The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have gone through major changes this offseason, with coaches, front office staff, and All Pro and Pro Bowl caliber players leaving town left and right.
Replacing Dominik, Schiano and Revis are the experienced and beloved Lovie Smith and his GM-buddy Jason Licht, and a gaggle of incoming free agents and draft picks that would appear to fit the new schemes and systems that will be run in Tampa next year.
But is the roster really better? We've been doing position by position previews this summer, and some positions are still up in the air, while others are definitely improved. But the folks at Pro Football Focus have provided their grades-based outlook on the Bucs roster, as they did last year, so we can get an outsider's perspective on the quality of the roster.
Grading The New Look Bucs
PFF have analyzed the Bucs' depth chart, and 14 of the 22 likely starters (plus kicker Connor Barth) rank as average or above. This includes "Elite" players Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David and a healthy amount of starters listed as "good," including newcomers Alterraun Verner, Anthony Collins and Michael Johnson.
There are some "Poor" starters, however, including likely non-starters Leonard Johnson and Akeem Spence. PFF also reminds us that Oniel Cousins probably shouldn't be starting any time soon, but make a controversial decision to grade Adrian Clayborn as a "Poor" starter while listing Da'Quan Bowers as merely "Below Average." But the good outweighs the bad when considering the entire roster.
Considering every position listed on the PFF depth chart, the Bucs have a roster that features 60.6% of "starters" at average or above, with an additional 10.7% without enough data for the website to analyze.
Overall, even with the differences in presentation, it seems like PFF sees the Tampa Bay roster as virtually the same quality as last year. 20 of the 38 players that were graded were found to be average or above, with only five "poor starters" to be found (and only one of them likely to be a starter to begin 2014, Adrian Clayborn).
Comparing against the NFC South
So how do the Bucs stack up to their division rivals? The Atlanta Falcons have no elite players, and a similar amount of below average talent as the Buccaneers. There are only two players who play impact positions graded as "High Quality" (the third is a punter), meaning that the Bucs have more at the top-end of their roster than the Falcons, but Atlanta has more average players than Tampa Bay for depth.
The Panthers also have no elite players, but have five High Quality players (but again, one is a punter). The Panthers have a similar amount of below-average players as the Bucs and Falcons, but have more "Good" starters than either team.
The Saints, unsurprisingly, have the best roster according to PFF. There are three elite starters and a total of 20 at "Good" or better, with only 8 below average and none listed as "poor." More than half of the teams starters are above average, indicative of the incredible amount of talent the Saints have built over the past few years.
Have the Bucs Improved?
Last year, the Bucs depth chart preview found that there were three elite players in starting positions: Vincent Jackson,Gerald McCoy and Darrelle Revis. There were 2 high quality starters, and five above average starters, meaning the Bucs had a roster with almost half of the starters at an above average quality.
Of course, among the above average players cited by PFF were the soon-to-be-injured-and-shipped-out-of-town Mike Williams, the frustrating Donald Penn, rookie defensive tackle Akeem Spence, and disappointing safety Dashon Goldson.
As for the "average" players? Mid-season release Kevin Ogletree and rising star Demar Dotson both wound up with that designation. When it came to below average players, the Bucs had several, including both guards (Carimi and Joseph), QB Josh Freeman and linebackers Mason Foster and Dekoda Watson.
Overall, the Bucs had 15 of 22 starters at average or above, although a couple of the designations are debatable.
So are the Bucs better off than last year? According to PFF, not really. Of course, just like they were wrong in either direction about a handful of players last year, they're certain to be wrong about a few this year.
However, the biggest change in Tampa will be those calling the plays and designing the schemes and gameplans for the players. Last year's staff seemed to get as little as possible out of the starters which seemed by all accounts (including PFF's) to be pretty good. Bucs fans can only hope this year's crew can do better.
(Spoiler warning: They probably will.)