FAB 2. The Worst-Case Scenario For The 2019 Bucs

After taking a look at eight things that could comprise the best-case scenario for the Buccaneers this year, it’s only fair to examine eight things that could wind up being the worst-case scenario for Tampa Bay, too.

I’m not trying to be a pessimist – just a realist.

Former Bucs coach Tony Dungy – Photo by: Getty Images
Former Bucs coach Tony Dungy – Photo by: Getty Images

The stars have only truly aligned a few times in this franchise’s history, starting in 1979 under John McKay where the Bucs just missed the Super Bowl after winning the NFC Central division two years after their inception. Tony Dungy’s arrival in 1996 and subsequent playoff berth the next year ended a 13-year postseason drought. Tampa Bay trading for Jon Gruden in 2002 and winning the Super Bowl that same year was like catching lightning in a bottle.

Can the stars align once more and can Arians’ arrival in Tampa Bay match the feats of Dungy or Gruden? The Bucs’ last four head coaches hardly had any success at all. Is the fifth time the charm?

Buckle up and brace yourselves, Bucs fans. Here are some not-so-far-fetched scenarios about what could go wrong in Tampa Bay during the 2019 season.

Arians Is The Next Wyche And Smith

Sam Wyche and Lovie Smith were big-name head coaches that came to Tampa Bay with a track record of success. Wyche took Cincinnati to the Super Bowl before losing to San Francisco in the 1980s. Smith took Chicago to the Super Bowl before losing to Indianapolis. Bruce Arians didn’t take Arizona to the Super Bowl but came close in 2015 with a 13-3 record, and the worst-case scenario is that the 66-year old head coach follows in Wyche and Smith’s footsteps and comes to Tampa Bay and can’t recapture past glory. With so much emphasis being placed on better coaching in Tampa Bay, if the Bucs are getting “Bruce Light” in 2019 instead of the original B.A. and the result continues to be falling short of making the playoffs.

Winston Falters In His Contract Year

The Bucs invested the first overall pick in the 2015 draft on Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston as well as the last five years. Like Tampa Bay’s last first-round quarterback, Josh Freeman, Winston has set some team records in short order, but has yet to deliver a playoff berth. The worst-case scenario for the Bucs would be that Winston follows in Freeman’s footsteps and that he falters in his fifth-year option and doesn’t get a contract extension. Having to start over with another starting quarterback in 2020 – likely a rookie – would be a setback for Tampa Bay and almost surely leading to the firing of general manager Jason Licht, who drafted Winston.

RoJo Is A Bust

The Bucs purposefully did not draft another running back or sign one in free agency outside of former Cardinals rusher Andre Ellington, who didn’t play in 2018 due to injuries. Instead, the organization has put an awful lot of trust in last year’s second-round pick, Ronald Jones II, who had an awful rookie year. With Peyton Barber as the only established rusher on the roster, if RoJo can’t develop as a tackle-breaker and a receiver out of the backfield the Bucs won’t have much speed or big-play ability, and another second-round pick by Licht is chalked up to being a bust.

Bucs’ 2016 Draft Class Is A Bust

Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves III
Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves III – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Speaking of busts, one thing Licht can’t afford to have is his 2016 draft class going down in flames. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, the team’s first-round pick in 2016, has missed 18 games over the past two seasons due to injury, outside linebacker Noah Spence, a second-round pick in ‘16, has just one sack over the past two years, and kicker Roberto Aguayo, Licht’s other second-rounder, was cut after one year. With Spence in a contract year and essentially Hargreaves too, despite the fact he had his fifth-year option picked up, it’s now or never for the remnants of the 2016 draft class, which also includes reserve cornerback and special teamer Ryan Smith and backup lineman Caleb Benenoch to rise up. If VH3 and Spence don’t have breakthrough seasons, it’s a real indictment on Licht as a drafter.

Bucs’ Kicking Game Continues To Struggle

Licht has a hit and miss track record in the draft, and has struggled even more in free agency. Whether it has been through the draft with Aguayo and Matt Gay, free agency with Nick Folk and Chandler Catanzaro, or via trade with Kyle Brindza, Licht has tried and failed to remedy the Bucs’ kicking woes. If Gay or Cairo Santos doesn’t pan out this year and Tampa Bay continues to lose games with missed extra points and field goals it would keep the team mired in the NFC South cellar and could certainly lead to his departure as the Bucs G.M.

