Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Three Questions Heading into Training Camp

Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano is trying to forge his “Buccaneer way” similar to successful Bucs teams in the past with smashmouth football and physical defensive play.

Here are the three major questions going into training camp.

1) How do you mold Josh Freeman?

Schiano stated his offense will be heavy-run oriented.

We do not know how this will affect Freeman’s development as a quarterback, whether it will turn him to a game manager like the Baltimore Ravens’ Joe Flacco or New York Jets’ Mark Sanchez or become the team leader he was drafted to be like New York Giants’ Eli Manning when he started winning Super Bowls.

While Freeman (3,451 in 2010 and 3,592 in 2011) threw for almost similar yards to Flacco (3,622 in 2010 and 3,610 in 2011) in his last two years as an NFL starter, Freeman’s production took a step back with a 16:22 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2011 compared to 25:6 in his 2010 run where the Bucs went 10-6.

Current Buccaneers offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan was Manning’s quarterback coach when he won this past Super Bowl and helped develop into the player he is today. Manning’s last three seasons with the Giants saw his passing numbers jump from an average low 3,000 plus yards from the span of 2006 to 2008 seasons to averaging over 4,000 plus yards. Manning almost topped 5,000 passing yards throwing for 4,933.

Sure Flacco made the playoffs with the Ravens four times with his stats, but Manning won two Super Bowls in five playoff appearances with his.

One thing is for sure – if first round draft choice Doug Martin is half the player as another former Schiano-coached Rutgers running back in Baltimore’s Ray Rice is, then you probably want him to play more like Manning than Flacco. Hell, maybe LeGarrette Blount might even learn to pass block.

2) What is the defensive identity?

Flacco and Manning had opportunistic and physical defenses that help create their success. Defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan is another former New York Giants coach from the Tom Coughlin tree which I am sure Giants fans would like to forget during his brief stint as their coordinator in the 2009 season after being promoted from linebackers coach for four years.

The 2009 Giants allowed 40 points on five different occasions dropping eight out of their last 11 games. He blamed his prior failure on making the Giants’ defense too simple.

If Sheridan’s job is just to implement Schiano’s scheme and help bring the very same discipline that Coughlin and company are known for, guess we will find out because much of what remains on the defense are the same people who quit on the defensive-minded Raheem Morris.

The biggest question mark remains with the secondary where the ageless Ronde Barber looks to possibly switch back and forth from cornerback to safety pending NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s possible suspension ruling on the recently exonerated, repeat-offending cornerback Aqib Talib. One of Tampa’s big three, not to be confused with Miami’s big three who won the NBA championship, in cornerback Eric Wright (who is probably the Zeppo Marx of the group) has experienced “personal issues” that probably has some fans rolling their eyes.

The two stable guys in the secondary could very well be overworked if things get out of hand will be Barber and seventh overall pick, safety Mark Barron who can help mask some of the shortcomings in coverage.

Another toss-up will be the progress of the front seven. Tackle Gerald McCoy hasn’t survived a full year of production despite showing some flashes of brilliance. The loss of defensive end Da’Quan Bowers for possibly most of the season will be felt. The starters may be set in tackles McCoy and Brian Price along with ends Michael Bennett and Adrian Clayborn. Depth will especially be an issue given the injuries that plagued the team last year.

The linebackers might be set in Quincy Black and second round draft choice Lavonte David on the outside while Mason Foster stays in the middle. The keys to both units’ success is if Schiano can succeed in motivating most of the very same players who quit on Morris.

3) After Jackson then what?

The Bucs have a notorious history of not being able to develop a homegrown perennially viable leading receiver. Most of the successful ones were imported from another team. Antonio Bryant, Joey Galloway, Keyshawn Johnson, Kellen Winslow, Keenan McCardell, Joe Jurevicius all were free agent acquisitions who ended up leading the Buccaneers in the major receiving categories over the years.

Former San Diego Charger Vincent Jackson will be one of many who will find success, but what about the others?

What of the homegrown talent? Well Google Michael Clayton, Jacquez Green, Reidel Anthony or Lawrence Dawsey. See any storied NFL careers? I thought not.

In the two years that high draft choices in Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn have been with the team, they haven’t truly established themselves as reliable primary targets for Freeman. Neither Williams nor Benn broke 1,000 receiving yards in a single season. Benn hasn’t even broke 1,000 career receiving yards. Williams and Benn barely combined to top 1,200 yards.

With Winslow’s departure, general manager Mark Dominik brought in veteran Dallas Clark from the Indianapolis Colts to replace him. Clark’s prior injuries and age is lucky to sniff the 763 receiving yards Winslow was producing if he survives the year.

Clark could be a viable target for Freeman in the end zone provided he learned from his mistakes last year. Hey maybe Clark thinks he can catch success the same way another former Colt in Ken Dilger did when the Bucs won Super Bowl XXXVII.

Unless Sullivan and tight ends coach Brian Angelichio can coach up Luke Stocker into half the player Saints’ Jimmy Graham is, don’t expect a miracle.

As originally posted here

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About Tom

Tom Chang is a freelance journalist with a background in multimedia journalism and web publishing. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Journalism and Media Studies from the University of South Florida St.Petersburg. He graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications at USF Tampa. Tom's interests include a little bit of everything from entertainment to sports. He also wishes to delve into creative writing writing sci-fi/fantasy stories. Tom was recently the Online Editor for USF St. Petersburg's the Crow's Nest, he joined the staff in January 2010 where he started freelance writing, photographing, copy editing and later became a staff writer. Tom’s freelance experience in journalism amassed a wide range of companies including Creative Loafing, The Focus Magazine, Lutz News, Examiner.com, and Tampa Tribune.
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