The Bucs ended a five-year streak of last-place finishes in the NFC South with a 9-7 record and wound up in second place in the division in Dirk Koetter’s first season as head coach in Tampa Bay. It was the second-best record ever by a first-year Bucs coach, following only Jon Gruden’s 12-4 record and Super Bowl championship in 2002.
Now that PewterReport.com has dished out its awards for the 2016 Buccaneers MVPs, Rookie of the Year and Assistant Coach of the Year, it’s time to hand out some more player awards. Before we turn the page on the 2016 campaign and look ahead to 2017, PewterReport.com reviews the individual efforts from the Buccaneers’ performances in its 2016 Pewter Player Awards.
MOST IMPROVED OFFENSIVE PLAYER TE Cam Brate
No ASJ, no problem. After the Buccaneers released Austin Seferian-Jenkins, a second-round pick in 2014, all was not lost at the tight end position with Brate emerging as a real weapon in his third year in the league. In fact, it was even better as Brate proved to be more reliable from a health and a hands standpoint while catching 57 passes for 660 yards and eight touchdowns in a breakout season for the Harvard tight end. Brate tied Jimmie Giles’ franchise record for a tight end and his eight scores were the most among NFL tight ends. Brate, who had the second-most catches in Tampa Bay this season behind Pro Bowl receiver Mike Evans, showed the most improvement from a year ago when he caught 23 passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns. In 2016 Brate proved he was capable of being an elite tight end in the league and that bodes well for the future of Tampa Bay’s offense due to his improvement. PREVIOUS RECIPIENTS: 2015 RB Doug Martin 2014 TE Luke Stocker 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
MOST IMPROVED DEFENSIVE PLAYER S Keith Tandy
Tandy was a backup for most of the season and only entered the starting lineup after Chris Conte suffered a chest injury against Seattle in Week 12. Yet in six starts he amassed 40 of his career-high 57 tackles and all four of his interceptions, which was tied for the team lead. Once Conte was healthy he split time with Bradley McDougald at safety – not Tandy, who didn’t miss a snap down the stretch. Tandy had game-clinching interceptions in back-to-back victories at San Diego and against New Orleans, and there wasn’t a more improved defender in Tampa Bay. In just six games at the end of the 2016 campaign the instinctive Tandy went from career backup to starting safety heading into 2017. PREVIOUS RECIPIENTS: 2015 DE Will Gholston 2014 LB Danny Lansanah 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
Bucs RB Doug Martin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER – OFFENSE RB Doug Martin
After signing a five-year, $35.75-million contract in the offseason, Martin was a huge disappointment in 2016, turning in his third sub-500-yard rushing season in the last four years. This coming off a 1,402-yard season in 2015 that landed him that big contract extension as the league’s second-leading rusher. A hamstring injury in Week 2 caused him to miss six games and his addiction problems and positive test for Adderall prompted him to miss the final two games. When on the field, Martin wasn’t even average, rushing for 2.9 yards per carry and failing to break off a run of 20 yards or more despite 144 carries. Martin, who is facing a three-game suspension to start the 2017 season, is easily the most disappointing player on Tampa Bay’s offense, and his future with the Buccaneers is in doubt. PREVIOUS RECIPIENTS: 2015 TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins 2014 LT Anthony Collins 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
Verner had a great start to the 2016 offseason as a starting cornerback opposite Brent Grimes, but quickly lost his job to rookie Vernon Hargreaves III during the preseason. Verner, who made $6.75 million last year, didn’t even see much action as the team’s nickel cornerback as that duty went to Jude Adjei-Barimah and rookie Javien Elliott. Verner only had 16 tackles and one interception, which came against Seattle, and was relegated to special teams duty. For such a highly-paid player Verner didn’t make much of an impact at all on defense and couldn’t steal any playing time away from the rookie. Due to his salary cap value/playing time matrix, Verner, who happens to be a heck of a nice guy and a great teammate, was the most disappointing player on the Bucs defense. PREVIOUS RECIPIENTS: 2015 CB Johnthan Banks 2014 CB Alterraun Verner 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
Bucs CB Brent Grimes – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
BEST FREE AGENT ACQUISITION CB Brent Grimes
Grimes came to Tampa Bay with previous playing experience in Mike Smith’s defense from his days in Atlanta, and that really paid off a banner first season with the Buccaneers. Grimes was a wire-to-wire starter in Tampa Bay, recording 57 tackles, a forced fumble and four interceptions, which tied for the team lead. Grimes got better as the season went on, recording a pivotal pick-six in the Bucs’ 17-16 season-ending win against the Carolina Panthers. Grimes led the NFL with 24 pass breakups, which earned him Pro Bowl alternate honors. PREVIOUS RECIPIENTS: 2015 C Joe Hawley 2014 DT Clinton McDonald 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 Robert Ayers, Jr.
