State of the Franchise
The 2012 season was an up and down campaign for the Buccaneers. After recording an awful 4-12 mark in 2011, the team was at least able to turn things around somewhat under first-year head coach Greg Schiano, finishing with a 7-9 record. Though the Bucs did look better overall, another late-season swoon, which included five straight losses between Weeks 12 and 16, was a concern on multiple levels. To that end, the Bucs made some major moves in the offseason, especially on defense, that could pay big dividends in 2013 and beyond.
One of the Bucs' major problems in 2012 was their pass defense, which ranked dead last in the league, surrendering an average of 297.4 yards in the air per game. Trading for CB Darrelle Revis and signing S Dashon Goldson as a free agent this offseason combine to represent just about the best two moves that any team could have made to shore up those two positions. The Bucs also used their 2013 second-round draft pick on Johnthan Banks, a potential impact player at cornerback. Finally, a return to health by pass-rushing DE Adrian Clayborn should help the defense improve on the anemic 27-sack total the unit posted last season.
Although the pass defense was a glaring issue for the Bucs in 2012, it was hardly the only one. On the other side of the ball, QB Josh Freeman set a team record with his 4,065 yards passing and had a career-high 27 touchdown passes, but his consistency left something to be desired. Freeman threw 17 interceptions (including nine over the final three games) and only completed 54.8 percent of his passes, which led to many stalled drives.
On the plus side, RB Doug Martin enjoyed a terrific rookie campaign, racking up 1,454 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns, while adding 49 catches for 472 yards and another touchdown. In addition, 2012 free-agent addition Vincent Jackson did not disappoint at wideout, recording 72 catches for 1,384 yards and eight touchdowns, while Mike Williams chipped in nine receiving TDs of his own.
The Bucs have to replace the production of S Ronde Barber, DE Michael Bennett and TE Dallas Clark, but the signings of Goldson and pass-catching TE Tom Crabtree from the Packers should offset those losses, along with the return of the aforementioned Clayborn. The 2013 Bucs would like to rely heavily on their running game to control the clock and keep their defense fresh. If Freeman can cut down on his interceptions and increase his completion percentage, the team's offense could really click this season. Finally, if the Bucs can generate more of a pass rush in 2013 and enjoy improved secondary play, a reasonable expectation, more turnovers can be forced in order to give the offense more scoring opportunities.
Darrelle Revis - CB, Jets
The Bucs gave up two picks (including a 2013 first-rounder) for the best corner in the game, when he's healthy.
Dashon Goldson - S, 49ers
One of the top safeties in the NFL, he should be a big free agent catch for the Bucs.
Tom Crabtree - TE, Packers
Receiving TE, who could be asked to replace much of Dallas Clark's production.
Jonathan Casillas - LB, Saints
Could end up replacing Quincy Black as a starting OLB.
Mike Glennon - QB, North Carolina State
(Round 3, 73rd overall)
Probably won't play much in 2013, but the Bucs presumably want him to push starter Josh Freeman.
Ronde Barber - S, Retired
The outstanding long-time Buc retired after 16 seasons with the team.
Dallas Clark - TE, FA
The pass-catching TE, who had 47 catches for 435 yards and four touchdowns in his first season as a Buc, remains unsigned at press time.
Michael Bennett - DE, Seahawks
Led the Bucs with nine sacks, but Adrian Clayborn's return coupled with a full-time role for Da'Quan Bowers should help make up for the loss.
CAN Josh Freeman PUT IT ALL TOGETHER IN 2013?
Freeman has had peaks and valleys in his career so far, and his 2012 season certainly represented a microcosm of that. While the quarterback did set career-highs in passing yards and touchdowns, Freeman's high interception total and low completion percentage, partly attributable to a large amount of deep throws, are concerns. In fact, outside of his extremely efficient 2010 season where he threw only six interceptions in 474 attempts, Freeman has had a high interception rate in his career. Due to his inconsistent ways, the Bucs haven't offered Freeman a contract extension heading into the 2013 season. Moreover, the team used a third-round pick on fellow signal-caller Mike Glennon in April. The bottom line is that Freeman needs to combine his 2010 efficiency with the positive aspects of his 2012 season in order to earn a new contract and thus remain the Bucs' starter.
WHAT IMPACT WILL REVIS AND GOLDSON MAKE?
The Bucs took fixing their porous secondary seriously this offseason with the trade for star left corner Darrelle Revis and the signing of free safety Dashon Goldson. The main concern here of course is the health of Revis' knee, after he tore his ACL last September. Frankly though, even if he's at slightly less than 100 percent out of the gate, Revis will represent a huge upgrade to what the team had to work with at the end of 2012. More importantly, the presence of the talented duo should have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the defense, as it will allow for more blitzes to pressure the quarterback. Combine that with less open receivers for opposing quarterbacks and the recipe for an improved fantasy (and real-life) defense is in place.
CAN THE SKILL POSITION PLAYERS CONTINUE TO SHINE IN 2013?
One of the real positives for the Buccaneers in 2012 was the play of their key skill position players. Not only did RB Doug Martin and WR Vincent Jackson have big years, Mike Williams had a very strong 2012 season in his new role as the team's No. 2 wideout. Look for training camp jostling to determine the team's top TE, No. 3 WR and No. 2 RB assignments, but as long as the aforementioned trio stays healthy, there really is no reason to expect a decline overall, even if the team ends up running more. If QB Josh Freeman can improve his efficiency and accuracy and cut down on turnovers, it could lead to similar passing numbers for the Bucs, even if he has fewer attempts in his second season working in coach Greg Schiano's offense.
Rising: Luke Stocker, who has chance to be team's starting TE, is a good blocker and a big target; he should have more passes thrown his way in 2013.
Declining: Josh Freeman may see a slight decline in his numbers in 2013, because if the Bucs play well he might be called upon to throw less.
Sleeper: Tom Crabtree, a pass-catching TE, may get an opportunity to show off his skills in Tampa Bay more than he did in Green Bay.
Supersleeper: Mike James, a solid power back who can also block and catch the ball out of the backfield, may end up as the primary backup to Doug Martin.
Lavonte David - LB
Had a monster rookie season with 139 tackles and should be as good, if not better, this year.
Mason Foster - LB
Another tackling machine, who will look to top his 104-stop effort in 2012.
Mark Barron - S
Hard-hitting safety had 88 tackles as a rookie and will look to create more impact plays in 2013.
RotoWire Rank: 10