The future of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers appears to be in good hands with Josh Freeman manning the helm. He's made the progression from forgotten rookie to average starter to blossoming star in just over a season and a half of work. Our offense in 2010 was, by most fan's accounts, one of the best they've seen the Bucs show up with in years. But was it really? Looking at quick numbers, our offense was good, not great. In fact, it was middle of the pack type of good. Our defense which was awful (or so some of us thought, including me) was actually not that bad. In fact, using the same logic we used to evaluate our offense, our defense finished two spots worse, hardly terrible. Of course, expectations also affect our view. Coming from years of bad offense and fantastic defense, we strayed away from those norms so the results are embellished until you look at the rankings.
2011, assuming there is a season, should see some big improvements on both sides of the ball, with defense receiving the most necessary upgrades. I said this all draft weekend long and I'll say it again, our defensive line (and defense in general) have no excuses anymore. We've spent what amounts to four first round picks all on DL in the last two years. Gerald McCoy, first round pick in 2010. Brian Price, early second round pick in 2010 but many noted hsi first round talent. Adrian Clayborn, first round pick in 2011. Da'Quan Bowers, second round pick in 2011 but top 5 talent until his knee blew up. Dominik and the team have invested heavily in the defensive line and for good reasons that we all understand; defense starts up front.
Of course, we don't know if Bowers will ever play or play well, we haven't seen Clayborn yet, McCoy was just getting going before getting hurt and Price was a shadow last year. These 4 guys will shape our future, at least our defensive future. They'll turn Black, Ruud, and Hayes (assuming all are still here) into tackling machines or has-beens. They'll make Ronde look like 2002 or like he's 2002 years old. With 5 OL in to block and a tight end or running back helping out, that leaves at least one of our four horseman with one on one blocking. This should provide ample opportunity for that singled up player to wreak havoc. If they can't get by the one on one blocking, they probably shouldn't be in the league.
Our line has a good mix of brute force (Price and Clayborn) and speed (Bowers and McCoy) and should provide a constant challenge to opposing team's blockers. Of course, I'm jumping ahead of ourselves, but with a little bit of luck, our four first rounders could pave the way to a resurgence of the Tampa Bay D as we used to know it.