Ayers became an inspirational force for the Buccaneers on defense, bringing a nasty demeanor from New York and registering 29 tackles and 6.5 sacks, which was the second-most on the team. Ayers rushed the quarterback from both the defensive end position and inside at defensive tackle in nickel rush situations. He also recorded his first career safety when he sacked Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler in the end zone and forced a fumble. Ayers missed four games due to a high ankle sprain, which cut into his productivity. If healthy for 16 games next year Ayers could be Tampa Bay’s first double-digit sacker since Simeon Rice in 2005. PREVIOUS RECIPIENTS: 2015 MLB Kwon Alexander 2014 DE Jacquies Smith 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 RB Jacquizz Rodgers
With Doug Martin and Charles Sims injured an ineffective for much of the season with each averaging 2.9 yards per carry, Rodgers was the Bucs’ savior in the running game. Signed just after the start of the 2016 campaign, the former Atlanta running back reunited with Dirk Koetter and emerged as Tampa Bay’s leading rusher with 560 yards and two touchdowns despite only starting five games. Rodgers averaged 4.3 yards per carry and had a team-high four runs of 20 yards or more. The diminutive rusher also posted Tampa Bay’s only two 100-yard outings with 101 against Carolina on Monday Night Football and 154 yards at San Francisco. Expect Rodgers, who signed a one-year deal this past year with the Bucs, to be re-signed this offseason. His signing last year saved Tampa Bay’s ground game. PREVIOUS RECIPIENTS: 2015 RB Charles Sims 2014 CB Johnthan Banks 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 QB Jameis Winston
Winston, who was PewterReport.com’s 2016 Bucs Co-MVP with Mike Evans, stepped up his leadership in a big-time way during his second NFL season. Aside from being a positive force on the field and in the locker room, Winston crafted a handwritten letter that he read to the team after the Bucs’ 43-28 loss against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday Night Football. The players say that heartfelt note about playing together as a family helped spur the team’s five-game winning streak that propelled Tampa Bay to an 8-5 record and a 9-7 finish. PREVIOUS RECIPIENTS: 2015 QB Jameis Winston 2014 LB Danny Lansanah 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
Bucs K Roberto Aguayo – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
MOST OVERRATED PLAYER K Roberto Aguayo
Did Bucs general manager Jason Licht make a huge mistake when he traded up into the second round to draft Aguayo, one of the most accurate kickers in NCAA history? The jury is still out, but Aguayo had a shaky debut to his NFL career, connecting on just 71 percent of his field goals. Aguayo wasn’t able to connect on a field goal longer than 43 yards, but did nail his first and only game-winner in Tampa Bay’s win at Carolina on Monday Night Football. Aguayo had a nice 10-game stretch in which he showed he could make 87.5 percent of his field goals, but ended the season on a sour note, going 1-of-3 against the Panthers where he suffered his first blocked kick in the NFL. Aguayo shouldn’t have been drafted in the second round, and his limited success during his rookie year makes him the Bucs’ most overrated player. PREVIOUS RECIPIENTS: 2015 DE George Johnson 2014 DE Michael Johnson 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
JOHN LYNCH GENTLEMAN’S AWARD (BEST INTERVIEW) WR Mike Evans
Evans was not only a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver, he really opened up this year and made himself readily available to the media in the open locker room sessions during the week at One Buccaneer Place in addition to after games – win or lose. Evans has always been a candid, well-spoken individual, but deserves a lot of credit for not ducking the media after his controversial stance of sitting down for the National Anthem before the team’s win over the Chicago Bears. He was accountable and handled the situation with grace and class after apologizing for not standing for the Star Spangled Banner. PREVIOUS RECIPIENTS: 2015 C Joe Hawley 2014 OT Demar Dotson 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
BEST PLAY OF THE YEAR Jameis Winston’s 40-yard pass to Mike Evans vs. Chicago
The key play in Tampa Bay’s 2016 season was an improbable improvisational scramble by Winston in which he was almost sacked four times, including once in the end zone for a safety, before finding Evans for a gain of 40 yards. With the Bucs’ lead trimmed to 17-10 right before halftime due to a Bears’ Hail Mary touchdown, Tampa Bay regained momentum with Winston’s daring scramble and downfield heave, which set up a 43-yard touchdown pass to Freddie Martino on the next play. That score put the Bucs up 24-10 and they never looked back en route to a 36-10 route of the Bears.
*Indicates the first year that the award was given by PewterReport.com (formerly known as Buccaneer Magazine and BucMag.com in the 1990s)
BUCS’ RECORD NEXT YEAR – 10-6
Tampa Bay will again face a challenging schedule in 2017, as the NFC South teams have to face the NFC North and the AFC East. There are five playoff teams on the schedule next year, including three of the final four teams left in the postseason – Green Bay, New England and Atlanta (twice).
Bucs QB Jameis Winston and head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The only “easy” team on the Bucs’ schedule appears to be Chicago, which lost 36-10 this year at Tampa Bay and finished 3-13. The 5-11 New York Jets are also on the docket, but the 2-14 San Francisco 49ers don’t make a return appearance on the 2017 schedule.
The Bucs ended the 2016 season with a 9-7 record and had a second-place finish in the rugged NFC South division, the team’s best showing since 2010. Tampa Bay missed the playoffs by one game this season, and it’s reasonable to conclude that another year’s worth of experience for the young stars on this team, in addition to the new players the Bucs will add through free agency and the draft. PewterReport.com forecasted a 9-7 record prior to the start of the 2016 campaign, and that’s exactly what Tampa Bay finished with. Winning one more game and getting to 10 wins in 2017 seems quite reasonable and doable.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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