Tampa Bay’s O-Line Underwhelms

Was the problem with the offensive line the talent or George Warhop’s poor coaching? We’ll find out in 2019, and the organization hopes it was Warhop’s fault with his overly complex blocking schemes rather than the actual players themselves – three of which make over $10 million per year. In this worst-case scenario, left tackle Donovan Smith continues to not block to the whistle, center Ryan Jensen continues to get too many personal fouls, Demar Dotson’s age shows and his health begins to falter, and the right guard spot continues to be a problem with Alex Cappa and Earl Watford not being the answer.

Injuries Strike Key Offensive Players

Bucs TE OJ Howard – Photo by: Mary Holt/PR
Bucs TE OJ Howard – Photo by: Mary Holt/PR

Tampa Bay’s offense has plenty of firepower, but the three skill position players the team cannot afford to lose are Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans, tight end O.J. Howard and running back Peyton Barber. Evans is the most talented and accomplished player on the Bucs offense and the Bucs will need him to play in 16 games to have a shot at the postseason. Howard’s first two years ended on injured reserve and that can’t happen again if the star tight end wants to make the Pro Bowl and help get his team to the postseason. If Barber goes down and RoJo falters (see above), an already thin Bucs ground game gets even thinner and grinds to a halt.

Tampa Bay’s Defense Continues To Get Abused

New Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles comes to Tampa Bay with a reputation for fielding an aggressive, blitzing defense and a knack for putting the personnel in the best position to succeed. But without double-digit sacker Jason Pierre-Paul, who suffered a fractured vertebrae in his neck in a May car crash, the worst-case scenario becomes that the Bucs can’t muster up enough pass rush with his absence. As a result of not pressuring the quarterback enough, Tampa Bay’s young secondary is carved up while playing man coverage and the defense continues to give up big plays and too many touchdowns.

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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: [email protected]
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Buc stops here

I fully agree with the best and worse cases with one exception – OJ Howard. When Howard got hurt last year there was a slight fall-off when they went to Cameron Brate. People seem to forget this undrafted player in five years has caught 159 passes for 1845 yards, 11.6 yards a catch, for 23 touchdowns. Even more impressive, most of those stats come from his last three years of play where he started 17 of the 22 games he started in his career (particularly three years ago when he started 10 games). Even backing OJ Howard up he has… Read more »

Horse

It’s amazing what 30 days does when you are away from this area and there is no news about the Bucs; you get some clarity as to where the Bucs stand as of right now. Some will agree and some will disagree. We are who we are? Talent wise not much better if any; coaching wise we are better. I just can’t buy into how players who have under performed for years are now going to do good because of the coaching change. If I’m Arians I’m going to keep rookies /free agents over under performing Veterans every time. I… Read more »

MizzouBucs24

Sorry Scott I skipped the worst case scenario,don’t need those negative thoughts this time of year. Lol. I’m as excited as I’ve been for awhile going in to this season. We have so much talent on offense and with a new and better scheme this offense could be top 5. Then there’s the defense, I was worried about the secondary and the dline but as we get closer to real football those worries are fading. Suh, Vea, and Gholston make for a pretty stout dline. They should allow David and White to run wild. With that much power up front… Read more »

BUC 727

I skipped Fab2 also. After all, right now we’re in 1st place.

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seat26

Great Article. I believe BA will add somewhere between 3 to 4 wins based on his skills alone as a Coach. However, the losses we have suffered in free agency and offseason injuries are going to hurt. To lose as many starters as we have, in my opinion, will cost us 2 to 3 wins. I think realistically we can expect to win between 6 and 7 games. I was not a big fan of this latest draft. Because for me, it seemed that the management was making a statement and the statement was, last year’s defensive backs didn’t pan… Read more »

geno711

Just an FYI
New England Offensive Line 2018:
Tackles 7th and 5th round
Guards 3rd and 4th round
Center undrafted

Personally, I would not agree with you on the offensive line. Need to develop the offensive line more than draft them this year. Drafted Cappa in the 3rd round this year and he is supposed to be the starter. According to this PR article he is looking fine.

P.S. Pittsburgh with 3 undrafted offensive lineman starting last year.

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geno711

Edit. Cappa drafted 3rd round last year.

