The Buccaneers’ disappointing season came to a close on Sunday after the New Orleans Saints rallied in the fourth quarter for a 23-20 win over Tampa Bay. After ringing in the New Year, the Buccaneers now have the first overall draft pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and will focus on rebuilding the roster this offseason.

Before we shift our full attention to 2015, let’s take one final look at this past year’s campaign and hand out PewterReport.com’s 2014 Buccaneer Season Awards. These awards were voted on by the PewterReport.com editorial staff.

Tomorrow will feature PewterReport.com’s 2014 Pewter Performances and 2015 Season Prediction to conclude this series. Stay tuned to PewterReport.com through the weekend.

Click here to view PewterReport.com’s 2014 Buccaneers Season MVPs, PewterReport.com’s 2014 Buccaneers Season Awards and PewterReport.com’s 2014 Buccaneers Assistant Coach of the Year.

An asterisk (*) indicates the first year the award was presented.

2014 MOST IMPROVED BUCS PLAYER – OFFENSE
TE Luke Stocker
Tampa Bay’s offense was among the worst in the NFL this past season, so finding the most improved player from a year ago proved to be quite a challenge, especially with the roster turnover during the offseason. Offensive tackle Demar Dotson and wide receiver Vincent Jackson are the best holdover players from 2013, but Jackson’s stats regressed and Dotson had the most penalties of his career and led the team with 14 infractions. So oft-injured tight end Luke Stocker, who managed to stay healthy for the most part in 2014, gets the nod for this award due to his improved run blocking. Stocker played half the season at fullback as a lead-blocker in the running game, filling in for Jorvorskie Lane, who was suspended for two games and missed the final five games with a broken leg.

PREVIOUS RECIPIENTS:
2013 RT Demar Dotson
2012 WR Mike Williams
2011 WR Dezmon Briscoe
2010 WR Micheal Spurlock
2009 WR Maurice Stovall
2008 TE Jerramy Stevens
2007 RB Earnest Graham
2006 No Buccaneer was deemed worthy
2005 QB Chris Simms
2004 RB Michael Pittman
2003 WR Charles Lee
2002 RB Michael Pittman
2001 LT Kenyatta Walker
2000 OT Jerry Wunsch
1999 WR Jacquez Green
1998 WR Reidel Anthony
1997 QB Trent Dilfer
1996* TE Dave Moore

2014 MOST IMPROVED BUCS PLAYER – DEFENSE
LB Danny Lansanah
Lansanah was an afterthought in training camp, but made an impression in the preseason and eventually beat out Jonathan Casillas for the starting strongside linebacker role. Lansanah, who was added to the roster midway through the 2013 season, started seven games at Sam linebacker, three at middle linebacker and two at weakside linebacker in 2014 and finished second on the team with 81 tackles, nine tackles for loss, eight pass breakups, three interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns and 1.5 sacks. The Connecticut product emerged as a playmaker and a bright spot on defense in an otherwise dismal year in Tampa Bay.

PREVIOUS RECIPIENTS:
2013 DT Gerald McCoy
2012 DT Gerald McCoy
2011 DE Michael Bennett
2010 CB E.J. Biggers
2009 LB Geno Hayes
2008 SS Sabby Piscitelli
2007 SS Jermaine Phillips
2006 CB Phillip Buchanon
2005 FS Will Allen
2004 DE Dewayne White
2003 LB Ryan Nece
2002 CB Brian Kelly
2001 DE Simeon Rice
2000 LB Jamie Duncan
1999 DE Marcus Jones
1998 CB Ronde Barber
1997 DE Chidi Ahanotu
1996* DT Warren Sapp

BEST FREE AGENT ACQUISITION
DT Clinton McDonald
In a year when many of Tampa Bay’s free agents didn’t pan out, McDonald did and he proved to be worth every penny of the four-year, $12-million contract he signed in the offseason. The team’s starting nose tackle also saw time at the three-technique defensive tackle position, subbing for Gerald McCoy when he was injured or needed to rest. McDonald, a free agent import from Super Bowl champion Seattle, notched a career-high 46 tackles, which led all Tampa Bay defensive linemen, along five tackles for a loss, five sacks, which was third on the team, two fumble recoveries and an interception. McDonald also broke up two passes at the line of scrimmage, including one against New Orleans in Week 17 that was intercepted by Leonard Johnson.

PREVIOUS RECIPIENTS:
2013 CB Darrelle Revis
2012 WR Vincent Jackson
2011 P Michael Koenen
2010 SS Sean Jones
2009 K Connor Barth
2008 C Jeff Faine
2007 FB B.J. Askew
2006* DT Jovan Haye

NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
DE Jacquies Smith
Tampa Bay didn’t get much of a pass rush from edge rushers Michael Johnson (four sacks) and William Gholston (two sacks), but it did get a boost from Smith, who was signed off the waiver wire at the start of the season. After the bye week, Smith overtook Gholston as the starting left end and finished with 6.5 sacks, which was second on the Buccaneers, in addition to 17 tackles, two pass breakups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Smith, whose sacks helped the Buccaneers record 36 QB captures, which was the most since the fabled 2002 defense, was one of general manager Jason Licht’s best additions to Tampa Bay’s roster and he is a player with plenty of upside.

