Can the Bucs be significantly better in 2019?

by Gary Shelton on September 3, 2019 · 0 comments

in general

Winston needs to be more efficient in 2019./JEFFREY S. KING

Tuesday, 3 a.m.

As they prepare to launch another voyage, there are two questions that really matter to fans of the Tampa Bay Bucs.

Are they better?

And are they good?

The first part of that seems to be a positive answer. There was a new energy in this training camp, and the defensive plan looked crisper. No longer were defensive backs like a lost dog in heavy traffic. There seemed to be a plan. There seemed to be direction. Considering the quarterbacks who will face the Bucs in the weeks ahead, that's a good thing.

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But we still don't know how much better the Bucs will be. And we don't know if this will end up as one of the rare seasons with a Tampa Bay presence in the post-season.

Consider: In their history, the Bucs have completed 43 seasons. They've reached the post season only 10 times, and seven of those came from 1997-2007. Most of the time, this has been a punchline of a franchise.

So will this year be better?

Let's start with quarterback Jameis Winston. With the reputation that Bruce Arians has with quarterbacks, you'd hope he would be smarter, more efficient, than the turnover machine of years past. Oh, Winston will still throw picks -- he's a risk-taker by nature -- but he has to get his total to acceptable levels for this team to have a chance. He has shown he can throw for yardage, and that his completion percentage will be high enough. But the Bucs also need to find other ways to win than Winston's arm.

How about the offensive line? That's a gamble. The last time we saw the starters, they were being dominated by the Cleveland Browns. If those guys don't stand up, Winston won't be able to.

The running backs? They struggled last year. Peyton Barber is a good soldier, and he'll pick up three yards when a hole that gives him three appears. But he won't do much more. Ronald Jones is a reclamation project by Arians, but he was invisible last year.

Defensively? Coordinator Todd Bowles is well thought of, and his 3-4 has shown some rush in the practice games. But without Jason Pierre-Paul, we need to see it when it counts, don't we?

Then there is the secondary, which was the worst in the league last year. Opposing quarterbacks had a rating of 110.9, which is awful. Opponents averaged 29 points a game on the Bucs; who thinks they can score 30 a game to win? No one, that's who.

In other words, there are too many flaws (and not enough great players imported) for expectations to be too high.

The reason for optimism? It's Arians (and to a degree, Bowles). He's had the kind of turnaround that will be needed before with Arizona and (when he was the interim coach) with Indianapolis.

A personal view? If you're asking me, they can be better. Six wins. Maybe seven. But if they get hot, and if they stay healthy, and if they win a game or two you don't expect, then maybe they can be .500.

It isn't much, but it's a start.


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