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plopes808

I would argue that we didn’t lose much in free agency. Our biggest loss was Kwon, but we gained arguably a better and more talented player in White with our “wasted” 5th pick. While he lacks the experience of Kwon, White has far better coverage skills and similar sideline to sideline ability. Training alongside LVD, White will gain experience and catch up to Kwon quickly. Not to mention the fact that Kwon is making $13.5 million now and there is no way we should have or could have offered that. Then there was GMC, a great player and a great… Read more »

Buc76

It will be somewhere in the middle of best case and worst case. The kicking game will continue to be bad. Drafting another kicker was a dumb move. These college kickers don’t kick 33 yard extra points. Its too much pressure for them to handle and coming here with our recent failed history, as soon as this guy misses 1 time the fans will be all over him and it will get in his head and go downhill from there. You need to find people who have kicked some in the NFL then sign them. Especially here. You can’t erase… Read more »

TBChucky

So Spence is penciled in as starter across from Nassib? I thought for sure that Barrett would be in the lead, with Spence coming in to sub for them.. That being said, I look forward to watching them all this season!

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Captain Sly

A defense is called “Aggressive” when the scheme works and all other times it’s called “gambling”. There’s a lot of Ifs and Hopes in your fab 1 and at this point Scott all anybody can do is hope that the coaching pans out or that the players step up, and the kicking issue corrects itself. There’s no turning back now we’ve got nearly all of our eggs in the DB basket and at some a high draft pick will be benched for another high draft pick which to me somebody needs to be held accountable for. We are thin at… Read more »

Jim Horan

Free agents in 2020. Let New England be the model. New England is not afraid to let Free Agents walk and values compensatory picks. Aside from Winston and possibly Nassib. The others can be gone without too much gnashing of teeth. Keeping the team young and hungry by stockpiling draft picks. It is all about coaching and the development of depth. Teams fall in love with their reserves and often overpay to retain them. The depth made the roster for a reason. It is not a crime to let them step up to bigger role. Older players are more susceptible… Read more »

BUC-ASS-BOB

Pewter Report did a good job of laying out best and worst case scenarios I understand the Pewter Report in order to continue to have access to the team must have a positive spin on just about everything. The same with the other media the problem is sheep read all the positive spin spin it around in their heads and post about it. However I as the sole and only realist watch a team cut 9 of the highest price starters hire a coach in five years whose only won one playoff game but they talked like he has multiple… Read more »

Pick6

“23 free agents” sounds scary but when you can the list there only a couple look headed for big contracts and probably a third of them will miss the bucs’ 53 man roster THIS year. many others will either come back for similar money. Even with strong 2019 seasons, many of these defensive players were available at the bucs price because they’re coming off a down year or two, and the league won’t scramble to pay them like they did Humphries or Kwon. Some guys such as Suh were always meant to be one and done while the team turns… Read more »

macabee

I posted this opinion earlier, but seems appropriate to say it again before training camp. First let me make an all-encompassing statement by saying that I like what the Bucs have done and I like where they are going. I like the new coaching staff, I like the new defensive scheme, I like the secondary improvements and I love the offensive skills positions. We have the makings of a competitive football team. But we are not there yet and we will not get there (playoffs and beyond) until we have the offensive line that allows us to be the offensive… Read more »

EastEndBoy

I’d say you have two ends of a spectrum there: 1) “challenge for a wild card spot in the NFC in 2019″…that sounds like 9-ish wins. 2) at the other end is disaster….call that 2 or 3 wins. Given the aspects you have examined – BA, Winston, RoJo, the Defense, etc. – to arrive at that spectrum, I’d say reality is we’ll get some from your first scenario (maybe Winston clicks), some from your second (maybe RG is still a black hole), and some in between (maybe the running game improves…a little). Therefore, sounds like you’re predicting a 5 or… Read more »

Captain Sly

Well said Macabee. I have been calling this year a soft rebuild, because you can’t keep ignoring the trenches and expect to win. Yes anythings possible but I began tempering my expectations once I saw the direction this offseason.

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owlykat

Great analysis as usual Scott. Good to hear how well Gholston is doing this year—our front three will be a load and our LBs are ready and the backfield has real fast talent now as well as length so I expect great things on Defense. On Offense if BA can develop Cappa to play an excellent RG I think we will be OK using the Power Blocking Offense BA will use to ignite our running game and we will start winning games consistently again. As far as bad scenario with too many injuries any NFL team will drop. I think… Read more »

drdneast

I beg to differ with a few of your observations here. First and most importantly, it is not how Winston goes so goes the Bucs. It is more how the defense plays so goes the Bucs. Winston has provided enough firepower and leadership over the years to give the Buca a winning record. Look at his second year when the Bucs finished 9-7. The Bucs defense managed to get its act together for the final 8 games of the season that year for the team to post a winning record. After that the defense went south, so did the team.… Read more »

Horse

Macabee, well said.