PREVIOUS RECIPIENTS:
2013 CB Darrelle Revis
2012 RB Doug Martin
2011 MLB Mason Foster
2010 RB LeGarrette Blount
2009 TE Kellen Winslow
2008 DE Jimmy Wilkerson
2007 LG Arron Sears
2006 RT Jeremy Trueblood
2005 DT Chris Hovan
2004 QB Brian Griese
2003* RB Thomas Jones

UNSUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR
CB Johnthan Banks
Banks had to prove himself to Tampa Bay’s new regime, which initially wanted to start free agent Mike Jenkins opposite Alterraun Verner at cornerback. After Jenkins suffered a season-ending pectoral injury in Week 1, Banks was thrust into the starting lineup and wound up leading the Bucs in interceptions with four. The rangy, 6-foot-2 cornerback has seven interceptions over the past two years, which is the most in Bucs history over that span. Banks also finished with 50 tackles, a team-high 10 pass breakups, a tackles for loss and he returned his interception at Washington for a touchdown, which was the first of his career. By the end of the season, opposing teams were respecting Banks so much that they were no longer throwing in his direction.

PREVIOUS RECIPIENTS:
2013 DT Akeem Spence
2012 DE Daniel Te’o-Nesheim
2011 WR Preston Parker
2010 C Jeremy Zuttah
2009 CB Aqib Talib
2008 LB Derrick Brooks
2007 LT Donald Penn
2006 LB Shelton Quarles
2005 K Matt Bryant
2004 LB Ian Gold
2003 C John Wade
2002 LB Shelton Quarles
2001 FB Jameel Cook
2000 LS Morris Unutoa
1999 DT Brad Culpepper
1998 DT Brad Culpepper
1997 C Tony Mayberry
1996* P Tommy Barnhardt

MOST INSPIRATIONAL PLAYER
LB Danny Lansanah
The 29-year old Lansanah never gave up on his dreams of playing in the NFL, even when it looked bleak. Since entering the league out of Connecticut in 2008 as an undrafted free agent, Lansanah spent his first year in Green Bay, followed by stints in Detroit and Miami on those teams’ practice squads in 2009. The next year, Lansanah played minor league football with the Hartford Colonials and the following two seasons with the Las Vegas Locomotives before signing with the New York Jets in 2013 and then by the Bucs later that season. To see Lansanah finally win a starting job and find a great deal of success in doing so was a tremendous source of inspiration for any Buccaneers player.

PREVIOUS RECIPIENTS:

2013 RG Davin Joseph
2012 DE Michael Bennett
2011 DT Brian Price
2010 LB Adam Hayward
2009 RB Cadillac Williams
2008 K Matt Bryant
2007 DT Jovan Haye
2006 QB Tim Rattay
2005* FB Mike Alstott

MOST OVERRATED PLAYER
DE Michael Johnson
Johnson came to the Bucs with tremendous fanfare, signing a five-year, $43.7-million contract with the team to become the edge rusher that Tampa Bay has been missing since the days of Simeon Rice. Yet he failed to live up to high expectations – or his rich contract – posting a disappointing four sacks in 15 games. Johnson was never healthy all season, suffering from an ankle injury that limited his production. In addition to his underwhelming sack total, Johnson finished the season with 27 tackles, four tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. At times Johnson’s effort was lacking, which could signal his departure from Tampa Bay after just one season.

PREVIOUS RECIPIENTS:
2013 LT Donald Penn
2012 CB Eric Wright
2011 LB Geno Hayes
2010 RT Jeremy Trueblood
2009 RB Derrick Ward
2008 QB Jeff Garcia
2007 DE Patrick Chukwurah
2006 WR Michael Clayton
2005 DT Anthony McFarland
2004 K Martin Gramatica
2003 DT Warren Sapp
2002 QB Rob Johnson
2001 DT Warren Sapp
2000 DE Chidi Ahanotu
1999 WR Reidel Anthony
1998* QB Trent Dilfer

MOST DISAPPOINTING BUCS PLAYER – OFFENSE
LT Anthony Collins
Collins was heralded as a young, up-and-coming offensive tackle prospect in Cincinnati that just needed an opportunity to prove that he was worthy of a full-time starting job. He got that chance in Tampa Bay, signing a five-year, $30-million contract this offseason, but was a big disappointment on the field and was benched at the end of the season. Although he only played in 11 games due to injuries and his benching, Collins finished second on the team with nine penalties. His attitude rubbed the Bucs coaches the wrong way and he was considered to be too soft of a player. Don’t be surprised if Collins is cut this offseason.

