TAMPA - Here we are, two days away from the start of Buccaneers training camp.
Ticket sales seem to be brisk, certainly at a more robust pace than a year ago.
Before we go forward, let’s take a step back.
Last season was slightly less than mediocre, 7-9 to be exact.
To put it in simplest of terms, their offense was serviceable, their defense was deplorable.
I’m not throwing only the defense under the bus for a 7-9 campaign.
Josh Freeman and his offense stunk it up a few Sunday afternoons.
Not to say this team could have been playoff bound, but there were two or three games the defense couldn’t hold a lead.
Most of it was due to the lack of talent depth-wise.
Aqib Talib and Eric Wright absolutely destroyed any possibilities of corner coverage with their antics that landed one in New England, the other on a four-game suspension, and a ticket out town.
Since there was an inconsistent pass rush, 3rd and long was child’s play for any competent opponent.
Fast forward to now. HELP appears to be on the way.
Darrelle Revis should make a world of difference at the corner position, if he’s healthy.
Safety Dashon Goldson may be even a more prized possession in years to come. Goldson and Mark Barron will make up the hardest-hitting safety tandem in the NFL. Any receiver that comes across the middle better have a Lloyd’s of London policy.
Da’Quan Bowers should be healthy and ready for a complete season. Welcome back, Adrian Clayborn and Gerald McCoy. They both should be ready to step to another level. But, McCoy will need a partner in the middle of that defensive line.
Can the rookie Akeem Spence be that guy? That’s a lot to ask of a rookie, but guess what, Akeem, you’ll need to deal with it. Either you do, or Gary Gibson will grab it.
My biggest concern is the lack of depth among the front seven. One or two injuries like a year ago, and what looks to be more than a promising group turns into an average one.
Yet, there is no denying the fact Bucs General Manager Mark Dominik addressed a job-killing weakness.
Okay, now we’ll talk about the position everyone is so enamored with -- quarterback.
Let’s face it, there is only one qualified QB on this roster, and it’s Josh Freeman.
So many of you are putting the entire season on this guy’s shoulders.
I’m not going to disagree that Freeman has to sharpen up on his weaknesses, but he’s not the end-all here.
I see Freeman flourishing with this offense only if they stay healthy.
He doesn’t have to be a Johnny Unitas out there, he just needs to be efficient.
Remember, there were plenty of games last season Freeman got the team in the lead only to have their defense blow the game.
I’m actually more interested in second-year running back Doug Martin. He needs to follow up that freshman campaign with something similar.
Not since the Bucs had the likes of Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott have we seen consistency out of that position.
The offensive line showed tremendous resilience last season when it lost Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks.
Both players are back from injuries and should be ready to go from day one of camp.
That’s like getting two sweet free-agent picks on the roster.
Think about this. The Bucs did not have Joseph, Nicks, Clayborn and Revis for most or all of last season.
They do now.
Yes, the NFC South is a quarterback-driven one. That’s why you need a PASS RUSH MORE THAN YOU NEED A QB!
Pass rush is a double negative around One Buc. 27 sacks total a year ago. That would rank third lowest in the NFL.
There’s your worry, not Freeman.
So let’s kick back and watch this season unfold.
My eyes are on the defense.
I want to see marketable improvement from that bunch.
I also want to see a relatively injury-free season.
The Bucs are going to need one to truly compete.
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