Is Tampa the next NFL Cinderella story?

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The Buccaneers have not won a playoff game since we won the Super Bowl and the last time the Bucs graced the playoffs with their presence, was 2007. The closest we were able to get to the playoffs since was a mathematical equation.

Now Tampa is heading into 2016, with our third GM and our fourth head coach, in six seasons. The Buccaneers have been rebuilding over the past few seasons, during which three head coaches and two GMs had their hands in the remodel. They may have created, what could be the team to possibly alleviate the hunger pangs for a 2002 Buccaneers type of team.

During the last fourteen seasons, only a few franchise QB hopefuls had joined our team. None of them worked out. But, out of the chaos left behind by these busted chances, arose Jameis Winston. Like a phoenix he rose from the ashes, and from the very moment he stepped out onto the field, it seemed as if the clouds parted, and a bright enchanting light engulfed Ray Jay. He stepped in and became an instant impact. He brought back that heir of success, that excitement, and a leadership quality that we have not seen since those days of old. Anyone who follows the Buccaneers does not have to be told that Jameis broke rookie records and set franchise records. Nor, do they have to be told about his winning attitude.

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Winston’s success came behind a slew of lost players. Vincent Jackson was injured, ASJ was out a bunch of games, Kenny Bell, and Louis Murphy missed the season. But, with the help of Doug Martin, Charles Sims, Mike Evans, and OC Dirk Koetter, Jameis made due. All those injured players are now healthy and ready to begin their journey towards a winning season.

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2016 will be different.

The difference?

Dirk Koetter was promoted to HC, which will give the team offensive stability. Stability is a necessity, especially for the continued development of Jameis Winston. Doug Martin and Charles Sim’s thrived in Koetter’s offense, last season, and in this season, they should both continue to thrive, and exploit defenses. The offensive line improved, in 2015, and was a major reason for both the QB’s and the RB’s dominant performances. The line only got better this offseason. Ali Marpet and Donovan Smith, played exceptionally well for rookies, in fact, I’d say outstanding. Logan Mankins retired, and that’s a huge loss when it comes to having a veteran at the center of the o-line, but Joe Hawley has proven that he is a capable man for the job. The addition of J.R. Sweezy should make our running game better, as he was the bulldozer for the retired Marshawn Lynch, he will likely do the same for Doug Martin.

Lovie Smith’s dated defensive scheme is gone and now begins the flexible defensive style that Mike Smith excels in. The players have reacted well to Mike Smith’s coaching style, and some are evening saying that the 2016 Tampa defense could be the best yet. I’ll toast to that when it happens. The secondary and the pass rush of 2015, was for a lack of a better word, useless. However, that defense did produce a couple of Pro Bowlers. Mike Smith has been received by Tampa’s defensive players with open arms and has the team excited about playing and more importantly, hungry for wins. The way Mike Smith runs multiple defensive looks will be an upgrade and a welcomed sight. Last year’s subpar secondary, left little to be desired. They gave up too many yards, and in combination with a soft pass rush, gave up too many leads and allowed one too many comebacks. Brent Grimes, Vernon Hargreaves, Robert Ayers, Noah Spence and Daryl Smith are notable additions to the defense. That list screams instant upgrade. I think we may now have all the ingredients for a winning season.

Tampa already had some skilled players, but with the additions to the team, the foundation has been laid for a very successful future. Jason Licht had rebuilt the Buccaneers like he said he would. It took some time and a handful of different coaches to make it happen, but he’s living up to his word, and proving why he is the boss. I wouldn’t expect a Super Bowl run, just yet, but I demand playoffs!

 

 

 

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