Bucs still have some shortcomings to fix

by Gary Shelton on August 2, 2022

in general

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

Greatness remains. As much as you might lament the players who have moved on, and they have been legion, there is enough excellence on hand to aim for the highest goal because, really, who remembers anything else?

There is Brady and Evans, and David and Wirfs, and Vea and Barrett. There is Winfield and Davis, and Hicks and Fournette. There is Smith and Tryon-Shoyinka and White. Soon, there will be Godwin.

So, yeah, a team will have to be pretty good to beat the Tampa Bay Bucs this season. Such teams do exist, of course. The Bills and the Chiefs and Rams and the Saints and the Cowboys.

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Do the Bucs have enough to beat those guys?

If you haven't been able to tell because of the relentless optimism of the Bucs' faithful, there has been an experience drain with the Bucs this off-season. Granted, some of that is natural. The game moves on, and rosters change. The Bucs have plenty of guys in the “what do they have left" stage of their careers.

But Tampa Bay has turned the page on several players -- with more than a century behind them, who had fine careers. They've lost Ryan Jensen. They're still waiting for Godwin to get the all-clear.

That 's a leadership drain. That's a drain on those who remain.

Jason Pierre-Paul, a dozen years behind him, is gone. Ndamukong Suh, a dozen years behind him, is waiting for a New Jersey. Rob Gronkoski, 11 years gone by, has retired and swears he isn't coming back no matter what else you hear. Ali Marpet retired. Ryan Jensen got hurt.

Consider the weight of those three careers. I'd wager no franchise has lost as much talent as this one.

There were other losses. Alex Cappa went to the Bengals. Jerome Whitehead went to the Jets. Bradley Pinion went to the Falcons. Antonio Brown went nuts. Ronald Jones and O.J. Howard and Kevin Minter and Steve McLendon were let loose.

Was it too much at once? Coupled with the injuries, possibly. The Bucs still don't have enough of a pass rush. They seem mystified other teams would attempt a 15-yard pass. The interior of their offensive line has been retooled.

Remember, the goal isn't a good season here. The goal is to be in the final four. Maybe better than that.

Instead, the Bucs have the best time-buster in the history of the league. (No, it isn't George Blanda, who threw all of seven passes in his last four years). They have promising rookies. They have a glut of wide receivers.

But they also have a daunting schedule, and they're playing in a league that hates excellence.

Will there come a game when they miss Suh? Pierre-Paul? Marpet?

Of course there will. But players don't last forever, and the salary stretches only so far.

The Bucs will be okay, mostly. But some of last year's heroes will be missed.

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