1. Who is the easiest player on the roster to root for?
Now that Ronde Barber has retired, it would have to be the Muscle Hamster himself, Mr. Doug Martin. He's quiet, but personable. He's a nice, unassuming guy. And, most importantly, he's a great and consistent football player who hasn't made any dumb mistakes. He's everything you'd want out of a running back, and to do what he did as a rookie endeared him to many people.
2. If you could buy a ticket to just one game this year...
I'd go to the week 10 game against the Miami Dolphins. Monday Night Football is nice, and the intrastate rivalry adds a little flavor as well. But the biggest reason is simple: that's the night Warren Sapp gets inducted into the Buccaneers' Ring of Honor, and it's when we get to celebrate his Hall of Fame induction.
Sapp is one of the best players to ever put on a Tampa Bay uniform, and his larger-than-life personality has always been a source of entertainment for me. That's the one game I'd go see.
3. What were the notable roster cuts this offseason?
There really weren't too many significant roster cuts this year, which probably says something about the Bucs' depth -- or about their salary cap management. Cutting Eric Wright was a bit of a surprise after the Bucs managed to get him to accept an incredibly cheap contract. But a DUI arrest explained that rather quickly. He never fit in with Greg Schiano's culture, it seems.
The final round of cuts didn't bring many surprises. Cody Grimm had been a special teams stalwart and occasional starter at free safety, but injuries in recent years had caused him to fall down the depth chart. Gary Gibson was the veteran backup at nose tackle, but the emergence of rookie Akeem Spence quickly made him superfluous. Chris Owusu dominated training camp, but looked awful in the first preseason game and was injured for the remaining three.
Overall, none of those roster cuts can be called surprising or even notable, but they're the most significant cuts the Bucs made.
4. Which second year player is going to make the biggest leap?
Mark Barron is going to stand out in a big way this season. He struggled through most of his rookie season, although he played well at the start and end of the season. He seemed especially lost in deep coverage, which shouldn't be too surprising given the predominant in-the-box experience he had in college.
This season, he's going to get back to that. He'll see more time in the box, which will help him stand out and emphasize his strengths. More importantly, perhaps, he's taken some steps in pass coverage, which was his biggest weakness last season. Overall, Barron should be much improved this year.
5. What are the odds of your head coach getting fired?
I'll answer your question with a question: what are the odds of the Bucs winning fewer than seven games? If you answer that, I think you've got the likely answer to your question, too.
The past two seasons the Buccaneers have invested a lot of money in winning right now. Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks, Darrelle Revis, Dashon Goldson were all signed to massive contracts. Those are four All-Pros on both sides of the football. Many of the young players they're relying on are now turning into veterans who need to get past their 'potential'. The Bucs have a lot of talent on their team, and if Greg Schiano can't win with this group of players, then he could be in trouble.
The one exception may be if Josh Freeman implodes. If the quarterback situation becomes the main reason for a faltering season, the Glazers may look kindly on Schiano and give him another chance.
6. What franchise or NFL records could be broken this season?
I don't think the Buccaneers are going to threaten any NFL records, but franchise records should be eminently beatable. Doug Martin could post a franchise record in yards from scrimmage or rushing yards quite easily. Vincent Jackson could threaten the franchise receiving yards record. Josh Freeman broke franchise passing records last season, and he could do so again this year.
7. Which rookies will see regular playing time this year?
Johnthan Banks and Akeem Spence are the two most prominent rookies likely to receive playing time. Banks appears to be the second or third cornerback right now, behind Darrelle Revis and maybe Leonard Johnson. Danny Gorrer might be ahead of him, but he's injured at the moment. Banks has looked good in training camp, and should be stepping into the starting lineup quickly. Maybe not immediately, but he will see the field very frequently in nickel and dime packages.
As for Spence, he is now the team's starting nose tackle. The Bucs cut his only competition for the job, and they have no one to be a direct backup. He's custom-made for the tilted nose tackle position and has looked outstanding preseason.
A few other rookies who may get some playing time include Eric Page (who technically is a second-year player) as a return specialist and Steven Means and William Gholston as backup defensive ends.
8. Predict the order of finish in your division.
1. Falcons 2. Saints 3. Buccaneers 4. Panthers
I think the Atlanta Falcons will once again run away with the division, even though they face some big issues. The New Orleans Saints could put up a good challenge, but their defense is going to be a disaster. The Bucs have too many question marks for me to be very confident in their success, while the Carolina Panthers have a lot of good pieces, but a lot of very big holes as well.
9. What do you expect your season-end record will be?
8-8. The Bucs have talent at a lot of positions, but lackluster preseason play and a few question marks make me cautious for the upcoming season. Will Josh Freeman elevate his play? Can the Bucs manufacture a pass rush? Will Carl Nicks be back to his old self? Can Darrelle Revis fully recover from his torn ACL? How badly will the lack of a pass-catching tight end hurt? How will they cope with the inevitable injuries? There's too much uncertainty for me to be very confident in a positive ending.