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SenileSenior

If our team can get to 8-8 or 9-7 we will be on our way. No playoffs this year but something to build on for our next super bowl run. We will have achieved respectability and a sense of self worth. A winning culture will have been established. I think Bruce Arians came out of retirement because he saw a golden opportunity here. Here is where the only chance he will ever have to win a super bowl outright as a head coach exists. Here is the only chance he will have to go out on top. Realistically I don’t… Read more »

SenileSenior

Gholston is already at 306 pounds.

Did Gholston say “Vita, man” or did he refer to Vea as “Vita-man”?

“Cappa has gotten better every day.”

“Nassib and Spence have had a good offseason and appear to enter training camp as starting outside linebackers from left and right, respectively.”

All of this is music to my ears. Thanks, Scott.
___________
Go Bucs!!!

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What the Buc

We make the play off if Winston is worth keeping this year. If he plays like he has up to this point maybe 6 wins.

Show me some thumbs down love from all the Winston fanboys this year it’s all on him.

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plopes808

I fail to see how it is “all on Winston” when the guy is setting records while the defense gives up 29 points a game…but that’s just my opinion

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FLBoy84

“When the marquee guy plays like that it rubs off on everyone else.”

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Spitfire

Ass, what would the Glaziers hidden agenda be? You like to bad mouth them and the team but don’t offer any actual answers. You think the Glaziers have hired and fired coaches they are still paying for while hiring another and spend to the Cap because what? They don’t wanna win? You are the Bearded schizophrenic wearing a hoodie making “Packages” in the woods. Get over yourself…

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bucianco

I’m having trouble accepting the following statement: “But imagine if Peyton Barber is motivated by a contract year to rush for 1,000 yards…” Are you saying he didn’t play his hardest last year? Why would you even suggest that? “Pay me more money and I’ll rush for 1000 yards!” I call BS. The article makes it seem like every player that is a free agent next year will play even harder this year to ensure they get a lucrative contract. If that’s the case then only play the guys with one year left because they’re the only ones giving it… Read more »

Buc-Up

“If rookie defensive backs Murphy-Bunting, Dean and Edwards can carve out roles early and either push Carlton Davis, Vernon Hargreaves III and M.J. Stewart towards greatness or push them to the bench it will be a big step for the Bucs secondary, which has lacked playmakers over the last couple of years under Mike Smith. ” If it was bad coaching and not the talent, then shouldn’t the prior drafted trio of Hargreaves (11), Stewart (53), & Davis (63) be better as group than Murphy-Bunting (39), Dean (94), & Edwards (99)? Based on draft position (because it’s all being blamed… Read more »

Buc-Up

PR needs to stop with the Compensatory Picks talk! The Bucs will never see a decent Compensatory Pick until they stop signing players during Free Agency that cancel out the players we lose! I’m still waiting for that 3rd Round Comp Pick the Bucs were gonna get for Glennon that PR spouted off about that whole year.

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Buc-Up

Other than my two rants above, I enjoyed the article..LOL

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Dman

Scott, good stuff here as we head into a quiet period before training camp. Gonna be interesting.

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Macabee for GM @ one Buc. Well put Sir.

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drdneast

Gholston has become a millionaire how many times over for playing mediocre his entire career.
It also must be hard to fault McCoy for not being disruptive enough when Gholston has only generated one sack over the last two years. One sack?
As far as the superlatives being thrown around by the players about their teammates, that is all well and good but I will wait until the preseason starts until I bite down on any of this.

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Spitfire

Buc-Up, you answered your own question. In the quotes he said that the rookies will push the Vets to greatness, or be benched. Everyone agrees it has been the coaching more than the talent but no one is guaranteeing that all the Vets were pro bowl sleepers. The whole point is now that the coaching should be better, we will find out what kind of talent we truly have and are truly lacking. And Bunting, Dean and Edwards are 2nd and 3rd rounders which should not take anything away from their ability to play better than a 1st and 2nd.… Read more »

bucballer

In my opinion the Bucs have a more talented team this year with the athletic draft picks we got and the Suh signing. Teams had to account for McCoy but I think teams have a little fear of a boy named Suh! With LB White in the Defensive Rookie of Year conversation and the top 3 DBs we drafted, this feels like a more talented team. I still believe that the good teams have solid play at QB. It’s the most important position on team. So yes… this team will only be as good as the play of Jameis. I… Read more »

76Buc

Trying to get comp draft picks a is a losers mentality.

