FAB 3. 5 Bucs Newcomers Who Need To Shine

Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht and his scouting staff have done a very good job of adding immediate impact players in the NFL Draft, in addition to finding some free agents that have come in and made an immediate splash over the years in cornerback Brent Grimes, punter Bryan Anger, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick among others. In order for the the Bucs to rebound and make a playoff push in 2018 they will need some of their new free agents and draft picks to step in right away and make a difference. Here are five newcomers that need to stand and deliver starting in September.

C Ryan Jensen
The Bucs made Jensen the highest-paid center in the NFL after just starting in Baltimore for one season. But Jensen plays with toughness and the edge Tampa Bay needs to move the line of scrimmage in the running game. Jensen is a nasty finisher and he will team with left guard Ali Marpet to give the Bucs significant push upfront.

Getting Jensen was key this offseason because Marpet was a better guard in 2015-16 than he was as a center in 2017. Now Marpet moves over to left guard, which was the weakest position on the offensive line last year with Kevin Pamphile and Evan Smith rotating there in each game.

What happens to some unheralded players that cash in on a second contract in free agency is that become complacent, but Tampa Bay doesn’t think that will happen to Jensen, who plays with a chip on his shoulder. As long as Jensen has a good rapport with quarterback Jameis Winston, which is anticipated, his signing should be an impactful one.

RB Ronald Jones II
The Bucs needed to add some speed and explosiveness to their ground game and spent a second-round pick on the USC running back. Jones has the chance to start as a rookie, but even if he doesn’t become the outright starter at the beginning of the season he could grow into that role as the season progresses and he gets more experience.

Bucs RB Ronald Jones II - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs RB Ronald Jones II – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

One of the things that attracted the Bucs to Jones was the fact that he set the Trojans freshman rushing record with nearly 1,000 yards, which showed that he could quickly learn the playbook and contribute early. At the very least, Jones should split carries with Peyton Barber as a rookie and give head coach Dirk Koetter the explosive plays he’s looking for in the running game, but don’t rule out Jones taking control of the starting running back job and rushing for 1,000 yards as a rookie, either.

The Bucs believe that Jones has the skill set to be a three-down back, but he’ll need time to learn how to be a better pass protector and route runner in the passing game. Bucs running back coach Tim Spencer said that Jones is a willing blocker and not afraid, which helps. Yet, look for Tampa Bay to incorporate Jones’ speed into the screen game this season where he has the ability to work the sidelines in space and break long gains as he learns to become a better rout runner over time.

DE Jason Pierre-Paul
Bucs general manager Jason Licht made one of the best trades of the offseason when he dealt a third-round pick for Pierre-Paul, a proven pass rusher that can get to the quarterback. He’ll be one of the highest-paid Buccaneers with a $12.5 million salary cap hit in 2018 and needs to earn every penny of that contract. Tampa Bay desperately needs more sacks after finishing dead last with 22 last year, and it’s not unreasonable to think that Pierre-Paul can be the team’s first double-digit sacker since Simeon Rice in 2005.

Not only can Pierre-Paul help the Bucs’ sack attack by getting to the quarterback with an outside rush, he can also help Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy by keeping the QB in the pocket and forcing him to step up to throw. McCoy hasn’t had a defensive end with the talent that Pierre-Paul does, and that could prove to be the best inside-outside combo in Tampa Bay since Warren Sapp and Rice played together in the early 2000s.

With the immense depth along the defensive line, Pierre-Paul won’t have to play over 90 percent of the snaps like he did last year in New York. Less snaps should keep him fresher – not just for the fourth quarter, but also for the end of the season when Tampa Bay could be contending for a playoff spot. One added benefit to having Pierre-Paul on the roster is that it will only make young left tackle Donovan Smith better in practice.

CB Carlton Davis
Out of all of Tampa Bay’s 2018 rookies, Davis might be the one that becomes an every down starter for the Bucs. The long, physical defensive back has a presence that no other cornerback on the roster has. At 6-foot-1, Davis has the size to match up with the likes of Atlanta’s Julio Jones, New Orleans’ Michael Thomas and Carolina’s Devon Funchess.

