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Dissecting the NFC South: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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We roundup this mini-series with a look at the last remaining New Orleans Saints rival in the NFC South: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The “Bucs” redefined their franchise by drafting quarterback Jameis Winston first overall in this year’s draft, hoping for him to mature and blossom into one of the game’s best in the foreseeable future. Given the defense’s strength, most draft picks were made in an effort to improve the offensive side of the ball. Let’s dive in!

Key departures:

QB Josh McCown, was the disappointing and injury-hampered starting quarterback

DE Michael Johnson, left for Cincinnati after signing a huge deal a season earlier and busting

DE Adrian Clayborn, failed to generate a significant edge rush and left for Atlanta

ILB Mason Foster, was the starting inside linebacker

S Dashon Goldson

Key signings:

TE Tim Wright, New England, will battle Austin Seferian-Jenkins to be the first tight end

DT Henry Melton, Dallas, will try to bounce back under Lovie Smith, faces an uphill battle for a starting job next to Gerald McCoy

LB Bruce Carter, Dallas, will battle rookie Kwon Alexander to be the team’s inside linebacker

CB Sterling Moore, Dallas, should end up being the primary backup to Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks

FS Chris Conte, Chicago, should start at free safety

Jun 16, 2015; Tampa Bay, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) throws a pass during minicamp at One Buc Place. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Key draft picks:

QB Jameis Winston, FSU, will be the franchise quarterback and start immediately

OT Donovan Smith, Penn State, will supposedly start at right tackle with Demar Dotson moving over to the right side.

OG Ali Marpet, Hobart (D3), will provide quality depth as he transitions to the NFL

LB Kwon Alexander, LSU, will compete with Danny Lansanah for the starting inside linebacker gig

WR Kenny Bell, will compete with Louis Murphy and Robert Herron for snaps as the 3rd or 4th receiver

Offseason grade and record projection:

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made strides in terms of improving their weaknesses. The few but crucial mistakes keep them from getting an A: They chose Winston over Marcus Mariota and let Lovie Smith interfere with the personnel decisions. Losing Mason Foster at middle linebacker was not smart, neither is replacing him with a weak side linebacker (Kwon Alexander) or the rather underwhelming Danny Lansanah.

By far the worst move is the acquisition of Chris Conte who might even start despite coming off a horrendous season in Chicago. While it is true that Winston is a winner and more NFL ready than the former Oregon standout Mariota, you never expect to contend with a rookie quarterback for roughly a year or two.

Only time will tell but my bet is that the Tennessee Titans signal caller will have outplayed Winston by then thanks to maturity, athleticism and professionalism. B-.

The schedule is tough: as of now, only the games against Jacksonville and Tennessee seem to favor the Bucs. The Florida-based team will have a chance to accomplish a few upsets, but the idea of Jameis Winston facing NFL-caliber pass rushers and turning the ball over make me assume that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will not go much further than 4-12.

Next: Dissecting the NFC South: Atlanta Falcons

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