Pro Football Focus has been pretty negative about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ position groups in their NFL rankings, but we’ve found two exceptions. One of them should not be a surprise: they see Doug Martin and Charles Sims as the second-best running back group in the NFL, which makes sense given that they’re the most productive pair of backs in the league.
Martin and Sims obviously played very well last year in basically every aspect of the game, though the Dougernaut had a few too many fumbles. That’s a minor part of his overall performance, though, and PFF particularly liked his ability to break tackles — an aspect of his game that was missing in the previous two years. Both Sims and Martin ranked in the top five of PFF’s “elusive rating”.
The other group that did very well in PFF’s eyes is, surprisingly, the Bucs’ receivers. Despite Vincent Jackson being hobbled by injury and despite Mike Evans’ occasional issues with drops, and despite the team’s complete lack of depth given Louis Murphy’s torn ACL, the team’s receivers rank ninth in PFF’s estimation.
As quarterback Jameis Winston grows, his ability to throw the ball to two big, talented receivers in Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans should be huge for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offense. 19th and 23rd in terms of 2015 overall grades, respectively, Evans and Jackson have impressed in consecutive seasons. Jackson struggled with injury in 2015, catching just 33 passes, but averaged 16.5 yards per reception to make the most of his targets. Evans averaged 16.3 yards per reception himself, racking up 1,206 yards in his second NFL season. He’ll want to improve on finding the end zone more in 2016—he recorded 12 touchdowns in 2014, but just three last season. Dropped passes is another area that Evans needs to mend, with 15 drops from 89 catchable targets in 2015. If he can fix those issues, he can really impress in 2016.
It’s somewhat fascinating that PFF doesn’t appear to mind Evans’ drops that much. Usually, their grading system is very harsh on fundamental errors, but either drops don’t really count, these drops weren’t so much drops as just tough catches that weren’t made (my guess), or Evans was so good as an overall receiver that he can afford 15 drops on 89 catchable targets. That bodes well for the future, especially given the fact that the Bucs have made it a priority to work on Evans’ hands this offseason.