The Tampa Bay Buccaneers start their 2016 training camp today, as the rookies come in and report. That means we’re going to see a whole lot of training camp pre- and reviews over the next few days. Peter King of The MMQB went through the biggest questions for each team, and took the boring route for the Bucs.
TAMPA BAY: Can Dirk Koetter justify the faith GM Jason Licht placed in him? There were a few prominent Bucs not happy to see Lovie Smith get whacked after the season. Koetter now has the job of ushering Jameis Winston into his maturing year as starting quarterback and making sure he shows 53 players he’s up to the head-coaching task. He’ll need cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, the rookie, to show up big early to boost a flagging secondary, so Winston doesn’t have to score 31 a week to have a chance.
Well, Winston didn’t have to score 31 a week to stand a chance last year, either. In fact, had Winston scored 31 points per week, the Bucs would have lost just four games, and tied three. After all: the team’s scoring offense was ranked just 20th last season — they didn’t do all that great a job either, mostly because of turnovers and a failure to put the ball into the endzone.
This isn’t the most important question, though, at least not to me. That’s more about Mike Smith and his ability to turn around a defense that saw a few personnel changes, but is also relying on his supposedly superior coaching ability. The Bucs defense appeared to be on the right track at the end of the 2014 season, but Lovie Smith taking over playcalling and getting more involved on defense saw them sliding backwards and failing to deliver a consistent performance in 2015. That has to be turned around, and Dirk Koetter is relying heavily on his old boss and co-worker to get that done.
The ability to do that will rely in no small part on the impact of little-known pass-rushers like Howard Jones, Jacquies Smith and Noah Spence. Robert Ayers was the only free agent of note added to the defensive line, and he won’t be able to turn around the pass rush on his own. The secondary, too, needs to take some depths — though at least there there were more additions, at least at the cornerback position.
Overall, I tend to think those question marks are a lot more significant than whether or not Dirk Koetter can prove his worthy. After all, we pretty much know what he’ll do opn offense. Defense is where it’s at.