The 2012 season has come and gone. The free agency period before the draft has come and gone. The 2013 NFL draft has come and gone. Now is a time to reflect, well, at least for me it is.
Prior to the free agency period and the draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the sole heir of holding the prestigious moniker as owners of the worst pass defense in the 2012 season, by yards given up. On the other side of the spectrum, the Bucs’ offense produced new record highs for couple of players and for one rookie, to which also produced two Pro Bowlers.
As bad as our defense was, the secondary did improve upon its defense. In fact, the short to immediate passes against the defense increased as the season progressed. Our offense took a terrible nose dive in the final six games of the year, going 1 – 5.
We have two schools of thought of how to help this team: fix the defense or fix the quarterback. Many fans automatically think we need to fix the secondary while some said to fix the defensive line, since we lacked any type of pass rush. In my opinion, I believe it’s the scheme than the players because I have denoted that defense’s intermediate to long pass defense did improve even we the team lost its two starting cornerbacks in Aqib Talib and Eric Wright. The other school of thought was to fix the offense by way of the quarterback. Unfortunately, we all came to a consensus that there was not much product out there better than what we have now in Josh Freeman. Carson Palmer came close, but he was traded away to the Cardinals. So how do we fix the offense if we cannot fix the quarterback position? Give him more weapons.
The offense stopped scoring, dropping 17 points per game. That is an absurd number of points to stop scoring. During the middle of the season, the Buccaneers were averaging just over 34 points per game. Within that middle stretch, the team went 5 – 1. The defense, on average, allowed about 24.6 points per game. The Bay lost three games by less than a field goal; four games by less than touchdown (and extra point); and seven games by eight points or less.
Thus, in my mind, the choice between finding a compliment to the offense to give it a chance to score a few more points since we are losing our starting tight end, Dallas Clark, this offseason or overhauling the defense, it seemed easy to say I would pick up an offensive weapon. In particular, drafting a tight end early in the draft would have been my choice. There were also rumors swirling about that the Bucs wanted a tight end early in the draft.
Just before the draft, the Bucs had signed free agent ball hawk safety Goldson and traded 2013’s first round pick along a conditional 2014 mid-round pick to acquire superstar cornerback Revis. There were also minor moves such as offseason signings of LB Casillas and DT Landri. Also, Eric Wright’s services were able to be retained, at a considerable price. With the secondary set for next season, it would seem logical to fill in a missing starting position at tight end with either Eifert or Ertz in the late first round to early second round.
Instead, we go a completely different route. In the second round, we draft CB Banks, who was considered a first round pick. Yet with his height, at 6’2”, his game would be quite helpful in the Red Zone defense, especially since he plays press man like the Buccaneer’s defense likes to play. In the third, we go even further off the deep end and draft who could eventually replace QB Freeman with Glennon from NC State. I really think there was more financial and organizational stability in mind than actual replacement of Freeman. The next three picks then opened my eyes: DT Spence, DE Gholston, and DE Means. The last pick was a trade up for running back Mike James in the sixth round.
Let us recap what we needed: On defense, we needed to upgrade both our secondary and defensive line; on offense, we needed to surround Freeman with another weapon. Instead of the easy fix of finding a better tight end for Freeman, the organization went out and revamped the secondary as well as the defensive line. This off-season we acquired a starting free safety, two starting cornerbacks, four defensive linemen and a linebacker. Wowzers!
It took me a couple of days for this to sink into my head because I really wanted TE Eifert or TE Ertz in the draft considering we don’t have Clark right now and we dropped 17 points per game in the last six games of the year. Yet it took me another few more days to really revel in the massive makeover the defense just took in one off-season. And yet it took another set of days to realize that the organization did not want to place the ball in Freeman’s hands to determine our future.
Freeman and all his inconsistencies are what dictated wins last year. If he played well, the offense played well. If he didn’t play well, the offense followed suit. The defense was stable, but mediocre. All of the fire power lay in the offense, which means Freeman. This offseason aims to remove the dependency on the offense and Freeman by such a huge make over defensively. I really do like these moves in the offseason, despite the fact that I still think schematically the defense is designed incorrectly. Maybe acquiring the correct personnel in the trenches may make a huge difference. The drafting of Spence, Gholston and Means may give the Buccaneers upgraded depth on the line and, thusly, make a big difference in the games.
In short, the moves made this offseason have made this team a more balanced team offensively and defensively. Yet it is also telling that the organization is not relying on another inconsistent performance by Freeman to give it some wins this coming season. I like that philosophy much better than mine, which was to give Freeman a bigger target so he won’t be able to over thrown him, just under throw him.