2009 Record: 3-13
Total Offense - 28
Run Offense - 23
Pass Offense - 24
Scoring Offense - 30
Total Defense - 27
Run Defense - 32
Pass Defense - 10
Scoring Defense - 27
Tampa had one of their trademark down years last season, but they have begun to assemble the necessary pieces to put together a long-term success. They invested a first round pick last season in QB Josh Freeman (Kansas State), and despite being a raw prospect, had the most success of any Bucs QB last season. Freeman posted a 3-6 record and was the only Bucs starter to record a win last season.
Dating back to December 1 of 2008, the Bucs are 3-17. This likely has to do with their atrocious run defense. They addressed that straight out in the draft this year, taking Gerald McCoy with the #3 pick and Brian Price (UCLA) in the second round. Both should start this season and will be anchors for the interior of their D-line for years to come. On the outside, Greg White led the team in sacks last season with 6 1/2. The linebacking corps isn't great, but Barrett Ruud is a solid middle linebacker that led the team in tackles with 107 last season. The secondary remains weak, with Rhonde Barber and 3rd year corner Aqib Talib the only real talent in the group.
Since the NFL went to 8 divisions, the NFC South has been won by the team that finished last the previous season in every season except one. That one was two years ago when last place Atlanta missed out on winning the division by one game. Can we expect a similar turnaround this year from Tampa Bay? Not likely. Even with the addition of two rookie receivers in Arrelious Benn (Illinois) and Mike Williams (Syracuse), the team will have to improve upon their 24th ranked passing game. Benn and Williams should become starters by midseason, mainly due to a deficit of veteran talent at the position.
The running game struggled last season with Cadillac Williams and Derrick Ward only managing 1200 yards between the pair. Ward was brought in from the Giants to be a change-of-pace back, but Tampa's struggles to run block definitely hampered the effectiveness of their backs. We loved Cadillac Williams at Auburn, but injuries have plagued his NFL career. We would love to see him put up a stellar year, and the Bucs are going to need him to be effective if they want to make any noise this year.
No one is really expecting much out of this Tampa team, but Raheem Morris inherited a team virtually devoid of any talent and he has done a decent job acquiring pieces to build around. The defense is still lacking in many areas, but there is a ray of hope with Josh Freeman under center. This team is still in the developing process, and as Talib, Freeman, and this years draft picks develop their talent to the NFL level, this team will be competitive...just don't look for it to happen this season.
Ian's Prediction: 5-11