The Bucs have ended their offseason workouts and we are now entering the dreaded dead period before training camp. No more OTA’s. No more mini camp. No more videos or articles about what players are doing at One Buc Place. Nothing. So, you know what that means? Prediction season is now upon us! Six weeks of fans, writers and television show hosts breaking down what teams need to do to be successful heading into the 2018 season. NFL.com writer Adam Risk recently dove into why each team in the NFC South will make the playoffs. I’m going to touch on some points he made about the Bucs.
Risk believes that Jameis Winston will be a big reason why the Buccaneers make the playoffs. I couldn't agree more. While the Bucs signal caller has had a very up and down start to his career, his statistical production has improved every year he’s been in the league. His 2017 can be looked at in two ways, injury and post injury. Yes, there were still some “what just happened?!” moments once he came back from injury, but I’m talking specifically about how he threw the ball. Winston was extremely efficient behind a injury ravaged offensive line. Over the final 5 games his average completion percentage was 67.2% and his passer rating was 103.9. Behind an improved offensive line, I think 2018 will be a continuation (minus some of the turnovers) of those final 5 games.
Mike Evans, Cameron Brate and Ronald Jones all make the list, but I want to talk about the defense. On paper, it’s the best defense the Bucs have had since probably 2008 when Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber were still roaming the sidelines. The defense, and specifically the defensive line, in my opinion, will be the biggest factor in the Bucs making the playoffs. The Bucs upgraded at defensive end, defensive tackle, and cornerback. They were dead last in yards per game (378.1), passing yards (260.6), 23rd in rush yards (117.5), and points per game (23.9). Those numbers have to improve and with the offseason talent infusion, I‘d wager they‘ll be a lot lower in 2018. The defense was put in position late in the fourth quarter to either hold a lead or tie in five games last season — they were unable to in all of them. A 10-6 season would have secured a playoff berth.
I should clarify that the defense isn’t solely to blame for the Bucs 5-11 season. They had a rash of injuries, lacked talent all over the field and were often put in terrible positions after an offensive turnover. The offense didn’t hold up their end of the bargain in far too many games to take some pressure off the defense. Highlighting the 5 blown leads/ties just shows how close the Bucs were last season to more wins, despite all the bad luck they endured. The defense finally has the tools to go out and consistently control games on their side of the ball. Heading into the season, Tampa Bay fans should have confidence that if the Bucs have a lead late in the 4th, that the defense will slam the door shut and secure the win. Everything is in place for a huge turnaround by the defense.
Do you agree with Adam’s list of reasons? What would be your 5 reasons the Bucs make the playoffs?