With 9 losses, the Bucs are reportedly mathematically eliminated from the playoffs (if this were the NFC East or North, not so much). With pride the only thing left to play for in the season for the team, the fans must now look at 2014 and the off-season developments for any hope and inspiration.
The primary hope with me, at least, is with major changes with our coaching. Schiano is toast IMHO (hi. you might remember me from such classics as #FireSchiano and SCHIANO DELENDA EST), and along with him I'm hoping the offensive coordinator (unimaginative offensive schemes) and defensive coordinator (STOP CALLING STUNTS AND ZONE COVERAGES!) get tossed as well. The general manager situation is more complicated - Dominick has done well with some draft picks and FA signings, but his overall refusal to draft offensive linemen is a shockingly willful act of blindness - but I'm expecting a more open-minded GM in charge of the 2014 draft as well.
With those caveats in mind, here's my Positional preview of draft needs for the Bucs this May 2014:
Our current situation is dire: the starter is rookie Mike Glennon, who's had a decent but not impressive first year. DraftPhantom's done his own bit about why Glennon is not impressing, and he's pretty much right that Glennon is not a long-term improvement. Following up a rookie QB with another rookie QB isn't a perfect situation, but some teams - Carolina with drafting Cam Newton - were basically stuck with no other options.
The Bucs' situation is that we're not in control of our destiny with draft spots: other teams have been worse and will likely be ahead of the Bucs on the board. Some of them - Atlanta primarily, maybe Minnesota - may not be shopping for a franchise QB to draft in the First, but some - Jacksonville, Houston, maybe Tennessee - ARE.
Despite the number of intriguing candidates at the QB spot for 2014 - Tanking for Teddy (Bridgewater)! has been a rally cry for many - there's not really that many pro-ready QBs worth a Top Five pick. And if the Bucs are stuck outside of the Top Five (or even the Top Three), they are facing either to reach for a prospect or else trade down to a better value spot and wait for there.
In terms of need, Quarterback is very high. The question is, should Tampa pursue this at all hazards (which might hurt in terms of trading away too many draft picks or players)?
The Bucs may have lost Doug Martin this season to injury but he'll be back. In terms of depth, the Bucs are currently blessed with Mike James proving a worthy complement to Doug, and with Bobby Rainey showing some promise as the Number Three guy. In 2014 if we keep all three we're looking at the best 1-2-3 lineup since Cadillac-Earnest-OHGOD I forgot the No.3 guy already. There's no need to draft here.
If Quarterback is dire, the lack of talent at Tight End should be abomination. One of the ironies this season is how our offensive coach is high on using TEs in passing situations and yet we've barely got ANYONE (a converted WR in Tim Wright) to fit that role. Problem is, the Bucs are facing draft needs at much higher priority positions. Wright has been a decent enough receiver, although the question about blocking may be there. A mid-round draft selection here might help cover over any glaring weaknesses for the short-term.
We're set at Number One (Vincent Jackson) and Number Two (Mike Williams). The questions are "Who's Number Three (right now it's Underwood)?" and "Who will succeed V-Jax when he moves on?" To be fair, Mike Williams is still young enough and talented enough to be a Number One target in the long-term, and it's more a question of improving depth at WR than anything right now. A draft pick for this would seem frivilous when considering our QB need is higher (and our need at OL also higher). I wouldn't go here.
I've said this elsewhere and am saying it again: our biggest problem with the offense has truly been the breakdown of blocking with this O-line. For all of Glennon's mechanical and thinking flaws, he's performed well given the circumstances. For all the woes with the running game, it's more to do with injuries to our starters... and above all the failure to get running lanes up the middle unclogged for our RBs to use in the first place.
Part of this may lie with our unimaginative offensive playcalling. At some point, calling for a run play UP THE MIDDLE for the 19,597,247,109th time is gonna be grounds for immediate execution. But the tackles and guards are not doing well enough opening any running lane at all. Worse, we're starting to see our key player - Left Tackle Donald Penn - getting beat on a regular basis for his pass blocks, which is not a good sign.
