2009 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Season Preview
2009 Tampa Bay Buccaneers preview from MadduxSports.com. The NFC South is a very difficult division to forecast on a year to year basis and the NFL lines makers often put up some soft numbers that sharp nfl handicappers pounce on. In 2009 be on the right side of games with the help of Maddux Sports handicapping team.
2009 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Predictions
By Adam Barone
After starting 9-3 only to lose their last four games and finish with their second consecutive 9-7 season, the Buccaneers let head coach Jon Gruden go and replaced him with 32 year-old Raheem Morris. Legendary defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin left to join his son in the college game, and was replaced by Jim Bates, and Jeff Jagodzinski is the new offensive coordinator. Also departed are linebacker Derrick Brooks, running back Warrick Dunn, cornerback Phillip Buchanon, defensive end Kevin Carter, quarterback Jeff Garcia, and receivers Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard. Adjusting to life without Brooks will be difficult for both the team and the fans.
With ownership looking for a new direction, quarterback Josh Freeman was drafted in the first round out of Kansas State as the future face of this franchise. Frequently compared to Ben Roethlisberger, Freeman has a strong arm, plenty of athletic ability, and size. He won’t start right away though. Rather, he’ll watch and learn behind either Byron Leftwich or Luke McCown—certainly a difficult pair to overcome. Neither of them has much upside, so expect Freeman to jump in as soon as the team thinks he’s ready.
The new coaching staff plans to continue the old one’s plan of building a strong offensive line, which should help both the running backs and eventually Freeman. The line includes solid contributors like center Jeff Faine, tackle Jeremy Trueblood, and guards Davin Joseph and Arron Sears. There’s also plenty of depth. The aforementioned running backs are Earnest Graham, Cadillac Williams, and free agent signee Derrick Ward. Ward ran for 5.6 yards per carry last season in the Giants’ zone blocking scheme, and also contributed a surprising 41 receptions. It’s unclear at this point which back will get the most playing time.
Wide receiver Antonio Bryant finally reached his impressive potential last season after not being on a team at all in 2007. He made 83 receptions and gained over 1,200 yards through the air with Jeff Garcia at quarterback in 2008, catching seven touchdowns. Michael Clayton looks like he’ll never live up to the expectations the team had for him when they drafted him. More realistically, the Bucs hope that he, Maurice Stovall, and Dexter Jackson can contribute something as a group with the departures of Galloway and Hilliard. Kellen Winslow was acquired in a trade from the Browns and will probably be the main target of the quarterbacks when they don’t go to Bryant. Stovall, a former favorite target of Brady Quinn at Notre Dame, is tall and athletic. There’s a chance that he could have a semi-breakout season.
The defense will look to get more aggressive under new coordinator Jim Bates, but there are few pass rushers on the roster. It was built to run the more passive Tampa-2. Other than 2007 first round pick Gaines Adams, tackle Chris Hovan (who might not fit well in the new system), and cornerbacks Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib, the defense lacks star power. Barber is aging, and Adams and Talib are yet to prove themselves on the field.
Former safety Jermaine Phillips will attempt to move from strong safety to outside linebacker at the request of his new head coach. A move like this is rarely made with an established veteran, so it will be interesting to see if it pans out.
Former Jet Mike Nugent was signed to challenge kicker Matt Bryant because of his limited range, and may take his job. The new coaching staff may choose new return men, but Clifton Smith was solid in 2008.
The Buccaneers have a lot of work to do. There are so many transitions being made on the roster and the coaching staff that it’s nearly impossible to envision much success in Tampa Bay this season. Management better be right about Morris after letting Gruden, one of the league’s better coaches, go just because of a four game losing streak. If they’re wrong it could result in a huge mess and send the franchise into a long-term rebuilding mode.