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Buccaneers training camp roundtable: Predicting the season, and bold claims

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We asked every one of our writers to predict the season, come up with some bold predictions, and give us their opinion on where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Training camp is around the corner, the regular starts in less than two months and the NFL is gearing back up. Which means season predictions are coming into play. So we asked every one of our writers to give his opinion on the upcoming season, including a lot of names you haven't seen in quite a while. Enjoy!

Lee Caswell

After the Greg Schiano experiment in totalitarianism ended Bucs' fans breathed a sigh of relief when it was quickly revealed that his replacement would be a prodigal son. Lovie Smith returns to Tampa after a one year hiatus from coaching. In my opinion there are just as many reasons to be wary of Smith as excited about him, but in this case the old adage rings true; could it really get any worse?

The defense should indeed be remarkable. Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David are a glory to behold. Mark Barron has supposedly been putting in serious work all offseason, There are Pro Bowl players at every level of the defense, and Michael Johnson, and (ATV) Verner are just icing on the cake. There is no excuse for Frazier's boys not to be a top five defense this year. All the pieces are there.

The offense is a different story, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited. A ton of money and draft picks went into completely flipping around the debacle that was last year. Will Josh McCown live up to the hype? I personally doubt it, but sure as Hell hope so. Will the twin towers of the 2014 draft (Evans and Sefarian-Jenkins) make an immediate impact? Will Charles Sims cut into Doug Martin's playing time? Will Mike James make a full recovery and/or even get to see the field after his spectacularly brief stint as a human battering ram last season?

There are so many questions up in the air this year, and for the first time in a long time, hope abounds.

Bold Prediction: ATV gets 10 interceptions in his first season in Tampa.

Season Predition: Bucs finish 9-7, compete for wild card.

JC De La Torre

I truly can't remember a season with this much change in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization. Between management and player moves, there has literally been no off-season here at Bucs Nation. The biggest question is - did it may the Bucs better this year? I'm reminded of story of the new coach (whose name escapes me - maybe Chuck Noll?), addressing his team for the first time. He said, "Gentlemen, we're going to win the Super Bowl here; only most of you won't be here to see it." That coach took a few years to build a champion but Lovie Smith learned the hard way in today's NFL you don't have that time any more.

Lovie said it often since his hiring. "We are a 4-12 team". In explaining every move: "We were 4-12."
Revis. "We were 4-12 with him."
McCown supplanting Glennon. "He was 4-10 as a starter."
Decimating the entire offensive line, "They were a 4-12 line."

From the GM to the ball boy, to the uniforms, we have a new Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise and Lovie isn't waiting around to "rebuild". There's no rebuilding in the NFL. You advance to the playoffs or you're fired - period. Raheem's 10-6 season and 4-2 start before the wheels came off didn't save him. Heck, Lovie went 10-6 in Chicago and got fired because they lost out on a tie-breaker.

I have my questions and doubts regarding some of the signings (Mike Jenkins and Louis Murphy) and I'm slowly coming around on the draft picks (okay they appear to have gotten the right star from Texas A&M). There's one thing I do believe is improved - the morale of the football team. Schiano was a dictator and wasn't right for the NFL game. Lovie knows how to coach men. He will elevate this defense to the level we've been waiting to see it reach. The Tampa Two is back and the Bucs have two players to build it around in Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David.

I hope Michael Johnson recaptures that player that was a terror on the edge. I hope Josh McCown can find his inner Rich Gannon and be the QB who can get enough points on the board consistently to help this team win a lot of games.

There's a lot that has to come together quickly. Can it be done? Sure, it happened in Kansas City. But there won't be a favorable schedule helping out the Bucs. The Saints are a beast. Atlanta can still put points on the board (even if they can't stop anybody) and Carolina has that menacing defense. It's a tough division. I think the Bucs can compete but I'm not sure if it will all come together to win enough to beat out New Orleans for a division title.

Bold Prediction: Robert Herron leads all Bucs rookies in touchdowns.

Season Prediction: 9-7, 2nd in the NFC South, no playoffs.

Leo Howell

Doesn't it always end up this way for the Buccaneers?

