Let me preface this by saying this Fanpost is really being brought on by the thinking of the fan base and media from before the season last year, more than this year, but I think it is very appropriate to bring up now for discussion. Last year, prior to the season, all the talk was about "how talented the Buccaneers are". Well, we all saw how that worked out. A 4-12 season and a regime change later and here we are ready to re-evaluate the talent of the team.
Let me start on the defensive side of the ball, as that is where we've seen the fewest changes to the roster. If there is talent there, can the coaches bring it out? For the sake of this post, I'm going to leave out GMC and LVD as they are easily identifiable as the two players on defense that have best achieved their potential either due to, or in spite of, the past coaching. Let's start with players that were on the roster last year and more specifically start with the D-line. This is an area of the team where we should have TONS of potential, and also an area where that potential hasn't come close to being tapped. Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers in particular are two players where the sky is the limit, yet they've barely gotten off the ground. Why? Obviously injuries have taken their toll. Bowers with the micro-fracture surgery that caused his draft stock to fall, then a ruptured achilles tendon have both contributed to him never being fully healthy. Clayborn had knee surgery which limited him, but then was put in a horrible situation where Schiano was basically trying to hide him by moving him all over, standing him up, and running a stunt on nearly every play. With Clayborn, it may not be the injury so much as the scheme. Behind those two, we have Gholston and Means that have both showed promise and may be exceeding potential based on draft status. And then we have our new addition, Michael Johnson. After a spectacular 2012 season, his numbers fell off last year. Can Lovie and Frazier find a way to get any or all of these guys to maximize their potential? Will a change in coaching help? How about a different scheme with fewer line stunts that allow these players to "pin their ears back" and get after the QB?
Other defensive players to mention in reaching their potential are Mason Foster, Johnthan Banks, Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson. Most have shown some promise at some point so far, but each has had issues. Foster often starts off like a Pro Bowl-er, then fades as the season wears on. Banks is young, mentored by Revis, but will a Tampa 2 zone suit him better or worse? Barron has flashed well, but not consistently enough to warrant his draft status. And Goldson has become the poster-child of the NFL rules violation committee. As you can see, there is a boat load of potential all through the defense, but we really must see the staff find ways to get each player to maximize it.
The offense was nearly a complete overhaul and is not the strength of our head coach. Jeff Tedford is a complete unknown at the NFL level, so we have no idea how his offense will help these players maximize and play up to their potential. And plenty of these guys will need to show that they can meet or exceed the potential they've shown. Evan Dietrich-Smith has only started one full season in the NFL, and Anthony Collins has never started a full season. Both have wonderful limited stats, but can either of them continue to play at that level for a full season (or a 2nd season in EDS case)? Josh McCown is another player who was fantastic in limited time last year, but over his career? Not so much. Has he finally figured out how to hit his potential and maintain it? We have several new receivers, with Mike Evans being a physical beast, but very raw when it comes to playing WR with only 3 years on the field. ASJ has a stress fracture he is recovering from. Herron is coming from a smaller school, can he translate what he's done to the "big boys" of the NFL?
None of these questions will really be answered until we get into the season (or beyond). But for discussion's sake, I'm curious what any of you would do to maximize the potential on this team? Maximize the potential of a single player or group of players, but I'd love to know if you would employ a specific scheme to play to a player's strengths or would you simply give up on certain individuals and concentrate on another at the same position? Do you think the staff is the right one to get the most out of the players we have? How long will it take to translate into results on the field? Right now we have a 90 man roster, limited information on schemes, and a whole lot of time on our hands until training camp. Good time for meaningless discussions.