The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 1-3. That's pretty bad, and likely leaves them out of the playoff hunt, but it's important to separate the result from the process so far. Many Bucs fans have become discouraged by the three consecutive losses and the lackluster record, but progress has been achieved - though not quite as fast as some would like.
As usual over the past three years this is a team filled with unrealized potential - but more and more of that potential is starting to shine. Gerald McCoy and Michael Bennett are playing some absolutely dominant football, though moving Bennett to the right side in Adrian Clayborn's absence isn't one of the team's best moves. Lavonte David looks like a keeper at outside linebacker, while Mason Foster looks like the player the team thought he could be last year. Mark Barron looks like a star at strong safety, Eric Wright has done well and Aqib Talib has been a bit up-and-down. More than potential, the defense looks pretty good already.
On offense, though, we mostly talk of possible stars. Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson look like the cornerstones of a deep passing attack, while Josh Freeman continues to show glimpses of his talent along with maddeningly inconsistent play. Doug Martin is struggling, rushing his reads, but he too shows off his potential. The line is very highly paid, but an injury to Davin Joseph has hurt them and they're still learning to play together. Meanwhile, Legarrette Blount lingers mostly on the bench, while Dallas Clark and Luke Stocker have been all-but invisible at tight end.
And still, this team could have been 4-0 with a little bit more luck. A defensive stop or two against the Giants and Redskins, just a tiny bit more offense against the Dallas Cowboys and the Bucs would be undefeated. On that same note, the team is just a few plays away from being 0-4 as well. The key to this season appears to be playing close games, and you win those largely due to luck. A bit of luck down the stretch, and the Bucs could look very good down the stretch. A bit of bad luck, and they may well be looking at a top 5 draft pick come April.
The rest of the season will have to show what these Bucs really are, but they do appear to be on the right path.