Bucs CB Carlton Davis - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs CB Carlton Davis – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Davis’ strength is as a press cornerback, and if defensive coordinator Mike Smith will allow him to play that style of coverage more often than not, the rookie from Auburn should help Tampa Bay’s pass rush by disrupting the timing between the quarterback and the receiver. Davis has experience playing off coverage, but playing closer to the line of scrimmage where he can jam and re-route receivers is where he’s special.

Davis is battle-tested having played in the SEC, and became a starter as a freshman. That should help his transition to the NFL during his rookie season. Perhaps one of Davis’ best traits is his supreme confidence, which should serve him well this season and early in his career as he’s sure to give up his fair share of catches and touchdowns until he gains experience.

K Chandler Catanzaro
Catanzaro had a remarkable start to his NFL career in Arizona, connecting on 89 percent of his field goals. He slipped a bit during his third season, connecting on just 75 percent of his kicks (21-of-28) and that led to his departure from the Cardinals. He went to New York where he kicked for the Jets and made 83.3 percent of his field goals, often in difficult weather conditions.

The Bucs have certainly had their share of kicking woes over the last couple of years, and general manager Jason Licht is hoping that the team’s kicking problem has been solved with the arrival of Catanzaro. Licht likes his confidence and that’s an element that has been missing in Tampa Bay from its kickers.

Catanzaro came to the Bucs in part due to the great Tampa weather and the field at Raymond James Stadium, which hasn’t been kind to some inferior Bucs kickers, but the team’s opponents haven’t had too many problems. If Catanzaro can be an 85 percent kicker or better in Tampa Bay, the Bucs could be poised to make their first playoff run since 2007 if the offense and defense improve as expected.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th 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 son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

15 COMMENTS

  1. The only one of those five who will bounce back is Winston. His decline– which wasn’t all that bad to start– really was injury based anyway.
    Three of those four remaining probably won’t be on the team in a year. Hargreaves will be here, but in a less prominent role.
    Bucs just need to wash their hands with DJAX. He’s never going to have the work ethic and several young receivers show much more promise. My money’s on Watson.

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    • Agree Pete, and with mesean not showing for voluntary workouts again, I’d love to see Godwin take his spot. Jackson will be gone after this year anyways so why wait? We get a solid run game and this offense could be explosive. James has had a good run game for one year as a pro, that’s horrible.
      While James had a down year ,this article shows how awful the team was around him.
      Hes just got to get those fumbles cut way down.
      http://www.footballperspective.com/jameis-winston-had-an-unusual-2017-season/

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    • Agreed as far as Godwin. He fits our scheme better, is a better WR fit for Jameis (an elite intermediate passer), fits our culture change better with his work ethic.

      Would love to see him and Evans start outside. Let Djax compete in the slot with Hump, and then we can dump his contract after the season.

      I think Hargreaves can be a top 10 NICKEL CB, so in a wayyy thats a bounceback, just not the ideal for a top 15 draft pick.

      I do think N.Spence can bounceback as well playing in relief of Curry and JPP or potentially as a blitzing LB. Bucs cant continue to afford all this talent, so I see Noah being successful as a rotational player before taking over fulltime in 2019 or 2020 as JPP/Curry decline or are moved.

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  2. I think 3 of the 5 will have a bounce back year in Jameis, Gholston and Spence. Gholston(from reports)has already approached Buckner and said he wants to improve his game, losing and extra 15lbs at his height has helped with that 1st step.

    Spences surgery from what I’ve read has taken this time round and SHOULD be good to go so I’m expecting him to be a terror especially since rumors have him being a rush specialist and not an every down back any longer.

    JW, I’m expecting big things because this is his “show me” year, especially now that we’ve added more help to the line and backfield. Besides, he has to feel it and know that there are absolutely no excuses this year, there’s far too much talent for him to flop.