Tampa Bay enters yet another season with a promising looking defense, but questions on the offensive side of things for what feels like the 50th season running. The franchise has only finished in the top-10 in points scored once in franchise history, and doesn't seem poised to repeat that feat in 2014.

But that's the way Buccaneer fans like it. Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David lead a strong defense that's been bolstered by the additions of Michael Johnson and Clinton McDonald, while Josh McCown assumes the Brad Johnson/Rich Gannon/Brian Griese role of "please don't screw this up for us, old man."

New head coach Lovie Smith doesn't bring with him a stellar track record of leading strong offenses, either, and those responsibilities will instead be placed on the shoulders of former Cal coach Jeff Tedford, who seems to be a progressive thinker unlike the past few Buccaneer offensive coordinators.

(Well, other than Jeff Jagodzinski, but we know how that turned out...)

There are as many questions that must be answered as there are reasons to be excited, and for the members of Bucs Nation, that's pretty much exactly what we've grown to expect.

Bold Prediction: Doug Martin rushes for 1000 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Season Prediction: Buccaneers finish 10-6, do not advance in playoffs.


Each summer we're optimistic for a positive turnaround with all of the "ifs" we tack onto the second half of our musings. We're going to contend for the division if the players pick up the defense, the running game repeats its success, or Revis is mostly healthy. Should everything fall into place this campaign will be a success.

All of the other clubs cross their fingers for the identical thing and most come away disappointed. This offseason has given me an entirely different breed of hope. After half a decade, we have a known quantity at head coach. This feeling is oddly familiar as I have to reach back into 2008 to experience it. Gruden gave the team a chance each year- more than the puncher's chance we've suffered through lately. Lovie puts the team in a similar position, and with his talent for evaluating personnel it's arguably a better one. He's going to field a competitive team- and that assurance is far from what we had with the most recent two coaches.

Turning our attention toward the division, New Orleans will obviously field the most complete team as it's the only one with both a competent offense and defense. Atlanta's offense is going to have to carry the team, and without Gonzalez. The other side of the ball for them hasn't shown up in years. Carolina's D is more than going to keep them in games but win some, while Cam Newton is going to struggle to score with every possession. Tampa should have a defense that's in the top half of the league, which will be a vast improvement. While they appear as though they are preparing to field a coherent offense, it stands to reason the Bucs should finish at least ahead of Atlanta come January.

Bold Prediction: Carl Nicks plays fewer than 4 games, Dashon Goldson misses 0 games due to suspension, Johnthan Banks leads the team in interceptions, and Michael Johnson tallies fewer than 9 sacks.

Season Prediction: 8-8, 3rd in NFC South

Gur Samuel

The 2014 season promises so much for Buccaneer fans - so I can't help but feel that the first campaign of the Lovie Smith era will be one marked primarily by frustration. There are plenty of reasons to be excited for 2014, don't get me wrong, but there are just a few areas that leave me with doubts over how quick a turn around we will actually see.

This frustration that I predict for Bucs fans will, I'm afraid, come from the distinct gap that will appear between the defense and the offense. The D has essentially all the pieces in place to be the best defensive side the Bucs have put on the field since Monte Kiffin decided to follow his son into the college world. Clinton McDonald will be a revelation next to Gerald McCoy, forming the most productive DL interior the NFL has seen since the peak of the "Williams Wall" that wreaked havoc for Minnesota under the watch of Leslie Frazier. Lavonte David will finally get the recognition he should have gotten last year, having his name known as familiarly by the casual NFL fan as it currently is among the more serious game film aficionado. The back end won't be spectacular, but will be solid in all areas. In all, it will look like "Buc ball" again...

...with all that comes with: anaemic offenses. As excited as I am for the Buccaneer defense, I have significant concerns over the team's O. Among the concerns is the lack of experience in the receiving corp behind Vincent Jackson, and questions over what Jeff Tedford's offense will look like, and how successful it will be in the NFL (after all, Schiano's Rutgers playbook didn't do much for the Bucs' D over the past two years, so worries over Tedford's schemes are fair).

