The Buccaneers have a new coaching staff. new GM, new players, but one thing hasn’t changed since the days of Jon “Chuckie” Gruden—The team is still searching for a legitimate QB. They need an NFL quality QB to compete in the NFC South. Right now they don’t have one.
New head coach Raheem Morris has yet to name a starter. He has a few choices but none of them have “it” that an NFL QB requires. Luke McCown, Byron Leftwich, and rookie Josh Freeman are all in the mix with Freeman a little behind the other two. McCown is 1 and 6 as a starter. He has a career passer rating of 75. No “it” there. I like Leftwich more than the other 2 but he is not an NFL quality starter either. He had a passer rating of 104.3 last year in Pittsburgh. But that was on only 36 attempts. Overall he has a career average rating of a little over 80. As of today, McCown seems to have a slight edge. Morris has said he would reveal the Game 1 starter before the 3rd preseason game. Freeman is the wildcard. He has a ton of physical ability but came from a spread offense at Kansas State and never had to do a lot of reading coverages. In addition the Big 12 is not known for D.
Derek Ward looks to be the pick for starting RB. He is a UFA from the Giants and is starting quality. The backup and short yardage guy is Earnest Graham. Graham is versatile and has played RB and FB effectively. He is also a good receiver out of the backfield. Cadillac Williams is the often injured potential superstar of this group. He has had 2 ACL injuries in the last 2 years. If he is healthy he is the most talented guy on the team. B.J. Askew and Jameel Cook will battle for the FB spot. Both are decent blockers but Cook is younger and cheaper. He wins ties in this contest.
Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton are the starting WRs. Bryant became they kind of WR for Tampa that the Browns though he could be when they drafted him in 99. The Bucs franchised him this off season. Clayton has been slow to come around but the team resigned him. They hope he will finally begin to produce. Rookie Maurice Stovall and Dexter Jackson will try to become the 3rd WR. I like Jackson’s chances to win the 3rd spot and possibly unseat Clayton. The Bucks traded for Kellen Winslow, Jr. He will become the security blanket for whichever QB wins the job. He will never become the deep threat he could have before his accident. But he is a warrior and plays with pain every snap.
The team has a lot more confidence in their O line than I do. G Davin Joseph was a pro bowler last year. The left side of the line will have T Donald Penn and G Arron Sears. They are both OK but no better. In camp, G Jeremy Zuttah is pushing Sears hard for his spot. C Jeff Faine wasn’t good enough for the Browns. Enough said. T Jeremy Trueblood is developing but has serious technique problems.
The Chuckie Tampa 2 is history. The problem is that the players were selected with the 2 in mind. They really don’t fit the head up 2 gap system that Morris is installing. The projected starters are DEs Jimmy Wilkerson and Gaines Adams, NT Chris Hovan, and DT Ryan Sims. Hovan is no NT even though he is bulked up to 310 pounds. He is a penetrator. Sims is a run stopper with some ability. Wilkerson is average at best. Adams is developing but has yet to prove he is worth his high draft choice. The team wants to get more sacks. The 2 gap system is not going to do it with this group. The bench is a bunch of rookies and “hope so’s.”
The D lost its heart and soul when Derrick Brooks was cut. MLB Barrett Ruud is the only sure thing at linebacker. He is one of the better IB when healthy. Jermaine Phillips was penciled in on the weak side but it is a position move from safety. That is not an easy transition. He will be moved back to safety soon. The other side is wide open. Quincy Black and UFA Angelo Crowell (Buffalo) are still fighting for the strong side starting spot. Crowell is coming back from a season ending injury but looks like the leader.
Again the change in scheme is going to be a challenge. CB Aqib Talib should be fine. CB Ronde Barber may not. He has played his entire career in the Tampa 2. Speed is not his strength. The bump and run requires speed. SS Sabby Piscitelli can’t tackle and that is a huge problem. He fills in for Phillips. FS Tanard Jackson is very inconsistent. Last year was not good for him. There is even less on the bench. The team has to be watching the waiver wire to get help at both LB and DB.
OVERALL: This team could be OK but would be better in their former Tampa 2 system. There are just too many questions in the transition. The team has always depended on their D and a conservative O. Now they really don’t have either to depend on. Morris is starting over with this team. It won’t be pretty early. The Bucs will be 3rd or 4th in the division.
That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.
Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits https://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .