TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
13 TENNESSEE 4:25 pm
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20 at New Orleans*
27 at Houston
25 at Washington
1 at Atlanta*
8 NY GIANTS
22 at Philadelphia
29 at Indianapolis
13 NEW ORLEANS*
17 at St. Louis (Thurs) 8:25 pm
3 at Carolina*
All games at 1 pm unless otherwise noted
*NFC South Division Game
2014 RESULTS (2-14, 0-6 NFC South)
CAROLINA L 14-20
ST. LOUIS L 17-19
at Atlanta L 56-14
at Pittsburgh W 27-24
at New Orleans L 37-31
BALTIMORE L 48-17
MINNESOTA L 19-13
at Cleveland L 22-17
ATLANTA L 27-17
at Washington W 27-7
at Chicago L 21-13
CINCINNATI L 14-13
at Detroit L 34-17
at Carolina L 19-17
GREEN BAY L 20-3
NEW ORLEANS L 23-20
Lovie Smith (2-14) career 83-77
THIN AT: OFFENSIVE LINE
This was the Bucs Achilles Heel last year and unfortunately for them it looks similar. Tackle Demar Dotson, the best offensive lineman, could be out two months with a knee injury. The Bucs will likely start two rookies, which is always dangerous. Center Evan Smith is mediocre at best and Long Mankins is on the backend of his career. Its dangerous when you have a rookie quarterback.
DEEP AT RECEIVER:
The Bucs have one of the best receiving corps in the NFL led by the 6-5 Dunkaneer twins Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans. Also 6-5, Austin Seferian-Jenkins could be special and 6-2 Louis Murphy had a productive season last year. The reserves are serviceable.
Kwon Alexander, LB
The fourth round pick from LSU has played extremely well in camp and elevated
himself into the starting lineup prior to the second pre-season game replacing free agent acquisition Bruce Carter. Alexander has the tools to play MLB in Smith's defense.
NEED BIG SEASON FROM
The worst kept secret in Tampa is that the Bucs need a big season from the rookie quarterback
to get out of the NFC South cellar they have occupied for four straight years.
The consensus opinion around the league is Winston has the tools to be an NFL starter with unlimited potential to move higher up the food chain of the league's top quarterbacks. He was labeled the most NFL-ready quarterback in the draft, but fans need to exercise patience.
The offensive line, so crucial to the success of any quarterback, is highly questionable coming off a season when it was dreadful and its success will likely depend on rookies Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet.
Winston is a gunslinger who is not afraid to throw into tight coverage, which means the Bucs can expect a high number of interceptions. Head coach Lovie Smith and his staff can live with that if they see growth in the 21 year-old. But a rookie operating behind an offensive line that starts two rookies and won't have its best player for awhile (tackle Demar Dotson) will encounter challenging obstacles.
Winston has shown he is a hard worker and has a football IQ so high that he shocked NFL scouts and NFL coaches when they met with him prior to the draft.
"He's got a photographic memory I presume because if he retains something in football, it stays there," ESPN veteran NFL analyst John Clayton said. "What's the one story - he came in here, he picked up a whole bunch of plays and then all of a sudden they had him go to all of these different things for two hours and then he came back and did one hundred percent of the plays, one hundred percent accurate. This guy's amazing. But that's the book on him coming out of college. He was like that all through college."
BY THE NUMBERS
The Bucs won only 2 games last year, one of their worst seasons in franchise history
The number of sacks the Bucs allowed last season, which tied for the third most in the league
The number of touchdown passes caught by Mike Evans, which set a single franchise
-- Alan Dell, Herald sports writer