The best-ever? Bucs must meet expectations

by Gary Shelton on September 2, 2022

in general

Friday, 4 a.m.

When it isn't your team that has to play, it really doesn't matter what you say.

Keep that it mind when you hear that Bruce Arians, last year’s coach, has proclaimed this the best roster the Tampa Bay Bucs have had since he came to town.

Now, it's nice for fans to hear glowing reports from a guy who knows the ins-and-outs of a team's roster. Nothing wrong with feeding optimism, not to mention keeping expectations high. Glad to see a coach who doesn't shrink from the unrelenting praise that surrounds it.

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On the other hand, and I mean this respectfully, balderdash.

To be honest, as they prepare to start the season, this Bucs' roster isn't as strong as the 2020 edition that won the Super Bowl. Or maybe last year's version.

Those teams had Rob Gronkowski. They had Ndamukong Suh. They had Jason Pierre-Paul. They had Ryan Jensen and Chris Godwin and Ali Market and Alex Cappa.

Yeah, I get it. This team is deeper. It still has Tom Brady. It's added Shaq Mason and Julio Jones and Russell Gage.

Still, there are questions. Is Luke Goedeke ready to start? Can Akiem Hicks stay healthy? Is there enough of a pass rush? Is the secondary good enough? Can the special teams slow down anyone?

Granted, most teams have a menu of questions going into a season. That doesn't dent the expectations. But if we're comparing a team that won it all against a team that will try to do so, the team that did it always gets the edge.

While we're on the subject of comparisons, how about this? How about comparing this team with the 2002 team that won the Super Bowl for the first time?

Quarterback: Brad Johnson was excellent in the ‘02 post-season, but no, he's no Brady.

Running back: Michael Pittman vs. Leonard Fournette: Edge: Forunette. (Mike Alstott as a backup in '02 makes it closer).

Tight end: The Bucs have a deep room, but they miss Gronkowski. In '02, Ken Dilger as a starter for the ‘02 Bucs caught 34 passes.

Tackle: Donovan Smith over Roman Oben.

Tackle: Tristan Wirfs over Kenyatta Walker (by a lot).

Guard: Shaq Mason over Kerry Jenkins.

Guard: Cosey Colman ('02) over Luke Goedeke (so far).

Center: Jeff Christy ('02) over Robert Hainsey.

WR: Mike Evans over Keyshawn Johnson.

WR: Keenan McCardell ('02) over Russell Gage.

WR: Julio Jones over Joe Jurevicius (barely).

DE: Simeon Rice ('02) over Shaq Barrett (close; Barrett is listed as an outside linebacker, but is his team's primary pass-rusher).

DE: Steve White ('02) over Joe Tryon-Shoyinka (so far).

DT: Warren Sapp ('02) over Vita Vea (hard to beat a Hall of Famer).

DT: Akiem Hicks over Anthony McFarland.

LB: Derrick Brooks ('02) over Lavonte David (Close, but Brooks is in the Hall of Fame).

LB: Devin White over Shelton Quarles (again, close).

CB: Ronde Barber ('02) over Carlton Davis.

CB: Brian Kelly ('02) over Sean Murphy-Bunting).

SS: John Lynch ('02) over Mike Edwards.

FS: Antonio Winfield over Dexter Jackson.

In short, that defense was better (with three Hall of Famers and Barber, who is close). This offense is better.

Then again, you can wait until the end of the year and see when the team gets Godwin, Jensen and possibly Gronkowski back. For now, however, this Bucs team has potential. Players may grow into their roles. They may find their chemistry.

But best-ever?

Not yet, they aren't.

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