2015 Tampa Bay Predictions: 4th NFC South (2014 record: 2-14)
Head Coach: Lovie Smith
NFC South Division Odds: +600
Super Bowl Champion Odds: +7500
Season Win Totals Over-Under Odds: Over 6 (-130), Under 6 (even)
Key Additions: Jameis Winston (QB), Ali Marpet (OL), George Johnson (DE)
Key Losses: Josh McCown (QB), Adrian Clayborn (DE), Michael Johnson (DE)
It was pretty apparent that the tank was on for the Bucs last season. The experiment of Josh McCown and Mike Glennon under center was a failure; RB Doug Martin was horrible when he was actually able to make it onto the field; and the defense was one of the more porous in the league. Despite the failures, there was some light at the end of the tunnel in young players like WE Mike Evans, LB Lavonte David, DT Gerald McCoy, and CB Alterraun Verner. Adding #1 pick Winston certainly won’t hurt either.
We mentioned three great defensive building blocks above. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much it on this side of the ball. In fact, the Bucs have no idea who’s going be starting on the line alongside McCoy, as many of the other linemen from 2014 are gone and they have a slew of unknown names in camp vying for spots. George Johnson is probably the best bet to see the most time. He was solid as a part-timer in Detroit.
Da’Quan Bowers was brought back for another year, though we fail to see why. He’s been a colossal bust since day one. David will again be the dominant player in the middle of the defense – and, quite possibly, the only productive one. Danny Lansanah is a two-down player, and any combination of Bruce Carter, Jason Williams, et al are better suited for reserve play rather than starters. Verner is it for the secondary; it’s so bad back there that Chris Conte – who came over from the Bears and was wretched for them – could start at safety.
Winston will automatically upgrade the offense, and he’ll make Evans and fellow WR Vincent Jackson that much better as well. The biggest concern with Jameis’ ‘game’ is how his off-field activities will hinder him. So far, he’s said and done all the right things so there’s hope that he finally ‘gets it.’ If he does, then this could be a fun unit to watch. Evans was fantastic, considering his QBs were gut-wrenching; he cleared 1,000 yards and saw the end zone a dozen times, He should, at minimum, match that this year. Jackson should see a few more trips to the goal line as well; two TDs from him was more a product of the environment.
The big concern on offense is the status of RB Doug Martin, who’s productivity has mysteriously dropped off of a cliff since his rookie season. He is, however, entering the final year of his contract and we all know what that means. Of bigger assistance to Martin’s game is what should be an improved line. Marpet was a great pick, as he’s versatile enough to play any position on the line. Fellow second round pick Donovan Smith adds more athleticism to the squad, though he’s a bit raw. The rest of the line is above average and should protect their franchise rather nicely.
The Bucs made some very nice moves to improve the offense, especially by adding Winston and the two linemen. The defense was pretty much ignored, however, and will struggle in every facet of the game. The schedule isn’t an overly difficult one, but they just don’t have enough talent to keep the opposition out of the end zone. Expect growing pains from Winston and no more than five wins. UNDER