But the one thing that concerns me above all is the heart of any offense - the five guys who keep the quarterback's jersey clean and rips open running lanes in the defense for the backs. More specifically, it's the guard position that really, really worries me. Trading Jeremy Zuttah still remains a head-scratcher for me, as he'd had been a far better option than Jamon Meredith or Patrick Omameh, and while financially the only option the Buccaneers realistically had over Carl Nicks was to keep him on the roster and hope that he gets healthy, the failure to put in place a 'plan B' in the (sadly all-too-likely) event that Nicks cannot take the field is nothing short of heinously negligent.

Weakness up the middle of the line means one thing - pressure on Josh McCown coming regularly and coming quickly. It will be a real challenge for McCown to come close to recreating his 2013 form if he has DTs bearing down on him before he's even completed his drop, yet Evan Dietrich-Smith can't block two people at the same time. Of concern to me is that McCown won't have success because of this failure of the offensive line - yet the result won't be fingers pointed at the guards, but rather at McCown (because as we all know, quarterbacks get far too much of the credit when things go right, and far too much of the blame when things go wrong), leading to another ugly quarterback controversy created by rabid fans and sports journalists too reliant on old cliched storylines. The failure to seriously address the guard position will be the downfall of the Buccaneers' offense in 2014, and as massively improved as the defense will be, they won't yet be able to carry the team to a winning record.

Bold Prediction: Clinton McDonald has more sacks than Michael Johnson; Gerald McCoy breaks Warren Sapp's record for most single-season sacks in Buccaneers history; Tim Wright leads the Buccaneers in touchdowns

Season Prediction: 8-8, 3rd in NFC South


An eventful offseason has brought new hope into the fanbase of the Buccaneers. All throughout the summer I have been reading articles about how the Buccaneers will be great this year, how they spent their money wisely, and how they have a top-notch coach who will bring them out of their misery. Unfortunately, this is the same kind of talk that happened with the past two coaches. Yet... I am still falling for it. Every single year I let my passion for the Buccaneers get the better of me and for the past 6 years I have been let down. I remember the collapse, week 13, December 8th, 2008. I watched the game on tv and was utterly stunned. I couldn't believe what I was watching. Run after run after run was being called by the Panthers and the Bucs were just letting them do it. It was like watching Kick Ass when they are beating/burning Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage).

Just like Big Daddy beating villains, I had seen the Bucs defense take over when games seemed out of reach. But not that day. That day the Bucs, just like Big Daddy in the movie, died. I even let myself regain hope when Antonio Bryant made that spectacular one handed touchdown grab, which to this day is still the greatest catch I have ever seen. But the Panthers would win that day and the Buccaneers would spiral out of control and crash to where they are now. But that downfall is a different topic; this post is about my predictions for the season.

As I said earlier, I have become excited about the team's chances again due to their offseason moves. Acquired Alterraun Verner for a substantially cheaper price tag than Darrelle Revis (thank goodness I bought the Martin jersey that year). Picking up Clinton McDonald to provide yet another strong force up the middle. I remember how we all thought Brian Price and McCoy would be our dominant tandem in the middle for years to come. That ship has sailed, but McDonald is a very promising talent and I think he will help free McCoy to wreak havoc. Michael Johnson will bring in the edge rusher the Bucs have been looking for in what feels like forever. And I really think Clayborn or Bowers will step up their game. I feel quite pumped for this defensive line.

Our cornerbacks will have improved after a year, and oh! Let's not forget Leslie Frazier will be combining with Love Smith to unleash what is sure to be a fierce defense. I am unsure of our new offensive coordinator but his college stats are quite impressive, especially when you look at the talent he has produced. The draft sure as hell ensured Josh McCown will have targets to throw to, but will he have anyone to block for him? Anthony Collins was a good pickup, but I would certainly have like more. It seems each offseason we leave one group unaddressed, or at least lacking serious depth. I am excited for Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins to hit the field though, as I cannot imagine how corners are going to be able to cover the Bucs massive receivers. I am excited about the team, about the talent, and about the new coaching staff. For the first time in years, we have a coaching staff that we know can produce results. Lovie took the Bears to the Superbowl, Lelsie Frazier kept the Vikings defense strong, and Jeff Tedford produced a lot of NFL talent on offense in college.

