Done with years of inconsistent play, Josh Freeman was finally cut loose after three bad starts. Freeman at times was a great rising quarterback but seemed to shoot himself in the foot just as often in the last few years. Enter NC State QB Mike Glennon (2,608 yards, 19 TDs, 9 INTs) who impressed for most of the rest of the season. But an 0-8 start was still far too much to overcome. The Bucs were well-publicized as the worst team in the conference amid locker room trouble and anonymous player accusations that coach Greg Schiano had lost the team. Other players disagreed. But it’s irrelevant now, as longtime Bears coach Lovie Smith has returned to the place he learn and molded his signature ‘Tampa 2’ zone defense. A players’ coach, Smith immediately brings the ultimate team-first attitude and treats all players with respect, while maintaining an authoritative voice that still isn’t very vocal. Smith’s strength is most definitely defense, where the Bucs were decidedly middle of the pack last year. Even during their 0-8 start they never allowed more than 31 points.
DT Gerald McCoy (9 sacks), MLB Lavonte David (6 sacks, 106 tackles, 5 INTs), and S Mark Barron are some of the core players on defense. The most well-known one, CB Darrelle Revis, was cut and signed with New England. To offset that and build up for Smith’s arrival, the Bucs signed DE Michael Johnson, S Alterraun Verner, DT Clinton McDonald, LB Dane Fletcher, and CB Mike Jenkins. But as mentioned earlier, the biggest acquisition of all was Coach Lovie. This defense could easily be a top-10 unit again. But the offense needs help. Hopefully they’ll get it from the draft, as they used all six of their picks on offensive players. The first one was WR Mike Evans, Johnny Manziel’s #1 target at Texas A&M. He’s explosive, and should easily be able to go up and get Glennon’s jump balls. Evans joins a reinvigorated Vincent Jackson (78 rec, 1,224 rec yards, 7 TDs), giving Glennon big targets he needs. Even a defensive mind like Lovie shouldn’t have to try very hard to get those two going. They also took West Virginia RB Charles Sims, a welcome addition to a running back group that really struggled last year. Granted Boise State standout Doug Martin played in only six games, but he wasn’t all that effective when on the field either. A balanced offense will be important; look for Lovie to use Martin a lot. The Bucs face a Week 1 showdown at home vs Carolina and non-divisional big games vs Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Green Bay. They’ll also go to Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Washington, Chicago, and Detroit this year. Get on out to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa to see the Bucs--Gold Coast Tickets has the best selection!