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76Buc

‘“Guys are just making plays all over the field in this defense – the whole time this spring,” Gholston said. “Up front we’re staying in our gap and penetrating.”‘
What?!! Dude, they are in their underwear!!!

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76Buc

I agree MizzouBucs24. We see the worst case scenario for real every year. Let’s skip that!

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BigSombrero

It’s interesting to read what the best and worst case scenarios are to SR (and us fans who have chimed in), but I think there is a glaring omission in the quest to approximate the Bucs destiny for 2019: The opponents. It may seem obvious to fans here because we love football, but the won/loss record comes from the games one at a time, not the statistics. Winning by one point 42-41 or 14-13 is still winning. Most often statistics are driven by game situations with a domino effect. For example: The Bucs had a top 3 offense but a… Read more »

BUC 727

The bottom line is that we now have the talent. Now, we have the coaching. Injuries and depth well dictate how far we go.

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scubog

Scott should have consulted Bob for input on the Worst Case Scenario. He then could have added a Fab 6 called Doomsday Scenario. I always chuckle when the folks, who look to put a negative spin on everything, call themselves “realists”. Yet those of us that see “the future is so bright we have to wear shades” are called Kool Aid drinkers, sheep and other such derogatory names like……….fans. I’ll never apologize for being hopeful of the season ahead. I do think the main thing that I thought needed an adjustment, ATTITUDE” and needed a boost, CONFIDENCE” are the two… Read more »

fredster

Yeah agree Scubog just saying everyone sucks and nothing will work (Bob) makes him a realist? Makes him a troll douche bag loser to me. Lol. I will not acknowledge him anymore just feeds his stupidity. He’s one sad ass person all has to do is troll and cry like a bitch 24/7. Anyways, enough on Suck-Ass-Boob. He’s not worth conversing worth! Yes a lot of different things can happen. Nobody has crystal ball. What I do know. I know we have a real proven head coach for first time since Gruden left. Bunch of failed head coach experiments, failed… Read more »

Buc2dafuture

We will have great schemes for the first month of the season, hopefully that will translate into wins. The momentum from the first quarter of the season will have to carry us for the horrible 7 week stretch and that will define our season.

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twspin

Sure I want Winston to become our franchise QB. But he still has a lot of work to do. Lets pray Arians is the lasting and final motivator. Of all the scenarios listed here, I’m really hoping our defense rebounds considerably under Bowles. Its one of this yrs biggest keys if we are to win 8 to 10 games. Accomplish
this and we do..make the playoffs. One things for certain, Our Defense has nowhere to go but UP.

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matador

The truly stunning thing about the list of next year’s free agents on offense and defense is that there’s only one player who has shown enough on the playing field for more than one season that you’d definitely want them back. That’s right, one. And it’s Barber who on some teams would be a RB2. Sure there are players you’d hope to want back. Obviously Winston most importantly but the cold hard fact is that if he had we’d have already extended him. Hopefully Nassib proves that last year wasn’t a fluke with defenses not having to worry about JPP.… Read more »

seat26

White is there to replace Alexander. I get it. But if we had taken Josh Allen we get an outside linebacker and a Defensive End in the same pick. We could have gone middle linebacker in the 2nd round and Corner and safety in 3rd. The current lineup assumes that Spence can play outside linebacker. It also assumes that White will have lots of sacks. And I think it is way too early to say that White is better than Alexander.

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Jeffbuc

Macabee I thought you were on to something until you talked about are offensive line. You think coaching can fix everything but offensive line. Jensen was the highest graded center before he came to the bucs in his last year with the ravens. Coaching affects the offensive line also. Where dirk ran his offensive no matter if you for it or not. Are real new coaching staff is going to run the offense to best fit the players. You can’t say that winston and skill offensive players and the defensive will be better with new coaching while saying the offensive… Read more »

Naplesfan

The Bucs fans (or “homers”) have fully convinced themselves that player quality is not the reason we’ve been losing most of our games since the Baby Glazers fired our last winning/playoffs coach at the end of the 2008 season (a winning season, by the way). And that Bruce Arians is the second coming of Football Jesus and he is precisely what has been lacking the last 10 seasons, and therefore better coaching is the answer to all Buc fans’ dreams. The Las Vegas oddsmakers certainly do not agree with that assessment – they’ve settled on the Bucs being a 100-1… Read more »