.

Penalties and missed throws are going to happen. We see it every week. We saw it this weekend and we will see it throughout the playoffs. But, teams that score seven instead of three win a heck of a lot more games – and Super Bowls.

Question: If the Raiders don’t give Gruden an unprecedented contract to be their coach do the Bucs fire Dirk Koetter?

Answer: Only four people know that for sure and they go by the names Bryan, Joel, Ed and Darcie Glazer. But, a good educated guess (and numerous conversations with others) tells us yes, Jon Gruden was a real player and very well could have made a return to coaching where he left off in Tampa.

Was there genuine interest? You bet. Now, how far along did it get is still unanswered. And would have Gruden come back for anything less that what the Raiders offered? Again, that is something we may not know. But, as PewterReport.com reported all the way back in July, Gruden was going to coach again at some point – either this year or next. Maybe all the details eventually come out one day, but it won’t come from the Bucs ownership.

Question: What is your bold, but realistic, prediction for the Bucs (either as a team or for an individual player) for next season?

Answer: I see the Bucs going 12-4 next season and winning the NFC. I kid. That was my prediction from last season, so I finally learned my lesson.

Moving forward whatever I think the Bucs record will be, I will then subtract three games from it. I have been burned too many times, which is foolish. I have followed this team and seen every game they have played since late 1977 when I watched my first Bucs game on a Sunday afternoon with my Dad. It just happened to be the first one they ever won. I was spoiled and ended up setting myself up for years of disappointment.

If you are pinning me to a prediction right now, which is entirely too early, I would say 7-9 or 6-10. I just don’t see where this team will improve much based on keeping everything together. Yes, there is a whole offseason to make changes, but I am going to be much more skeptical moving forward. Prove me wrong Dirk Koetter and Jason Licht and Mike Smith and Jay Hayes and George Warhop; prove me wrong and we will all be happy.

Player wise prediction? Jameis Winston sets franchise records for yards and touchdowns and Brent Grimes come back for one more season.

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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, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. 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]

13 COMMENTS

  1. If Glazers/Licht/Koetter/Smith just do an average job in free agency and the draft, this is a 10 win football team next year. Book it. This team is not nearly as far away as people seem to think it is.

    We don’t need to blow everything up, we just need to cut mental mistakes on the field and plug a few holes in the roster. This team has the talent.

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    • I think you may get plenty of agreement on whether this team has the talent to win. Its the lack of faith in the staff to make the proper adjustments to make it happen. When I hear Koetter double down on everything that went wrong and discard blatant issues like poor offensive line play I find it very disconcerting.

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    • Agreed. The bounce-back is fairly common in the NFL and the fact that they are finally seeking some consistency, gives them a better chance competing immediately, instead of players having to learn a new system again.

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    • talent deficiencies, especially in the trenches, must be addressed if the bucs want to compete with better teams. that being said, between the number of close losses and unlikely number bad things happening the worst times, this team is due for some positive regression in the luck department. add a talent upgrade into the mix and you never know what could happen. still, as a long time bucs fan Mark Cook is right: it’s almost always a mistake to have high expectations of this team. 6 wins feels like a safe expectation

      the bigger issue is our division. the NFC South is ridiculously talented and competitive at the moment, as demonstrated by our division taking the maximum number of postseason slots possible. We can have a better team and a better year, but Atlanta looks like a winning franchise for the foreseeable future and New Orleans just got younger and better in its 2 weakest areas (run game & defense) this season. I always want to write Carolina off but they are as scrappy as teams get and find all kinds of ways to win

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  2. Completely agree on the miscues by the offensive line. A big part of why we have such a huge discrepancy between yards and points is those drive killing holding/illegal hands to the face penalties. The constant false starts. The completely whiffed blitz/stunt pickups.

    I’m terrified that the staff’s complete blind-spot for this group will lead to status quo and another year of drive killers, short yardage stuffs, and Jameis running for his life.

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  3. We should have beat new England, buffalo, green bay, atl, Carolina, detroit . That’s six games. And we fought in the Arizona game. We aren’t that far off but we have to learn how to win those tight games. In the off season situational football needs to be the focus. How a turnover or penalties can not only kill a drive but is the difference between 5-11 and 11-5

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  4. Regardless how fans feel we need pass rushers and not just one because Spence so far can’t stay healthy. As to the Offense and also Defense, different Coaching and GM might have had us in the Playoffs. If Licht doesn’t get it that this is a NEED draft and not a BPA draft because we are far from ready on defense; offense we are close. Right now we need two starting DE’s, one starting Safety, one starting CB, one non starting RB’s, one non starting OL, one Backup QB.

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  5. I like Licht, but would vote for Horse as co-GM.

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  6. I don’t think you have to choose between a premier RB or DE. There are going to be premier RBs available at the top of the second round. One of either Nick Chubb, Sony Michel or Derrius Guice should be there and any one of them would be a huge upgrade and make an instant impact.

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  7. Remember when Adrian Peterson had his only good game of the season and completely dominated our defense? Mike Smiths commitment to speedy, undersized corners really bit us in the ass. Running backs are getting bigger, we need to keep the quick little guys as safeties like Justin evans, and start getting some big, tackling corners. We got burned by Johnthan Banks but Schiano had the right idea there. Resigning grimes isn’t the answer, as much as us Bucs fans don’t want to realize it.

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  8. I am going with 9 or 10 wins, but I said the same thing this year. IF we can continue to draft like we have the last two years, We could improve dramatically. But if we do not get help Defensively, or at RB, we are Toast.

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  9. We need pass rushers, but not at the expense of passing up more talented players to get one. I think Cleveland used their first pick in the draft last year on a D end, just saying. You can make an argument for help on both sides of the line at every position, R.B., C.B. come to mind next.

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  10. Mark I noticed you hinted that Noah Spence would be back next year and that would be good, however I can’t find much data on his physical prognosis. I have read wear the shoulder could be an on going problem to ultimately career ending. What is the current status of his return? It is way too early to project wins and loses. I am an advocate of focusing on the pass rush first but I agree that it has become a fools errand for most teams with few exceptions. Some days I simply agree with the “Best Available,” approach. Last night one of the commentators explained that Lou Saban’s view regarding pass rush was not the number of sacks, but the number of disruptions imposed on the QB.

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