As per last year, I’ll be sharing projections for every team in the NFL. I use past production in specific roles for each team’s scheme to work out realistic production profiles. You can see how accurate I was in 2017 in my IDP Projection Marking series.
The Buccaneers had the unwanted privilege of being perhaps the worst pass rush in the NFL in 2017. They were just atrocious at getting anywhere near the quarterback. We know that team sacks correlate fairly well with team wins so this was a major issue.
There are certainly some stand-out players on this team but last year, at least there was a lot of dross as well. For the team to grow at all and head coach Dirk Koetter to keep his job, there will need to be improvement across the board.
Gerald McCoy remains one of the better interior players in the NFL. His problem is that he doesn’t really have any comparable players around him, which has severely restricted his ability to produce. He’s simply had too much attention from blockers.
The addition of ponytail great Beau Allen fresh off a Super Bowl-winning season should help clear out some gaps. Allen will be expected to take on nose tackle duties which will allow McCoy to get more one-on-ones against linemen.
That is, of course, if Allen can win the job. Just after they signed him, they drafted Vita Vea who is a very imposing young man (the hair…the bod). Honestly, I could go on and on. He’s like a natural phenomenon. He anchors his hand in the ground and no linemen are messing around. So, what is the lesson here? What is the takeaway? Don’t mess with Vita when he’s on a breakaway. Vea is an exciting player but unlikely to be much of an IDP factor in today’s pass-heavy NFL.
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After last season’s abysmal pass-rush, the Bucs took drastic action and signed former Super Bowl champions Jason Pierre-Paul and Vinny Curry. They form a nice one-two punch and should both have good weeks. But it’s been a little while since JPP – in particular – was a transitory player and he might struggle to find some of that IDP value away from a coaching staff willing to let him play 1,000 snaps a year.
Curry has similar issues in that he has never really demonstrated the ability to be a premiere pass rusher, and it’s bit late in the day for him to start now. The next man up is Noah Spence. As usual, there are news stories circulating about how much weight he’s managed to put on. If there was a chance he could fulfil his potential, the Buccaneers would not have invested so heavily in veteran ends. Let someone else take the chance on Spence.
Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David are IDP folk heroes at this point but under Mike Smith they’ve got a tough hill to climb. He’s just about the least inspirational or creative defensive coordinator in the league. As a direct result, Alexander and David will really struggle to match some of their former highs under different coaching staffs. If you own either then cross your fingers for a return to brilliance but neither are really buyable at current prices.
Kendell Beckwith led all rookie LBs in snaps in 2017 and should return to his Sam role. But it’s important to remember that he only reached his high volumes because of injury. Actually, he was pretty inefficient given the volume he played. Beckwith should be a player to sell in most formats.
This is one of the unpredictable positions in football so take this with a big pinch of salt. Over the past two years, Vernon Hargreaves has been an excellent IDP given he’s been pretty awful and thus a target magnet. He was moved to the slot in the middle of last year which limited his playing time and then he got injured and went on IR. It seemed like the writing was on the wall for him when the team drafted two corners relatively early but in camp (at time of writing), he seems to be back in contention for an outside role. That could obviously change suddenly and he seems a bad bet to maintain long-term value.
Brent Grimes currently looks like the other top option outside. His wife is great fun but he’s really an ageing journeyman. Again, it’s easy to imagine him not keeping this position all season long.
Ryan Smith actually ended up playing 597 snaps last year split between the slot and the outside. He’s definitely in the mix again but hasn’t shown many signs of being a top player.
And lastly, Carlton Davis and M.J. Stewart are the two rookies who are likely to get some playing time at some point given both were taken in the second round (Stewart ten picks earlier than Davis). Stewart was the more versatile player in college and will likely get on the field more but Davis is the more pure outside corner. Both have the capacity to be good IDPs but are likely not immediate starters.
Chris Conte is a very boring player but appears to be back in sole possession of the job after sharing playing time with T.J Ward in 2017. Justin Evans is even more secure as a starter but plays much deeper than Conte does. Conte is no one’s idea of a top safety but he’s definitely got the chance to be a good IDP.
Gerald McCoy. McCoy remains a fantastic interior pass-rusher. If the rest of the line can create some sort of pressure, he could be in line to have another very good season.
Vernon Hargreaves. Hargreaves is the poster child of a poor NFL player being a good IDP. He’s shown very little to justify his selection at 11th overall but his IDP owners just can’t bring themselves to drop him with memories of him being a tackle magnet still relatively fresh. If he plays as bad as he has in the past, he’ll likely be benched for one of the rookies. If he improves enough to stay on the field, he’ll be a far less effective IDP. Either way, there’s not much value to holding him.
Jason Pierre-Paul. The Giants let Pierre-Paul go for a low price which is worrying. If he’s still a good player why was no one willing to pay more? But we have seen him be extremely productive and also able to play high volumes. There’s a chance he could put together a resurgence in Tampa.
It’s kind of hard to envisage the Buccaneers being as ineffective as they were last year (outside the first-choice linebackers) but there’s also not much reason to believe they can drastically improve. The edge rushers should certainly be better and maybe that will fuel an overall improvement. It’s horrible to talk about coaches being in trouble but Dirk Koetter and Mike Smith need to show a very big improvement to retain their jobs.
Thanks for reading.
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