    I didn’t add VHIII because he just seems like his confidence has been shaken while Gholston, Spence and JW seem to exude confidence. I want VHIII to succeed, I don’t hate the guy but, he just seems to play with this childish demeanor which makes me think the kid’s self-contious.

    Djax is who I was hoping to make our offense blow up! I understand JW has fault in that but not as much as Djax IMO. I was happy to see them training off-season but there’s no way they fixed what they needed to in those few days that they spent together. Djax had the chance to change that by showing up to OTA’s and respond with a physical presence. I know he’s in Cali doing his typical training but why not have your trainer come here? There are inside track facilities in the area AND he could still get time in with Jameis. I hope he and JW prove me wrong but it’s valuable time lost either way you look at it.

    Scott, I’m curious as to which teammates were harping on VHIII’s lack of work ethic?

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  3. Great post Pete. I would give you a thumbs up if the site let us still.

    When Jamies finally started to get healthy he was the #1 QB in the league in fantasy points per ProFootballFocus over the last four weeks of the season.

    He also was their top rated QB that is under 25: ‘Winston has flashed the potential that made him the No. 1 overall pick in 2015. including this past season, he was more productive than any quarterback not named Tom Brady while under pressure, producing a passer rating of 84.4.”

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  4. Meant to say “every down DE” when referring to Spence, not an every down back lol!

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  5. Great Fab Five Scott. I think 4 of 5 have a shot to come back. DJAX is collecting a paycheck and will show flashes, but will take a dive going over the middle and trot out of bounds on the sidelines. My guess is the WR will come around where we’ll trade him to the Chargers so we can let him go back home, develop our guys and maybe pick-up a low draft pick for next year.

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  6. I think the one person, of everyone in this organization, that needs to shine the most is coach Koetter. All of the pieces are there. No more excuses.

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    • Agreed…and Mike Smith…

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  7. So… basically… almost every one needs to play well this season.

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  8. Donovan Smith? I don’t know what to say…that write-up must be under the wrong player profile.

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  9. Another good article Scott. My thinking on this team right now is ” a lot of maybes”?

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  10. Great Fab 4-1/2 Scott. Can’t give full credit to Fab 5 since it’s a lot of pimping sponsors and yourselves.

    Since there are so many folks on this site believing the team is destined for a season in which it won’t win a single game; I’m thinking the Pewter Reporters might want to update their resumes’.

    Folks sure were surprised when that 5-11 1978 team went to the NFC title game after so many were predicting another losing season with a QB who couldn’t even hit 50% of his passes, a running back who should have been Tony Dorsett and a defensive lineman who was too polite. Maybe we should change the old 1979 fight song.

    Hey Hey Tampa Bay the Bucs are going to suck.
    Hey Hey Tampa Bay look out for more bad luck.
    When we’re in trouble that’s the norm, we’re still down and out.
    Because we know we are the worst, when we sit down, sit down and pout.

    Or how about the other one.

    Ho hum ho hum we’re the Buccaneers.
    Ho hum ho hum we’re the Buccaneers
    No offense, no defense, now we’re here to say.
    Our ship has sunk so there’s no plank.
    We’re floating in Tampa Bay.

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  11. As always, thanks SR. Watched all the position coach interviews & got to read a Fab5 this week. A great week. Amped for football in May. (Damn you) You highlighted some key players/positions that must step up. But, don’t we All think that our coaching is the real suspect? I’m not asking you to burn any bridges, but I’m curious as to your take on the current staff. Wouldn’t the best way to develop some of this talent be with better coaching?

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  12. Another great SR, Scott. You are the best. I just have a different view of D. Smith. I like his durability and his size but he is not great at pass protection as his leading the Bucs in holding on passing downs proves. If he does not improve markedly his pass protection I don’t see us being over .500 at our week off. They then need to give Cappa a shot at LT. If not they will be risking getting Jameis injured and out again. It would be nice if Benenoch can step up this year and win the starting RT position early so they can cut Sweezy and train Cappa as a LT or at least as a RT. Tackle is his best position and he played LT in college. I do think D. Smith has a lot of potential at LG
    and I would prefer they move him there and put Marpet back at RT.

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