A look at the 2010 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, coached by Raheem Morris.
NEEDS A BIG SEASON FROM: Kellen Winslow, te
The Bucs are looking for quarterback Josh Freeman to grow into the offense in his first full season as a starter, and what better way to do that but with a reliable, dynamic tight end such as Winslow?
The sixth-year NFL veteran has caught more than 70 passes in three of the past four seasons, including 77 in his first season in Tampa.
Winslow’s presence is even more important because the Bucs look to have a very young group of receivers that, despite plenty of promise, will probably have some growing pains of their own this season.
Look for Winslow to have a Pro Bowl-caliber season if he can stay healthy, and his rapport with Freeman could be the best chance to have a balanced offensive attack to go with the three-headed monster of a running game featuring Cadillac Williams, Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham.
FILLING THE VOID: Mike Williams, wr
With Antonio Bryant having left in free agency for the Cincinnati Bengals, the Bucs are looking for someone to step up and become a playmaker at receiver. They might have found that person in the rookie from Syracuse, who has been impressive in training camp and early on in preseason. A number of wideouts, including Maurice Stovall and Sammie Stroughter along with veterans Reggie Brown and Michael Clayton, have the chance to earn significant playing time.
DEEP AT: RB — You don’t hear much talk about Pro Bowl berths this season coming out of the Bucs backfield, but they do have three running backs capable of carrying the load in Cadillac Williams, Earnest Graham and Derrick Ward.
THIN AT: DE — The Bucs are desperate for more sacks from their defensive ends. Likely starters Stylez G. White and Kyle Moore don’t exactly strike fear in the hearts of opposing quarterbacks.
IMPACT ROOKIES: Gerald McCoy, dl; Brian Price, dl
During the glory days of the Tampa Two defense, the defensive line wreaked havoc, and the Bucs are hoping this year’s top two draft picks, McCoy from Oklahoma and Price from UCLA, can one day remind fans of Warren Sapp.
KEY GAME: Sept. 12 vs. Browns
Raymond James Stadium was half full for the preseason game last week against the Kansas City Chiefs. There’s talk the Bucs could have their first regular season blackout since the stadium opened in 1998, so it’s important the team starts strong to build fan support. Opening against Cleveland, one of the worst franchises’s in recent years, gives Tampa Bay an opportunity to do just that.
COACH QUANDARY: How many quarterbacks?
Josh Freeman’s thumb injury might curb any plans GM Mark Dominik and head coach Raheem Morris had about possibly only keeping two QBs to start the season (Josh Johnson being the other). Can the Bucs really take that chance? Could be good news for the career of third-stringer Rudy Carpenter.
Up — The signing of left tackle Donald Penn, avoiding a lengthy holdout, could be huge for the running game and protecting Freeman’s blind side.
Down — Freeman’s injury, although not too serious, will deny him reps he could really use during the preseason. After all, he still has less than a full season under center in the NFL.
Sept. 12 CLEVELAND
Sept. 19 at Carolina
Sept. 26 PITTSBURGH
Oct. 10 at Cincinnati
Oct. 17 NEW ORLEANS
Oct. 24 ST. LOUIS
Oct. 31 at Arizona
Nov. 7 at Atlanta
Nov. 14 CAROLINA
Nov. 21 at San Francisco
Nov. 28 at Baltimore
Dec. 5 ATLANTA
Dec. 12 at Washington
Dec. 19 DETROIT
Dec. 26 SEATTLE
Jan. 2 at New Orleans
DALLAS L, 34-21
at Buffalo L, 33-20
N.Y. GIANTS L, 24-0
at Washington L, 16-13
at Philadelphia L, 33-14
CAROLINA L, 28-21
*New England L, 35-7
GREEN BAY W, 38-28
at Miami L, 25-23
NEW ORLEANS L, 38-7
at Atlanta L, 20-17
at Carolina L, 16-6
N.Y. JETS L, 26-3
at Seattle W, 24-7
at New Orleans W, 20-17
ATLANTA L, 20-10
BY THE NUMBERS
29.4: Points per game allowed by the Bucs defense in the first 10 games of the season under defensive coordinator Jim Bates.
18: Points per game allowed by the Bucs defense over the last six games of the season, after head coach Raheem Morris took over the defense.
6: Times in seven years that the team to finish last in the NFC South has finished first the following year. That’s good news for the Bucs.
Raheem Morris, second season, 3-13 record