While Bruce Arians deserves some benefit of the doubt being out of the NFL for a year, the Bucs remained competitive most of the season. At 5-7, the Bucs is likely playing for next season, but can we declare the 2019 season to be a success?
Most did not expect a winning record right out of the gate with the team’s deficiencies they failed to address in the offseason. Jameis Winston projects to set personal highs in every category at the quarterback position including turnovers. While Winston’s game remained largely unchanged, Ronald Jones proved he wasn’t a bust for his draft position thanks to OC Byron Leftwich and running backs coach Todd McNair. Arians and Leftwich maintained the team’s top five status as one of the league’s best offenses. The Bucs rushing projects to finish higher than in 2018, but remain in the bottom third of the league.
Improved Rush Defense, Horrible Pass Defense
When it comes to defense, the Bucs’ improved their standing so far surrendering an average of 358.1 yards a game, a vast improvement over the 383.4 average in 2018. The pass defense is still atrocious with DC Todd Bowles surrendering 281.8 yards a game. The rushing defense improved dramatically with the team only giving up 76.3 yards a game compared to the 123.9 yards a game last season. When it comes to offensive turnovers, the Bucs lead the league with 28 giveaways (20 INTs and eight fumbles). The Bucs also led the league in turnovers committed in 2018.
When it comes to scoring, the Bucs are the fourth highest in the league averaging 28.3 points a game, an improvement over the 24.8 average in 2018. The team surrendered a 28.8 point average in 2019, which is consistent with their near-bottom ranking in 2018 surrendering 29 points a game. The team has a -7 turnover differential in 2019 compared to an atrocious -18 in 2018. The defense produced nine INTs and 12 fumbles, good for fifth in the league for turnovers in 2019. Considering the Bucs was in the bottom third in defensive turnovers with 17 (nine INTs, eight fumbles).
Salvaging What’s Left
The 5-7 Bucs aren’t quite eliminated from playoff contention. They’ll need a lot of help in addition to running the table. If the Bucs miraculously finish 9-7, they’ll need the Vikings, Bears, and Rams to essentially lose out. The chance of such a meltdown is highly unlikely.
Provided no dramatic changes made, the Bucs look more polished on offense and can defend the run better. Their porous secondary, however, continues to be a liability. Jason Licht, the man responsible for building the secondary received a contract extension. Unless the personnel dramatically changes in 2020, expect more of the same.