Buccaneers Preview Capsule
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (9-7)
New Faces: WR DeSean Jackson, DE Chris Baker, TE O.J. Howard, S Justin Evans, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, K Nick Folk, WR Chris Godwin, S J.J. Wilcox.
Key Losses: QB Mike Glennon, WR Russell Shepard, LB Daryl Smith, CB Alterraun Verner, S Bradley McDougald.
Strengths: Bucs go as Jameis Winston goes. With additional playmakers - Jackson, Howard, Godwin - around young QB, coach Dirk Koetter is counting on offense being more explosive.
Weaknesses: Despite making strikes defensively following slow start last season, absence of consistent pass rush remains concern. Team hasn't had player finish with double-digit sacks since Simeon Rice in 2005. Five-time Pro Bowl DT Gerald McCoy welcomes addition of Baker on line also featuring Robert Ayers Jr. Second-year DE Noah Spence can make difference, too.
Fantasy Players To Watch: Winston; Jackson, WR Mike Evans; TE Cameron Brate; RB Doug Martin, who begins season on reserve/suspended list while serving remaining three games of ban for violating NFL policy on performance enhancers.
Expectations: After improving from six wins to nine in Winston's second season, next logical step would seem to be contending for NFC South title, as well as team's first playoff berth since 2007. But if Bucs have learned anything during long drought, it's that nothing's guaranteed, even with roster that seems talented enough to win. Winston threw for more than 8,100 yards and 50 touchdowns over past two years. He's also thrown 33 interceptions. Improving on last year's 9-7 finish won't be as simple as curbing turnovers and scoring more points, either. Inconsistency on defense has been problem, though Koetter is confident club's headed in right direction after bolstering depth at linebacker and safety.
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