The term ‘Tampa 2’ was once used to describe one of the most dominant defenses of the modern NFL era. Recently, Tampa 2 been used more as a prediction as to how many regular season games the Bucs will win. Well, due to the following four reasons, the Bucs arrow is well and truly pointing up and the long time bottom dwellers of the NFC South are only heading in one direction.
Last year’s Offensive Coordinator is now this years’ Head Coach. Under Koetter, the Bucs finished 5th overall in the NFL on Offense and will look to maintain that level of performance in 2016. A no nonsense coach with a penchant for telling us, the fans, just how it is, Koetter obviously doesn’t believe in bluffing as he has already stated that Adam Humphries (probably the best route runner on the depth chart) will be the slot receiver and the much under-rated Cameron Brate will be the starting Tight End. On the subject of Tight Ends, Koetter also had no hesitation in sending Austin Seferian-Jenkins home from camp as he, and I quote, ‘had no idea what he was supposed to do’ (ASJ has already stated that this humiliation was the best thing that could have happened). From the abrasive Greg Schiano to the out-dated Lovie Smith, Koetter looks and sounds like a man that players want to play for.
Make no mistake, this guy is a born winner. The first overall pick from the 2015 draft had a great rookie year under Koetter and the Bucs will look for that relationship between the two to blossom. Winston has almost single-handedly changed the dynamic of the locker room with a combination of a winning mentality and work ethic which is second to none. The fact that NFL seasoned veterans Vincent Jackson and Logan Mankins (since retired) had been won over by this guy in such a short space of time only confirms that Winston has ‘IT’. Often accused of being immobile, Winston ran in for six touchdowns last season and with him turning up for pre-season training in much better condition than last year, I would expect more of the same this year. For those also questioning his will to win, check out his run on a 3rd & 19 against the Falcons in week 13 of last year to keep the Bucs season alive. Incredible.
For the first time since entering the NFL, Doug Martin is following up a stellar year with a injury free pre-season. Martin is entering his 5th year in the NFL and his stats are simple to predict; if he stays injury free he is practically unstoppable. Martin was making all the right noises in camp last season about how fit he was feeling and how his previously injury ravaged seasons prevented the NFL fans from seeing the real Douggernaught. Of course talk is cheap especially when you have had two disappointing seasons in succession but Martin was true to his word as he burst out of the blocks and finished the season only behind Adrian Peterson for the top Running Back of the year. Martin also has the advantage of sharing a backfield with pass catching RB Charles Sim so workload should not be an issue for him in 2016.
The Bucs pass defense last year was, quite frankly, awful. At the start of 2015, Head Coach Lovie Smith took over the defense from Leslie Frazier and the secondary struggled for most of the year. Smith’s continual attempts to try and fit square pegs into round holes on the defense was what ultimately cost him his job. The first part of Koetter’s overhaul of the defensive side of the ball was the hiring of ex-Atlanta Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith as DC. Part two was upgrading through Free Agency with the addition of veteran Darryl Smith (LB), Robert Ayers (DE) and Brent Grimes (CB). The final part was the draft where the Bucs must be delighted with their selection of Vernon Hargreaves (CB) and Noah Spence (DE) with their first two picks. These players are joining a defense which already consisted of Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander. Throw in a more dynamic scheme, multiple fronts, disguised coverages, blitz packages and more Nickel formations, the Bucs defense promises to be much improved from last years rather anaemic effort.