This is a team that under GM Dominick doesn't consider the need to draft and develop rookie talent for the OL (the last lineman drafted was Xavier Nixon in 2009 I think). As a result we get undrafted youngsters and cast-offs from other teams. While there's some decent depth found out of these players, they are NOT what I would consider long-term or starter-caliber players you want out there 16 games of a regular season.
With Penn's slipping pass-blocking skills, I'm of a mind that our top priority - even more than QB or DE, which everyone else seems to be begging for - is getting a franchise-caliber Offensive Tackle to cover the left side. Penn can then slip over to the right. The rest of the line can adjust accordingly.
We also seem to make a habit out of converting Guards into Centers. I'm not sure if that's been 100 percent effective, and while our Guard situation - with Joseph having a bad year and Nicks stuck with one of the worst illnesses a player could get - is dire I think we can stick with getting UFA or lower-round draft picks for those positions for the time being. Offensive Tackle is a high need.
I'm gonna get skewered for saying we really don't have a need here. The lack of sacks and QB pressure out of our Defensive Ends (and even out of our D Tackles even with Gerald McCoy having a MONSTER YEAR) has way more to do with terrible coaching (STOP CALLING STUNTS) than with bad talent. We'd seen a good year out of Adrian Clayborn when he got 8.5 sacks his rookie year, and he is coming off a year-long injury last season. But we're seeing a defensive scheme where the DEs going into PASS COVERAGE?! ARE YOU SERIOUS?! and we're not seeing enough straight-up QB pressure attempts in this defense. I don't think we've got bad DEs. We've got bad coaches.
I know it doesn't look good if another high draft guy like Bowers isn't seeing much playing time, but again I'm so wary and distrustful of this coaching staff that I'd like to see another DL coach or D coordinator have a go at these guys - also rookie guys like Gholston and Means - to see what they really have.
I wouldn't draft here. Maybe pursue a DE in free agency if there's cap room.
If anyone says anything bad about Mason Foster I will NAPALM you. He is doing a damn good job at his MLB spot and don't you say otherwise.
I've seen reports that going after OLB Barr in the draft is one possibility. While it would make the whole LB corps very young and very impressive, it'll come at the expense of needs at OT and QB. I'd like to think we're currently good at LB and don't need to draft here.
What does it say that your team trades for one of the top five CBs in the league (even injured) with Revis, drafts a solid and progressively improving rookie like Banks, and you STILL have problems shutting down any passing attack.
A lot of it has to do with once again a terrible defensive coaching scheme that uses some twist soft zone coverage that does not play to Revis' strengths.
In terms of depth, past Revis and Banks there's very little to crow about. One minute, you're cursing Leonard's existence, next you're wowed by Tandy's INT. I'm not sure if drafting more CBs will help at this moment: getting a better CB coach and a DC with a f-cking working gameplan would help tons more. Not a draft need.
Signing Goldson was the other pricey FA move we've made, and while he's been a veteran presence he hasn't been a pleasant one. One of the sources of the team's big woes has been the consistent personal foul penalties that keep killing our defensive stands... and Goldson's been the source of a lot of those. It may be the rule changes are hard to keep up with, true... but at some point the coaching and the players gotta get better avoiding those penalties! grrr.
Top draft pick Barron from two years ago has slowly made his presence felt: occasionally beaten but more often getting and breaking up big passes. He's suffering as much from the bad schemes by the coaches as anyone else on the defense. Safety's not a draft need.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, CONNOR BARTH, COME BACK TO US! COME BACK!
And here's hoping that improvements in the coaching will allow punter Michael Koenen to once again become a GOD AMONG MEN.
You do not draft for kickers or punters unless you HAVE to. You certainly don't do it by the Third Round anymore. I'm serious.
...so what do you think sirs?