With their hire of Bruce Arians, the Buccaneers have gotten a lot of buzz in the last month. Having a proven coach has quickly rejuvenated Tampa Bay’s fan base, even if there are still holes on the roster to fill in the coming months. It’s been an exciting time for the franchise, but the hype around Arians might not be enough for everyone to overlook the team’s other issues.
On Monday, ESPN.com’s Bill Barnwell projected Vegas win totals for each NFL team in 2019. For the Bucs, he set the over/under at 6.5. He addressed the team’s 3-6 record in one-possession games last year, but did note that Arians had a record of 29-12-1 in such games during his time with the Colts and Cardinals. But here’s where Barnwell has concerns about Tampa Bay in 2019:
The issues are, well, also perennial: Jameis Winston is unreliable on and off the field, the defense is coming off a horrific season, and the other three NFC South teams have a more plausible path to the postseason. Chances are that the Bucs will improve, but new coordinator Todd Bowles would need to turn around a woeful Bucs defense overnight to get Tampa into playoff consideration.
There are a few things to unpack there. Starting with the Jameis Winston point, I’m not sure “unreliable” is the right word to describe him. Inconsistent? Sure. There have been plenty of inconsistencies in his game, but he took significant steps forward down the stretch of last season. Heading into 2019 with Arians as his coach, Winston should be in a good position to succeed. As far as being “unreliable” off the field? It seems that his issues are behind him. Remember, the incident that caused his three-game suspension this past season happened in 2016. He is now a father and has often stated that he needs to be an example for his son. Overall, Winston feels out of place in terms of the rest of Barnwell’s concerns.
The defense is a legitimate concern, even with the addition of new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. The front seven has the potential to be pretty solid, but there is a ton of work to be done in the secondary. Brent Grimes is gone and Vernon Hargreaves III might need to work exclusively in the slot, so Tampa Bay has to fill that other outside corner position. The unit could also use help at safety. The defense is a problem right now, and yes, the rest of the NFC South might be positioned better for postseason runs in 2019. Specifically, the Saints and Falcons should both be very good next season.
It’s fair to say that the defense and the difficulty of the division should be concerning. But with the talent on offense and some new voices in the locker room, the Bucs should be stronger in year one under Arians. Now, it might not necessarily be time to put deposits down on playoff tickets. The team isn’t quite there yet. But with that being said... Hammer the over.