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These two positions must improve for the Buccaneers to win in 2018

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After a solid offseason, Tampa Bay still has some lingering questions on their roster.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Can Brent Grimes anchor the secondary again?
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

So far during the offseason, there really hasn’t been anything negative said about the moves Tampa Bay has made thus far. There has definitely been a wide-ranging discussion about what could’ve happened and what should’ve happened, but at the end of the day, most will agree that they are happy with this team so far in 2018.

But not everything in life is sunshine and puppy dogs. Tampa Bay fans should know this all too well.

Despite some of the better offseason moves seen around One Buc Place in quite a while, Tampa still has a couple of big questions on their roster.

The secondary, specifically cornerback.

The Bucs re-signed Brent Grimes and Keith Tandy in the offseason and drafted three defensive backs in April to help hold down the secondary. While the influx of talent was desperately needed, the Bucs are still very young and the cornerback is pretty thin as a whole.

If Grimes goes down, then Tampa will be in big trouble. Rookie second-round pick Carlton Davis has shown flashes so far at rookie OTAs, but struggled a bit when voluntary practices began.

Keep in mind that Davis is a rookie and that this is May. There is plenty of time for him to get better.

Apparently, that didn’t take long to happen. Davis progressed as the day went on and head coach Dirk Koetter took notice:

“He’s off to a good start, he’s off to a really good start. He did take some reps with the first group today. Again, it’s day one of Phase Three, but where he was drafted, that’s for a reason. He’s showed up so far.” - Dirk Koetter

Bucs Nation’s own Jon Marchant brilliantly details how Davis can be a game-changer for the Bucs in 2018, but the question remains if he will be able to get to that level in his first season.

Tampa also drafted M.J. Stewart and Jordan Whitehead, however the latter has missed some time due to a hamstring injury. Fortunately the Bucs have decent depth at safety and Whitehead will likely be back soon, but they certainly can’t afford to lose any other players to serious injury during the season.

General manager Jason Licht said earlier in the week that the Bucs plan to use Stewart both inside and out, providing Tampa with necessary depth, but will he be able to elevate the play of the secondary?

The youth and inexperience at the position will also play a big factor and there are questions with current group of corners on the roster. Will the rookies be able to handle the learning curve? Will Ryan Smith and Vernon Hargreaves III develop into the starters they are thought to be? Can Brent Grimes keep playing at a high level?

Drafting Derwin James would have eased a lot of these concerns because he would’ve solidified the back end of the secondary, allowing less pressure on the cornerbacks to avoid getting beat deep - which would also help their off-man coverage scheme. But the Bucs seemed to have drafted a player who could help out the defensive backfield - albeit somewhat indirectly - in defensive tackle Vita Vea.

Vea and the defensive line could be the wild card in this equation. If they step up as expected, it would help mask the potential deficiencies in the secondary.

Until then, the Bucs will have to grow with their young secondary and it’s almost guaranteed there will be some pains during the maturation process.

The kicking game, specifically kicker.

It was basically a coin toss between this and the offensive line, but with the addition of Ryan Jensen, the line seems to be in good hands and has pretty good depth overall.

So, that leaves us with the one position that has been an absolute disaster for Tampa over the past few years.

Yes. The kicking game. The position that kept Tampa out of the playoffs in 2016 (see Robert Aguayo vs the Rams). The position that kept the Bucs from beating New England last season. The position that has ranked no better than 20th in the league in terms of accuracy over the past five seasons.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Carolina Panthers
Roberto Aguayo was an unmitigated disaster.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Tampa may have finally found their guy in former New York Jet Chandler Catanzaro, but this franchise has been the equivalent of a shellfish allergy for kickers. Odds are Catanzaro will heal this tumultuous time, but it also wouldn’t be surprising if he crashes and burns harder than Chris Baker on a bull rush.

Unfortunately for the Bucs, a kicker’s mentality is more key than anything when it comes to having success. There isn’t really much coaching that goes into it, but on the other hand, it could be a good thing that Tampa’s coaching staff can’t have much of an effect on Catanzaro.

Tampa lost seven games last season by six points or less. They made a pitiful 61.5% (8/13) of their field goal attempts in those games. I mean, 61.5% isn’t even a very good completion percentage for a quarterback anymore.

An improved kicking game could easily turn the tide in the Bucs’ favor.

If these two positions can improve in a big way for Tampa in 2018 - then look out. But until then, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

A quick thought:

I really wanted to put Tampa’s coaching staff as one of these two, but I am not sure if the coaching staff counts as a “position”. Regardless, they need to step it up too!

Poll

What is the biggest concern for the Bucs in 2018?

This poll is closed

  • 49%
    Secondary
    (240 votes)
  • 8%
    Kicking Game
    (43 votes)
  • 29%
    Coaching Staff
    (143 votes)
  • 7%
    Offensive Line
    (35 votes)
  • 5%
    Other
    (25 votes)
486 votes total Vote Now