Lets start with the overall record. Last season Tampa Bay struggled to a 4-12 record. While it led to radio gold I did feel bad for some of my co-workers who wiped their tears away with the sleeves of their brand new Chris Simms jerseys. Even with another off-season upgrade I don’t see the Bucs breaking the 6 win barrier. So for fun lets call it 5-11.
What’s going to lead to this one win improvement? Well lets break it down by some key positions:
At one point the Pewter Pirates had 7 quarterbacks on the roster. Wisely they trimmed it down to 4 to start the season. That’s right they’re keeping 4 quarterbacks on the roster. Oddly enough it’s not a bad idea. The last few seasons have not been kind to the position. That’s on the offensive line.
Carnell Williams comes into his third season as the starter. It’s been a roller coaster career for him so far. Rookie of the Year his first season followed up by a miserable sophomore season which saw him rush for only 1 touchdown and 798 yards.
The big question for Williams is going to be his health. If he can play 16 effective games then the Bucs could have a decent season. Of course as I write this Williams is being led to the locker room after taking a vicious hit to the ribs. It looks like it’s time for Mike Pittman and “Mr. August” Ernest Graham.
For the first time in the Pewter and Red days the A-Train whistles will be silent at Raymond James Stadium. Crowd favorite Mike Alstott announced that he will not play this year due to aggravating a neck injury in camp. Speculation is that he will retire at the end of the season so the days of watching number 40 pound his way to a 3 yard game are over.
If you live outside the area you have no idea how seriously this affects the TBA. No player that has suited up for Tampa had been more revered for doing so little as Alstott. His jersey dots the stands with greater regularity than Brooks, Williams or Galloway. Actually come to think of it I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Galloway jersey.
Right now it’s a push, if Williams injury is serious we can call it a downgrade.
Other than Jeremy Stevens there were no real new players brought in. Much of the off-season debate revolved around the Bucs’ decision to not trade up in the draft to take sure fire sensation Calvin Johnson. So Joey Galloway starts as the primary threat backed up by possession receiver Ike Hilliard and the incredibly disappearing Mike Clayton. David Boston had a strong camp, but his status is undetermined due to a bizarre DUI stop.
On the tight end side Jeremy Stevens has his own legal issues as a jury convicted him on charges of a DUI so he could be spending time in jail instead of a huddle. Alex Smith, no the other Alex Smith returns and hopes to improve his reception totals over the last two seasons. If Stevens is out look for former Jet Anthony Becht to pick up some playing time. Overall this is a push as well.
If you’ve watched the Bucs for the last few years you know the story. The line is bad, but at least this year they’re young and bad. So by 2010 they could be a solid squad. Let’s give this a push as well.
I like what they did in the off-season. Drafting Gaines Adams allowed them to cut perennial malcontent Simeon Rice. While Adams looks a little lost out there, he should progress throughout the year and turn into a pretty good young player. The weight of the offensive line should fall on the shoulders of Greg Spires and Chris Hovan.
The linebackers and the secondary should improve with the addition of Cato June and the return of Brian Kelly. The addition by subtraction factor plays a role with Anquan Bolden not being on the roster. Not many people were torched on a football field as often as Mr. Bolden was last season.
Speaking of Mr’s – Mr. Derrick Brooks returns for another season. The 13 year veteran returns to anchor the defense and although there are whispers that he’s not the player he used to be he should turn in another Pro Bowl caliber performance.
The 2007 defense ranks as an upgrade over last years.
Monte Kiffen will scheme and scheme and find a way to pull the defense together.
Jon Gruden is on the hot seat. Frankly it’s his own fault. He had never adapted his style to the talent available to him. He preferred to bring a rotating cast of veterans hoping that they would pick up his system and make a difference. They haven’t. This season is more of the same with Jeff Garcia and offensive lineman Luke Petitgout
Another push for this category.
So overall there is some improvement in the quarterback department and on the defense. Enough improvement to pick up a win or two, but not enough to make a difference even in the sub-par NFC.
In the time it took me to write this post not only has Carnell Williams suffered bruised ribs, but Jeff Garcia was knocked woozy by a vicious hit a well. After three seasons Buc fans finally get to experience the greatness that is Luke McCown. I look forward to some highly entertaining radio tomorrow.