PewterReport.com began a new offseason feature this year, giving readers an opportunity to get their questions answered by the PR staff. Today, Mark Cook answers five questions taken from Twitter submissions using the hashtag #PRMailbag. Each week, five of the questions used will earn the person who asked it one of our new Tampa Bay schedule refrigerator magnet.
Question 1. Chris will Doug Martin rush for over 1,400 yards again this season?
Answer: Well he certainly is capable, but so many factors play into it actually happening. First and foremost, does he stay healthy? Secondly, will head coach Dirk Koetter rely more on the arm of Winston now that he is in his second season of the offense? There is no question Koetter understands the importance of balance, but how much did Lovie Smith’s influence have an affect on the play calling in 2015? And then there is the Charles Sims effect. I really believe we will see Sims get more carries in 2016 and that could cut into Martin’s total yardage. Of course you don’t give Martin the contract you gave him to take too many touches away from him, if any at all. It will be interesting to see how things play out, but one thing is certain, and that is, if Martin is healthy, he will be a focal point of this offense, as he should be. An effective running back is a young quarterback’s best friend.
Question 2. Tim Mooney asks, other than the obvious fix of winning what do the Bucs need to fix to contend for the NFC south title THIS YEAR?
Answer: Defense. It is as simple as that. The defense must play better and that includes every unit. The pas rush should be better and more consistent with the addition of Noah Spence and Robert Ayers. If Jacquies Smith stays healthy, and Will Gholston takes another step forward, along with a healthy Akeem Spence and Clinton McDonald, this defensive line could be as good as any we have seen in Tampa Bay in the last 10 years or so. Of course that is a big if, and we know injuries take a toll on players in the trenches. But combine a better pass rush with what I feel will be a much improved secondary, and this defense should be noticeably better. The front end and back end go hand in hand, and both were improved in the offseason. On the other side of the ball scoring points will be crucial. You can total 6,000 yards or more and set franchise records in total offense, but if you finish in the bottom half of scoring, you won’t be seeing the playoffs most likely. The good news is I have seen the Bucs spend a lot of time in red zone drills this offseason and hopefully that translates into more touchdowns and fewer field goal attempts.
Question 3. Greg asks, with VJax aging, will Kenny Bell develop into the #2 receiver this year?
Answer: Expectations are high for Kenny Bell in 2016, not just from fans but also from the organization and even Bell himself. But to say he steps into the No. 2 role and supplants Vincent Jackson is asking a whole lot from a fifth rounder who didn’t get on the field as a rookie due to an injury. I am a big fan of Bell, not just as a player but as a person. You won’t meet a nicer player on the roster, or one who wants to be an effective NFL player. Bell has what you want in terms of work ethic, attitude and a willingness to learn and soak up knowledge from players like Jackson. His future is bright if he can stay healthy and develops a little more consistency in his game overall, but particularly with his hands.
Question 4. Justin Haas asks, if ASJ doesn’t show up again this season consistently, would you say the best is to move on from him?
Answer: I wouldn’t want to answer if it would be best to move on, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the organization would if things don’t go well this year. Of course a lot would depend on the development of Cameron Brate and even Dan Vitale. Not even Seferian-Jenkins biggest critics would argue he has the God-given talent to be a terrific tight end in this league, but he can’t do it injured. Add in some of his immature acts over the last two years and there are a ton of question marks heading into Year 3. The good news is he understands all of this and told me personally last week those things are in the past and he expects to have a great 2016 season. A healthy, productive Seferian-Jenkins will only help this offense be better and even make Winston a better quarterback as well. 2016 is a huge year for the former Washington standout. And he knows it as well.
Question 5. Nichole asks, do you believe our Bucs can carry this energy all the way until Jan 2017?
Answer: Lets hope so Nichole. I’ve witnessed a lot of offseason programs covering the Bucs for Pewter Report, but I have yet to see one where the players seemed like they not only wanted to be there, but loved being there. There is a different kind of juice around this offseason and it is difficult to put a specific finger on it, but if you ask the players, coaches and even the media, they have all noticed it. Does that translate into wins in 2016? That is the million dollar question but it certainly can’t hurt. This is a tight-knit team from what we have gathered and most of these guys genuinely like being around each other. The camaraderie hopefully make these players want to fight for each other just a little harder when it is fourth-and-1 late in a close game.