Looking back, the best (and worst) of the Bucs

by Gary Shelton on January 5, 2017 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Winston threw for more than 4,000 yards again./JEFFREY S. KING

Winston threw for more than 4,000 yards again./JEFFREY S. KING

Thursday, 3 a.m.

They are in the rear-view mirror now. There  is nothing left of the Bucs but the dissection of an oh-so-close season.

All in all, it was a pretty good year. The Bucs have only made the playoffs in 10 seasons in their history, so coming own to math on the last day isn't bad. It isn't acceptable, of course, but for a team that has averaged six wins a year over its past 11, it isn't bad.

So how will you remember a rare season where more things went right than wrong?

Grading the Bucs:

Coach of the (Next) Year: Say this for Dirk Koetter: Barring the strange and unexplained, he has kept his job. Call it the team's best coaching job since the 2007 playoff season. (I know Raheem Morris had a 10-win season, but that was with smoke, mirrors and a balsa-wood schedule.)Koetter wasn't perfect, but his players got better. You rarely felt the Bucs were the more talented team on the field, but he managed the team's second winning season since Jon Gruden left for the broadcast booth. Judging from the history of coaches, Koetter probably ranks fourth on the Bucs' list of coaches (behind Tony Dungy, Gruden and John McKay). Who else is there?

Rookie of the Year: Vernon Hargreaves III, cornerback: He didn't quite

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have the stats that second-rounder Noah Spence had (5.5 sacks), but Spence had sacks in only two games in the team's second half of the year.

Team MVP: Mike Evans, wide receiver: A year after a disappointing season, Evans was aces in 2016. He caught 96 balls for a career-high 1,321 yards and 12 touchdowns. That was 10 fewer passes than Keyshawn Johnson caught in 2001, but Evans had more yards. Johnson had one touchdown.

Free agent of the year: Brent Grimes led the NFL in passes defensed in 2016. He's 34, but so far, he's covering Father Time.

Defender of the year: Kwon Alexander didn't quite make you forget about Lavonte David, but he did become the Bucs' tackle leader.

Special teamer of the year: Bryan Anger (Banger) didn't just earn himself a new contract. He was tied for second in the NFL in punts inside the 20, 16 of them in the team's final six games.

Most disappointing: Even before his PED suspension, Doug Martin averaged only 2.9 yards per carry. His future is in doubt.

Grinder of the year: Cameron Brate, tight end. He got only one-tenth of the breaks that No. 2 draft pick Austin Seferian-Jenkins did. Still, the Bucs have a find in Brate.

Street pick-up of the year: Jacquizz Rodgers had 560 yards in only five starts (10 games).

Assistant coach of the year: It remains to be seen if someone snaps up Mike Smith. He certainly was successful in Atlanta. If not, Smith certainly has a place on Koetter's staff. His defense gave up 48 fewer points than it did in 2015.

Upcoming draft pick: The Bucs still have holes, and you can argue for an offensive lineman, a running back, a speed receiver, a safety and a defensive lineman. With the team picking 19th, it won't be easy. There is a lot of conversation about FSU's Dalvin Cook, but he's liable to be gone by the time the Bucs' pick.

Top 10 players:

1. Mike Evans

2. Jameis Winston

3. Kwon Alexander

4. Bryan Anger

5. Gerald McCoy

6. Lavonte David

7. Cameron Brate

8. Brent Grimes

9. Ali Marpet

10. Keith Tandy

The six toughest seasons:

1. Doug Martin

2. J.R. Sweezy

3. Austin Seferian-Jenkins

4. Vincent Jackson

5. Roberto Aguayo

6. Josh Huff

Top three free-agents to retain:

1. Will Ghoston

2. Jacquizz Rodgers

3. Bradley McDougald

Three NFL free agents to make you go hmm.

1. Eric Berry, safety, Kansas City

2. Terrell Pryor, wide receiver, Cleveland

3. Alshon Jeffery, wide receiver, Chicago

Offensive Play of the Year: Jameis Winston made an incredible scramble against the Chicago Bears, retreating all the way back to his end zone, then curling back and launching a 39-yard pass to Mike Evans.

Defensive Play of the Year: Chris Conte cut in front of a Kansas City receiver and returned it 53 yards to preserve a narrow lead (12-10) by the Bucs.

Worst Loss: To the Rams. The Bucs ran out of time on the five-yard line with a time-out in their pocket, and Jameis Winston was caught from behind as he rambled toward the goal line.

Best win: Over the Seahawks. The score doesn't sound as impressive as the game was. The Bucs out-physicalled the playoff-bound Seahawks.

Most important off-season performer: Jason Licht. He has to take the salary of Vincent Jackson, and possibly Doug Martin, and get the Bucs over the hump in their playoff drive.

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