Bold prediction: 10-6. And that is a very plausible bold prediction too. When I first started this post I thought I would have the Bucs at 4-12, but writing about all these new pieces has got me thinking we definitely have a chance against every one of these teams. Go Bucs!

Season prediction: 6-10. This schedule is a tough one, and although I see a lot of promise in the Bucs, I think we are still a year or two away from being playoff contenders. Certainly a proven quarterback away. Although, I hope Josh proves me wrong.


When you look at the "offseason" the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had, it would be very easy to dismiss the team as an east coast Oakland Raiders wannabe. The casual observer will surely look at the team and overlook the wealth of talent and youth the Bucs possess. However when you really look at what the Bucs have done, there's only one way I would choose to describe them if I were an opposing coach or team.


When you look at everything Tampa has going for it right now it's hard to not be optimistic and more than a little nervous if they're on the schedule. We have the best defensive tackle in the game, period. We have the best outside linebacker in the game, period. We have one of the tallest, most talented, and most imposing receiving corps in the league. We have one of the deepest stables of running backs in the league. We have atop 10 head coach who is proven at the NFL level. If Josh McCown can produce anywhere near the level he did in Chicago last year the Tampa Bay offense will be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.


All that being said I'm trying to temper my expectations. We have huge question marks along the offensive line and throwing in the fact that most teams need some time to come together I could see us losing more games than winning, however I could also see us challenging for the division title. Regardless of the outcome I believe the days of getting blown out by anyone are over. Get ready to grind Tampa because the Bucs are back!

Bold Prediction: Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David will both finish in the top 5 in defensive player of the year voting and one of them will bring home that award. I also see a big bounce back for the Douggernaught with 1400+ all-purpose yards.

Season Prediction: I think the Bucs are going to surprise some people. I think Lovie will bring an edge and attitude to this team that has been missing since Dungy left. I think we will end at 10-6 and make the playoffs as a wild card.


Every summer seems to bring hope to Bucs Nation- and for the last five years, every fall negates that hope. As the Lovie Smith era begins, it's all too easy to feel that hope yet again. Solid, professional coaches at the helm after the disastrous Morris and Schiano regimes will do that to a fan. But as much as I do believe the Bucs have vastly improved this offseason, so much of how this team will perform on the field remains unknown- and I remain wary.

Josh McCown had a stellar season with Chicago in 2013 and has earned nothing but accolades from everyone in the organization. However, he has never been a started in his long career and his performance last year was a statistical outlier. I, of course, hope that he succeeds as our starting quarterback. But coupled with the continuing uncertainty on the interior of the offensive line, several rookie starters at skill positions, and a brand new scheme from an offensive coordinator who's never coached at the NFL level? Our offense remains an enigma for now. Even in the best case scenario (McCown looks like Rodgers, Evans is OROY, Nicks is back and 100%,, etc.), this offense is going to have to learn and gel together. Defense should be the strength of this team, but even so, there will also be a period of adjustment as the new additions and vets learn to play together.

Bold prediction: Despite the "Glennon is the future" assurances, Tampa Bay drafts a quarterback in the first round next spring.

Season prediction: 7-9, 3rd in the NFC South.

Sander Philipse

I'm very excited about this season. Probably more excited than I've been in quite some time. Lovie Smith is the best coach the Bucs have had since Jon Gruden, and arguably better than him. Jeff Tedford is probably the best offensive coordinator Lovie Smith has worked with as a head coach, and both the coaching staff and the talent on the roster are top-notch.

But that doesn't mean the Bucs don't have some questions to answer. How good can Josh McCown be? How quickly will Mike Evans adapt to the pro game? Who's going to start at either guard position?

Bold prediction: The Bucs will have the best defense in the NFL this season, led by Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David and a terrific performance by Michael Johnson. That group of players will lead the way for one of the most talented and well-coached defenses in the NFL.

Season Prediction: The Bucs will have a dominant defense, but their offense won't be as good. It can't be with the quarterbacks they have on hand. In the end, though, they'll do enough to vie for a wild card with a 9-7 or 10-6 finish.