Are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for real?

By: Jordan Kendall, Columnist

Focusing just on football and nothing to do with the pandemic or the Black Lives Matter movement, the story of the offseason has been the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They have assembled a team with high expectations but also a lot of uncertainty heading into 2020. Some are predicting them to contend for a championship, but I’m not as convinced. They remind me of a few teams with high expectations in recent years that failed to meet them, and I think the Bucs could be a disappointment in 2020.

History isn’t on their side

There are two teams who had high expectations after a successful offseason but didn’t live up to them in recent memory. They are the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles and the 2019 Cleveland Browns. The Eagles signed cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, quarterback Vince Young, and running back Ronnie Brown among others. They already had quarterback Michael Vick, running back LeSean McCoy and wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin among others. Young called them a “dream team” before the season. Despite the high expectations Philadelphia went 8-8. The Browns traded for wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr and already had his former LSU teammate, wide receiver Jarvis Landry, running back Nick Chubb, and quarterback Baker Mayfield. It was the first time in a long time that Cleveland felt they had a winning team, but that didn’t work out well as the Browns went 6-10. There are some who feel it isn’t fair to compare Tampa Bay to Cleveland since Bucs head coach Bruce Arians is experienced while Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens was in his first season as an NFL head coach. It’s a fair point, but I still feel that Tampa has way higher expectations than they’ve had in almost 20 years, and it could get the best of them. 

On paper vs on the field

On paper the defense looks promising, they have a few young players such as linebackers Shaquil Barrett and Devin White and cornerback Carlton Davis. Last season they had the best run defense based on rushing yards allowed, only giving up 1,181. But they also had the third-worst passing defense, allowing over 4,300 yards. The starters are basically the same, the only difference being rookie safety Antoine Winfield Jr. The Bucs play in the NFC South against quarterbacks Drew Brees, of the New Orleans Saints, and Matt Ryan, of the Atlanta Falcons, twice a year. Since they didn’t make any significant moves to improve the secondary, which I feel is the weak link on the defense, will they be able to step up this season?

I also have to question whether or not quarterback Tom Brady has anything left in the tank. Last season was not a good one for Brady, he had a few bad games especially in the playoffs vs the Tennessee Titans. While the New England Patriots didn’t have a number one receiver, he’s had to deal with playing with players who signed off the street before and this time he couldn’t overcome it. Against the Buffalo Bills he completed less than 46% of his passes for 150 yards. Against the 1-13 Cincinnati Bengals he threw for 128 yards and most of the scoring wasn’t because of him. The playoff game against the TennesseeTitans summed up the season for him, 209 yards and a pick with no touchdowns. He didn’t look the same last season, and there’s a part of me that’s hesitant to say he will bounce back. Eventually age catches up to every player, he’s 43-years-old and is entering his 21st season. 

Tampa has a lot of talent around him led by wide receivers Mike Evans and Chirs Godwin, tight end OJ Howard and running backs Ronald Jones II and Leonard Fournette. They’ve been aggressive this offseason and I feel there’s a chance it won’t work out for them. The good news for them is only five games are against playoff teams from 2019. The bad news is not only do they face Brees and Ryan twice, but also quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers when they play the Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers. The offense has to be able to put up points especially against the Chiefs, and if the chemistry isn’t there I don’t know if they will be able to turn it around. While I expect them to improve their 7-9 record from last season, I don’t see them as a legitimate contender yet. I think they have a chance at a Wild Card spot, but until I see them play a few games I don’t feel confident in calling the Buccaneers a contender yet.

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