EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 30th of 32 preseason previews in 32 days leading up to the NFL season opener Thursday, Sept 5.
TAMPA BAY BUCS
Win total last 5 years: 33
LVH over/under wins (7½)
Let’s call Tampa Bay the NFL’s most enigmatic team. The last three years they’ve gone from 10 wins to 4 to 7.
Which one is it, guys?
Tampa Bay in its early days under legendary USC coach John McKay and decades beyond were lovable losers, the laughing stock of the NFL. Then came a moment of clarity when Tony Dungy made them believe and Jon Gruden took them to a Super Bowl title.
Gruden then went to Monday Night Football and Tampa Bay hit a holding pattern -- some years decent others not so much. So while 10-4-7 sounds like a Dr. Pepper ad, that dysfunctional victory pattern really does fit the persona of this franchise.
Not many are touting the Bucs in a division with Atlanta, New Orleans and Cam Newton-led Carolina. But don’t tell Greg Schiano that.
The former Rutgers coach is a Gruden disciple and there’s good reason to think the team that won 10 in 2010 could resurface. But for that to happen quarterback Josh Freeman must take his game to an even higher level.
You don’t hear much about Freeman, but he threw for 4,065 yards and 27 touchdowns – both team records. And Freeman has weapons. RB Doug Martin out of Boise State had a brilliant rookie season both rushing and receiving. WRs Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams are big time targets.
Defensively, that enigma word again applies. The Bucs were first the NFL in stopping the run, last in stopping the pass. So Schiano and company went out and bought Revis Island from the Jets in what could be the biggest Island sale since the English paid $24 for Manhattan some 500 years ago.
Whether Darrelle Revis is fully recovered from knee surgery will be known early when the Bucs play Revis’ former team, the Jets in the regular season opener at the Meadowlands. Revis should fill the shoes of Ronde Barber, who retired.
The Bucs further addressed that porous secondary by making Jonathan Banks out of Mississippi State their top pick in Round 2. Athlon Sports rated the overall Bucs draft a B-.
The game with the Jets is huge considering New Orleans and a trip to New England follow. A 0-3 start and you can just about forget 10 wins and any sniff of the postseason.
Saturday: Tennessee Titans
Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].