PREVIOUS RECIPIENTS:
2013 QB Josh Freeman
2012 RB LeGarrette Blount
2011 QB Josh Freeman
2010 WR Sammie Stroughter
2009 WR Michael Clayton
2008 WR Dexter Jackson
2007 QB Bruce Gradkowski
2006 RB Cadillac Williams
2005* WR Michael Clayton

MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER – DEFENSE
CB Alterraun Verner
While defensive end Michael Johnson also disappointed, Verner came to Tampa Bay with Pro Bowl credentials and a four-year, $25.75-million contract and was expected to replace Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis. However, Verner struggled to adjust to the Tampa 2 defense and gave up more touchdowns in pass coverage than the team expected. Yet he finished the season with 76 tackles, which was fourth-most on the team, in addition to nine pass breakups, two forced fumbles and two interceptions. Still, Verner was no Revis, and the Bucs’ play at the cornerback position dropped off with his departure and Verner’s arrival. Hopefully Verner can improve in 2015 and pick off more passes, while not allowing as many touchdowns.

PREVIOUS RECIPIENTS:

2013 DE Da’Quan Bowers
2012 CB Aqib Talib
2011 SS Sean Jones
2010 DE Kyle Moore
2009 DT Chris Hovan
2008 DT Jovan Haye
2007 DE Greg Spires
2006* FS Will Allen

JOHN LYNCH GENTLEMAN’S AWARD (BEST INTERVIEW)
OT Demar Dotson
Dotson is one of the nicest and most humble Buccaneers on the team. He’s also one of the most candid players for the media to interview. Win or lose, Dotson was always by his locker, speaking the truth for the Bucs beat writers and reporters that cover the team. He never turned down an interview and was always incredibly gracious with his time. For his candor and availability, Dotson is this year’s John Lynch Gentleman’s Award recipient.

PREVIOUS RECIPIENTS:

2013 DT Gerald McCoy
2012 DT Roy Miller
2011 RG Davin Joseph
2010 DT Gerald McCoy
2009 DE Jimmy Wilkerson
2008 DE Stylez G. White
2007 QB Luke McCown
2006 DT Chris Hovan
2005 CB Ronde Barber
2004 SS Dwight Smith
2003 OT Kenyatta Walker
2002 LT Lomas Brown
2001 WR Keyshawn Johnson
2000 RB Warrick Dunn
1999 SS John Lynch
1998* SS John Lynch

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th 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 spent six years 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: sr@pewterreport.com
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Horse
Horse
6 years ago

Agree on all except for Verner. I thought he played okay. It’s not his fault the Bucs overpaid for him; same for Jonson, Collins, Mankins.

KINDERRT
KINDERRT
6 years ago

Agree with Horse, Verner was not great but playing in a new system takes some time to learn. Revis was not all that and he got paid 12 mil. to rehab and we gave up a first round pick. IMO Verner was the better deal and was well worth the money we paid him and the money we saved buy dumping Revis.

deeznuts
deeznuts
6 years ago

Agree with those above. I don’t think Verner disappointed. It was our Safety play early in the year that was killing us. Verner isn’t a man-man coverage guy, we had him on islands vs #1 WR’s every week…not his strength. IMO he’s a ronde barber clone, i’d love to see him drop in the slot for nickel packages

tomort1
tomort1
6 years ago

I hope we don’t dump anyone who did, or could, not live up to expectations because they played hurt most of the year. I would hate to see us dump a guy and then see him go somewhere else ns be a big success. Nice article, have a great New Year PR.

scubog
scubog
6 years ago

I thought I might be the only one who noticed Luke Stocker’s exceptional blocking and hustle. There were also times when he was wide open but our QB’s were too busy running for their lives to notice. Can’t argue with the Danny Lansanah choice Most Improved Defensive Player but Bradley McDougald deserves some consideration. For Newcomer of the Year isn’t Mike Evans eligible? Might also consider Patrick Murray. I thought Jacquies Smith had a brief flash but cooled off later in the season. Russell Shepard would be my choice for Most Unsung Player for his great Special Teams play. Not… Read more »

tjhuth
tjhuth
6 years ago

Wow! Derrick Ward, Patrick Cuckwurah,Trent Dilfer, Jovan Haye. I feel like I am watching a horror movie:
A Nightmare on Dale Mabry!

surferdudes
surferdudes
6 years ago

I know this isn’t the message board, but what did you guys think of the game last night? Been starting to lean towards Mariota, last nights game tipped me all the way. Winston will be a fine NFL Q.B., made some great throws last night. Mariota is more then a good Q.B., seems to be a special person. He’d be a great face of the franchise. The thought of bringing Scott Frost in as O.C. would be welcome by me also. At least he could eliminate delay of game penalties!! Man they were running plays every 12 seconds! Unbelievable!