For over 2 years we’ve been hearing about the youth movement happening in Tampa. We’ve been hearing about how much the Buccaneers invested in their defensive line. We’ve heard about all the Bucs high draft picks. There are those, myself included, who have killed the Buccaneers front office for not going out with one of the lowest payrolls and one of the youngest teams in the league, and signing a marquee free agent.
Now with 3 full drafts in the "Rahminick" era in the books, I have to happily eat a little crow. Not because we’ve become world beaters over the last 2 years but because you can see that we have positioned ourselves for success over a sustained period of time.
The first few weeks of the season were pretty rough but the one thing you could see from week to week was the improvement. We got a little bit better each week then we played our first real complete game of the season last week. It was far to easy to get discouraged those first weeks but after watching our performance last week you could almost see the light come on. It was one of those games where Mark Dominik had to be watching with a bit of a smile on his face. I can just picture him chuckling as he thought to himself, "I put these guys together."
Of course being football nothing is guaranteed. A single injury can derail a young up and coming team in no time. However barring Josh Freeman’s arm falling off I think everyone is starting to realize that we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.
Think about this:
Josh Freeman is 23 years old. Aaron Rodgers was 24 when he started his first career NFL game in 2008.
Our oldest defensive lineman is 26 years old. Tim Crowder is 26 and Michael Bennett is 25. Roy Miller is 24. Everyone else on the defensive line is 23 or younger.
Our linebackers are all 27 or younger. Adam Hayward and Quincy Black are both 27. Mason Foster is 22, Geno Hayes is 24, and Dakota Watson is 23.
Our oldest wide receiver is 28, that’s Michael Spurlock. Sammie Stroughter is 25. Everyone else is 24 or younger.
We keep hearing that the Bucs do not want to use youth as an excuse for being bad, but the simple fact is that with the exception of running back, younger players are generally not as good as experienced players. I realize there are of course exceptions to that rule however I’m speaking in a more general sense at this time. That being the case, knowing how much respect these young Buccaneers are getting at this time, imagine the type of terror we’re going to inspire around the league in 2 or 3 years. Thinking in the most optimistic sense possible let’s say each of our defensive line continues to develop and get better. We could have one of the deepest and most dominant defensive lines in football, and those guys will only just be entering their prime at that time.
Most of them will only be 25 or 26 years old including our last 4, 1st and 2nd round draft picks. The same will be true of our linebackers our wide receivers and our starting quarterback. If we invest in the secondary and the offensive line in the 2012 draft I really don’t see a weak spot on our team.
I always tend to trend towards the pessimistic so when I say this you have to understand who it’s coming from, I really believe that within the next 2 years we’re going to be the top or one of the best teams in the NFL.
We’re already a very good team. We’re hovering right around 10th in most of the power rankings and we’re getting a lot of love after that big win last week. We're winning close games and not letting any stage be too big for us. We're good and we're getting better.
All this is conjecture though depending on a huge number of variables. All we really know is the truth of what is happening right now and right now the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 4-2 with a huge game against the Chicago Bears. Regardless of what happens for the rest of this season I am going to stand by my prediction that much in the same way no one wants to see the Green Bay Packers on their schedule this year, no one is going to want to see us on their schedule for a long time.
So let’s make our boys feel like champions, because I believe that’s just the direction that we’re heading and my guess is I’m not the only one thinking that way. Am I right Bucs Nation?