But they will also be taking over a club that has more than its share of impressive assets. It will be up to the new regime to determine where the strengths and weaknesses of the Buccaneers’ 2014 roster lie, but it’s clear that the cupboard is far from bare. As the new year dawns – and with it, as always, that renewed feeling of hope – we offer up five reasons why the new Buccaneer brain trust will be feeling thankful in 2014.
1. Gerald McCoy went supernova in 2013.
There aren’t too many assets more scarce in the NFL than a pass-rushing defensive tackle. There’s a reason why every new DT who shows QB-sack potential is compared to former Buc great and recent Hall of Fame inductee Warren Sapp. Every team would love to have the next Warren Sapp, because a player who can disrupt an offense straight up the middle is a player you can build a defense around.
Gerald McCoy is a player you can build a defense around.
The Buccaneers thought so when they took him third overall in the 2010 draft, but two separate and unrelated biceps injuries in 2010 and 2011 slowed McCoy’s initial impact. In 2012 he finally enjoyed a fully healthy season and was so impactful that he was chosen for the Pro Bowl. McCoy was even better in 2013, earning a second Pro Bowl nod while racking up 12 sacks and generally wreaking havoc in opposing backfields.
Pro Football Focus graded McCoy out as the top defensive tackle in football in 2013, and it wasn’t particularly close. There was a bigger difference between McCoy and the second-ranked DT (Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh, who went one pick before McCoy in the 2010 draft) than there was between the second and 10th players at the position. McCoy actually pulled one of the worst grades at his position in terms of drawing penalties (an issue that would seem simple to correct) and still out-lapped the field thanks to his incredible pass-rush numbers.
McCoy’s nine sacks in 2013 were obviously quite good, but they fail to paint the true picture of how dominant he was. The next architect of Tampa Bay’s defense is going to have one unique and impressive asset around which to build.
So, no, Lavonte David is not the exact same player as Derrick Brooks. But it is quite fair to say that David is assuming Brooks’ role as an outside linebacker who makes plays all over the field with his vision and instincts; who can make big plays in the passing game as a coverage linebacker; who leads by example with just the right amount of spoken guidance; who could be a cornerstone for the Bucs’ defense for a decade or more.
Yeah, that sounds a lot like Derrick Brooks. Of course, Derrick Brooks – who, again, is probably heading into the Hall of Fame sooner rather than later – never had six sacks and five interceptions in a single season. That’s no slight on Brooks; no linebacker had ever done that before David did it in 2013. In his second NFL season. This is definitely one of the nicest gifts the next Buccaneers coach will inherit in 2014.
There are very few first-year NFL head coaches who inherit a rock-solid quarterback situation. Upheaval at that position is one of the hallmarks of a struggling team, and the Buccaneers were no exception in 2013. Tampa Bay started the season with incumbent Josh Freeman at the helm but made a switch after three ineffective weeks to rookie Mike Glennon, a third-round pick out of North Carolina State.
The Bucs were 0-3 before Glennon took over, and 4-9 the rest of the way. Tampa Bay’s offense showed signs of coming together in November but then had a difficult final month, and Glennon’s numbers reflected those ups and downs.
But here’s what we ended up with: A rookie passer who completed 59.4% of his passes, had a TD-INT ratio of 19-9 and finished with a quite respectable passer rating of 83.9. For reference sake, that was a bit below the final 2013 ratings of Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck and Detroit’s Matthew Stafford and just ahead of Washington’s Robert Griffin III.
Does anybody know if Glennon is the long-term answer for the Buccaneers’ under center? Not after one season played under difficult circumstances. Do we know how the new coach is going to view his inherited passer? Of course not. But Glennon impressed in many ways in his rookie season – particularly in that he didn’t seem like a rookie much of the time – and that at least gives the Bucs’ new leadership a head start at the game’s most important position.
4. Reinforcements are on the way.
Two of the Buccaneers’ better stories in 2013 were those of Tim Wright, the undrafted wide receiver who converted to tight end and then caught 54 passes, and
Wright and Rainey could be important parts of the Buccaneers’ offense in 2014, but they will have a lot of competition for the football. Tampa Bay’s offense was hit hard by injuries early in the 2013 campaign, as running back
Not many teams will be getting back an offensive contributor more significant than Martin when he returns in 2014. While Rainey and, before him,
At the very least, the new Buccaneers coach is due to inherit a rather loaded offensive backfield with Martin, James and Rainey all back for another year.
5. Darrelle Revis is back.
The Buccaneers made the NFL’s biggest most of the past offseason, trading a first-round pick in 2013 and a conditional pick in 2014 for former New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, a four-time Pro Bowler. Tampa Bay coveted what was universally seen as one of the NFL’s most rare assets, a true cover cornerback who could essentially eliminate an opposition’s top pass-catcher on any given day.
Revis wasn’t exactly that at first. Returning from the knee injury that cost him most of his last season in New York, the new Buccaneer cornerback was very good in a role that included a good amount of zone coverage early on. By midseason, however, the knee was feeling more solid and Revis Island began to surface in Tampa Bay. Revis took on more and more one-on-one responsibilities as the season wore on, and the results were typical. Pro Football Focus graded Revis as the best cornerback in the entire NFL in 2013.
By next September, the eighth-year cornerback will be even closer to top shape. The coach who inherits the Buccaneers’ roster will have the luxury of planning a defense around a player who can single-handedly shut down a large part of the playing field. And that’s just one of several rather impressive gifts for whomever is about to assume the Buccaneers mantle.