2_Tampa Bay Buccaneers2

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Gerald McCoy (9.5 sacks) has help next to him in free agent signee Clinton McDonald. McDonald should shine with playing time he could not get in Seattle. On the ends, Adrian Clayborn (64 tackles, 43 solo, 5.5 sacks) should benefit from the signing of DE Michael Johnson, who will man the opposite side. Johnson, the Bengals’ franchise player in 2013, has increased his tackle totals in each of his six NFL seasons and is fired up to bounce back from 2013 sacks-wise (3.5) and regain his 2012 form, when he had a breakout year with 11.5 sacks. The linebacker corps features 24-year-old Lavonte David, one of the most exciting young players in the entire NFL, on the left side, and is counting on big years from veterans Mason Foster in the middle, the defensive signal caller, and Jonathan Casillas, who mans the right side. The secondary should be stronger with the addition of corner Alterraun Verner, who picked off a career-high five passes in 2013, returning one for a score. He’s the new landlord on the area that had been “Revis Island.” Second-year pro Johnthan Banks will benefit from the lessons of his rookie year. Safeties Mark Barron (second on Tampa in tackles behind David, albeit WAY behind, with 88, 70 solo, 2.0 sacks, 2 picks) and Dashon Goldson (72, 54, 1 INT) are ferocious hitters, although Goldson needs to rein in his recklessness, as he was suspended for multiple head shots last season and has earned a rather unsavory reputation and the eye of officials on a weekly basis. Defensive Player to watch It hasn’t taken long for David to make a name for himself. The third-year linebacker has already drawn comparisons to former Bucs legend and 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Derrick Brooks—pretty good company. David, a second round pick in 2012 (No. 58 overall) out of Nebraska, has made it a habit to introduce himself to opponents and has made himself right at home in opposing backfields, recording 284 tackles (219 solo), 40 of them for loss, with 9.0 sacks. David earned All-Pro status in 2013, making 144 tackles (106 solo) both rank sixth in the NFL, with 20 TFLs, 7.0 sacks and even recorded his first safety. He’s also stellar in pass coverage, picking off five passes and defending 10. Buccaneers Special Teams The Buccaneers should have known the kicking game would be a trouble spot when PK Connor Barth tore the achilles tendon in his right foot during the summer while playing in a charity basketball game. The injury forced Barth to miss the entire 2013 season. The Bucs missed him as veteran Rian Lindell struggled (23 of 29 on FGAs, 20 of 26 outside of 30 yards). Barth is back healthy and Tampa should thrive in field goal kicking. Punter Michael Koenen has been thriving for 10 NFL seasons. Koenen starts his fourth season in Tampa since leaving Atlanta and remains one of the most consistent legs in the business, having averaged 44.8 yards per punt in his three years with the Bucs. Returns were pretty much the exclusive domain of Eric Page, as he ranked fourth in the NFC in kickoff returns last season (24.9 yards per KOR) and seventh in punt returns (10.9 yards per return). Page will be pushed by third-year running back Jeff Demps, a burner, who ran track at Florida and averaged 23.3 yards on four kickoff returns for the Bucs in 2013. Prediction The Bucs have finished last in the South three straight seasons and four of the last five but that’s about to change. Lovie Smith’s positive attitude will go a long way in getting the most out of the strong but raw base he inherited on both sides of the ball as the Bucs’ renaissance begins. SCOREBOARD 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 PLAYOFF FINISH - - - - - REGULAR SEASON W-L 4-12 7-9 4-12 10-6 3-13 POINTS PER GAME 18.0 24.3 17.9 21.3 15.3 POINTS ALLOWED PER 24.3 24.6 30.9 19.9 25.0 GAME YARDS PER GAME 277.0 363.8 319.3 335.1 287.5 YARDS ALLOWED PER GAME 348.0 379.9 394.4 332.7 365.6 TURNOVERS 21 23 40 19 34 TAKEAWAYS 31 26 24 28 29 Key Additions: DE Michael Johnson, T Anthony Collins, G/T Oneil Cousins, C Evan Dietrich-Smith, LB Dane Fletcher, WR Lavelle Hawkins, CB Mike Jenkins, QB Mike Kafka, QB Josh McCown, DT Clinton McDonald, WR Louis Murphy Jr., TE Brandon Myers, CB Alterraun Verner, S Major Wright Key Subtractions: G Davin Joseph, TE Kyle Adams, CB Michael Adams, TE Nate Byham, OL Gabe Carimi, TE Tom Crabtree, LS Andrew Economos, DT Gary Gibson, LB Adam Hayward, DT Derek Landri, FB Spencer Larsen, C Ted Larsen, K Rian Lindell, FB Erik Lorig, T Donald Penn, CB Darrell Revis, DE Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, WR Tiquan Underwood, LB Dekoda Watson, WR Mike Wiliams, C/G Jeremy Zutah Rookies: WR Mike Evans (1st, No. 7), TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (2nd, No. 38), RB Charles Sims (3rd, No. 69), OG Kadeem Edwards (5th, No. 143), OT Kevin Pamphile (5th, 149), WR Robert Herron (6th, No. 185) Vincent Jackson DREW HALLOWELL/GETTY IMAGES SPORT


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