The PR Bucs Monday Mailbag is where PewterReport.com’s Mark Cook answers your questions from our Twitter account. 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 PR Bucs Monday Mailbag.
Question: With the number of players with expiring contracts being two dozen or so – is 2019 the make or break season for the Bucs? If they do well, they may be losing a lot of guys to free agency. If they don’t, they’ll be looking for a lot of new pieces in 2020 – a rebuild.
Answer: I think this is a little bit of a transition year for the team. A new coach, a new scheme, and what many are hoping for – a new mentality inside the building. Of course Bruce Arians, Jason Licht and the Glazers want to see an immediate turnaround take place in 2019, but it won’t be an easy task. And I think they are realistic.
This 11-season playoff drought didn’t happen overnight and won’t be a simple task to correct. A lot of luck will need to happen for this to change in 2019. That isn’t to say it won’t happen, or it can’t happen, as Arians has a track record of success and doing it quickly.
You make a good point about the number of free agents this team has, and in his latest FAB 5, Scott Reynolds went through that list while also looking at the salary cap heading into next season.
Ultimately a lot of questions need to be answered in 2019, probably none bigger than Jameis Winston’s future with the team. You don’t win championships with a mediocre quarterback in today’s NFL, so can Winston move into that elite territory under Arians? If so, the rest will work itself out from a personnel standpoint with free agents and such. As Arians has pointed out, you can’t win without a very good quarterback and the jury is still out on where Winston ranks.
Question: Could you see a possible signing of LeSean McCoy if the Bills part ways with him in August? Buffalo could cut him to make cap space with the running backs it added in the offseason.
Answer: Of course anything is possible, but as a player heading into his 11th NFL season, you have to wonder how much gas is left in his tank. The 2018 season was McCoy’s worst year in the NFL where he didn’t even hit 600 yards rushing and only averaged 3.2 yards per carry.
Arians and his staff truly believe in Peyton Barber and even the potential of Ronald Jones II to a degree. I think it would take a major injury to one of the two for the Bucs to make any significant running back moves, but we know Licht and his staff are always looking to upgrade the team. I wouldn’t say never, but at McCoy’s age and with his declining production, I think its unlikely to see him in a Bucs uniform in 2019 even if released by the Bills.
Question: When training camp cuts start, what position group do you think the Bucs address first – guard or edge rusher?
Answer: That question will be answered based on how well the players on the roster currently perform in training camp. If Alex Cappa and Earl Watford struggle at right guard in the preseason, then I think guard would be the position addressed first. Or if there was a rash of injuries at the position the Bucs would be forced to scour the waiver wire for help.
But we also know you can never have enough good pass rushers on a team and there are a lot of unknowns with the current group of defensive ends who will be playing in a new scheme and with new roles and responsibilities. The good news is, in Todd Bowles’ scheme success isn’t predicated strictly on how well the outside linebackers can rush the passer. Obviously the team wants pressure from the edge, but Bowles likes to bring it from all over the field – from inside linebackers, to safeties, to players coming off the edge with corners and the nickel corner position. I could easily see this team rack up 40-plus sacks and not one individual player with more than six or seven.
Question: Mark, how noticeable was speed on the field in mini-camp this year versus last?
Answer: It started off slowly to be honest, at least from our vantage point, but I will say by the time the mandatory mini-camp wrapped up earlier this month it was much better. And that kind of makes sense with a lot of guys trying to get acclimated to a new scheme, coaching staff and particularly on the defensive side, a lot of new teammates. This team has some speed and it really started to show once the players grasped the offensive and defensive schemes.
The offense is notably faster with new wide receivers Breshad Perriman and Scotty Miller stretching the defense vertically. The fast new defenders include rookie cornerbacks Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean, and new safety Kentrell Brice has some wheels, too. New outside linebacker David Kenney, who was signed after a tryout at the rookie mini-camp, also has an unreal get-off as a pass rusher and gets to the quarterback very quickly. New head coach Bruce Arians and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles wanted more speed on the field this offseason, and it looks like they accomplished that mission.
You could see the confidence grow each practice we were allowed to watch, and as the confidence grew, guys were starting to fly around the football field. There is still a ton of work to do, and it could be mid-season before it all kicks in and really comes together. But the foundation is being set and we saw improvement each week.