Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2016 Record: 9-7, Second Place in the NFC South
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may very well be one of the NFL’s risers in 2017.
This unit surprised many last season, thanks largely to the outstanding performances of quarterback Jameis Winston and wide receiver Mike Evans. Now, the Bucs can add veteran receiver DeSean Jackson to the mix. Rookie tight end O.J. Howard too, taken No. 19 overall in the NFL Draft.
Running back Doug Martin will miss the first four games of the 2017 season while serving a mandated suspension, which means rookie tailback Jeremy McNichols might see a lot of action early.
And the defense? Let’s see how rookie safety Justin Evans performs, along with first-year pro linebacker Kendall Beckwith.
Tampa Bay will be a team to watch this season.
The Buccaneers may wind up having one of the more explosive receiving groups in the NFL in 2017.
Evans, Jackson and now Howard is a scary mix for anyone facing Tampa Bay this year. And Winston’s maturation process has been fun to watch.
The defense is solid enough too, especially on the back end. So don’t be too surprised if the Buccaneers make a run at the NFC South title by year’s end.
It would have been nice to see Tampa Bay make a few more additions to help the pass rush, so this lack could wind up being a bit of a liability over the course of the season. It’s not bad, just not terrific.
Yet a more pressing issue could be the running game. With Martin out, and possibly losing steam as well, relying on McNichols and a crop of backups isn’t the ideal scenario here.
Tampa Bay has a fairly rough schedule to start 2017, so it’s possible the Buccaneers are unable to get off to a hot start. Matchups versus the Giants and Patriots in Weeks 4 and 5, respectively, could ultimately determine just how far the Bucs go this season.
So this puts pressure on guys like Winston to perform at a high level. He’s earned praises already, but is he ready for the next step?