We are officially in the Bruce Arians era.
While it still may be a dream to some that he is the new head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the reality has set in for others. Now, it’s time to take a look into the future and see what Arians and the staff he brings in have gotten themselves into.
As we all know, the Bucs are very talented in multiple areas across their roster. But there are still many areas that need improvement.
These next few months will be integral when it comes to setting up the future for Arians and the Bucs. Let’s dive in and see what’s in store.
1. Jameis Winston
This is by far and away the easiest dot to connect.
Winston was the number one overall draft pick in 2015. Despite his initial hold on the “franchise quarterback” label, his future status with the team is uncertain as he heads into year five. A lot of that has to do with his decisions off the field and his play on the field.
Enter Bruce Arians.
Arians is known for his tough, hold-everyone-accountable style of coaching. His coach ‘em hard and hug ‘em later style hails straight from the Bear Bryant days. Just ask Larry Fitzgerald about one of his first experiences with Arians after he took over as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals in 2013.
Based off of Arians’ past, he will get after Winston when it is necessary. Even though he seems to be on the right track since the Uber incident, it doesn’t hurt to have someone that keep Winston’s feet to the fire - in a good way - when it comes to making the right decisions off the field.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that the two have a close relationship. Arians has known Winston since he was a teenager growing up in Alabama. He even goes as far as referring to him as “Jaboo”.
And there is no doubt that Winston loves to be coached hard. Very hard. Arians will do just that and Winston will respond positively.
With Arians at the helm, not only does Winston have a proven winner in the NFL, but he also has a coach that understands the nuances of the position. If everything translates to the field, then this could become a perfect fit for the Bucs.
There are a lot of factors at play when it comes to the defense. What type of system will Todd Bowles choose to run? Will it be a 3-4, 4-3, or hybrid base? Do the Bucs have the personnel to run a 3-4 base?
All of those questions will be answered in time, but the main point here is that something has to be done with the defense. Considering how potent the offense was in 2018, it’s reasonable to think that the Bucs can make it to the postseason if the defense can just become average.
Another point to consider is that Bowles loves to put his cornerbacks in man-to-man situations. Tampa Bay ran off-man coverage for the past three years under Mike Smith, so it will be a pretty drastic change in philosophy for the Bucs’ corners.
Instead of lining up 7-10 yards off the line of scrimmage, look for the corners to line up directly across the line from their assigned man and try to throw them off their routes. This should play well into the hands of Carlton Davis III, but it remains to be seen how it will affect the other players.
Depending on what he wants to run, it may be a rough first year under Bowles. But Bucs fans won’t be too disappointed as long as there is some sign of progress or improvement throughout the year.
3. Offensive line
It’s not likely, but this unit could be without three starters from 2018. Left tackle Donovan Smith is no longer under contract, right guard Caleb Benenoch is Caleb Benenoch, and right tackle Demar Dotson’s play declined noticeably last season.
The only starters that are guaranteed to return are left guard Ali Marpet and center Ryan Jensen. If cutting Jensen in 2019 didn’t cost the Bucs $10 million, then there would be no guarantee that he returns, either.
By far and away the worst position group on offense, Arians and his staff need to find a way to solidify the offensive trenches. There are some pretty decent options in this year’s free agent class and the draft features some studs as well - namely Jonah Williams out of Alabama.
It won’t take long for Arians and his staff to figure out that this group needs a serious upgrade. Whether it’s through free agency or the draft is up to them, but if they return the same five from last season, there won’t be much reason to think the offense will be better than it was in 2018.
4. The need for a vertical threat
It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next couple of months. Arians’ offense is a vertical offense, so it’s paramount that he has a player who can stretch the field.
The Bucs already have that player in DeSean Jackson, but everyone knows that he hasn’t been happy in Tampa Bay. All signs point to Jackson leaving the Bucs in 2019.
If that were to happen, then Tampa Bay would be in dire need of a vertical threat. Even though Mike Evans led all receivers with at least 42 catches in yards per catch (17.7), he isn’t known for his speed. Neither is Chris Godwin, Adam Humphries, or O.J. Howard.
If Jackson does in fact leave the Bucs, who could they go after? Just like the offensive line, we would have to look at free agency and the draft for potential replacements.
Would Arians be up for a reunion with Ravens wideout John Brown? His best years came under Arians and he will be a free agent this offseason. Some other names to look for in free agency would be Tyrell Williams, Phillip Dorsett, and possibly Josh Gordon.
But if none of those guys work out, there is always the draft. It’d be naive to think that Arians won’t look for a vertical threat this offseason. Expect the Bucs to make a solid move in this area.
5. The need for a reliable kicker
There really isn’t much to say about this other than the fact that Tampa Bay’s special teams have been absolutely dreadful over the past half decade.
It all started when the Bucs decided to let Conner Barth walk in 2015. As a team, the Bucs had missed just 15 field goals from 2013-2015. But that wasn’t good enough.
Jason Licht got the wonderful idea to trade up to draft Roberto Aguayo in the second round of the 2016 draft and since then, everything has been downhill. Tampa Bay has seen five kickers come through the doors of One Buc and 24 missed field goals during the past three seasons.
24. Missed. Field. Goals. In. Three. Seasons.
That is absurd. And that number doesn’t even include missed extra points.
Cairo Santos didn’t do much to quell the problems in 2018, either. There is no guarantee that he will be around for 2019.
You could almost feel every ounce of energy drain from every fan and player after each missed attempt since 2016.
This is more of a plea for help than anything, really. Please, Bruce. Fix this.