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Bucs roundtable: Is Tampa Bay more talented than its record?

By Michael Sherman
Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Brent Grimes (24) intercepts a deep pass intended for New York Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson (11) during the first half of an NFL game between the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

The Bucs were NFL offseason darlings and subjects of the HBO series Hard Knocks. They have talent, although it hasn’t showed up in their 4-8 record.The Times’ Bucs coverage team tackles part of that disparity in this portion of our Bucs Quarterly Report.

Question: True or false: The Bucs have more talent than their 4-8 record shows.

THE HARD KNOCKS ILLUSION

Ernest Hooper, @hoop4you: No. Hard Knocks hype created an illusion of defensive talent and depth, but the unit possesses four proven players — Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David, Brent Grimes and Kwon Alexander — and Alexander’s performance as of late makes me wonder if he’s playing hurt. The rest of the unit is capable of flashes, but lacks consistency. You can’t win with three standouts, and if the Bucs don’t add playmakers at defensive end and safety and develop promising DBs Justin Evans, Vernon Hargreaves and Ryan Smith, they’ll end up 4-8 again in 2018.

NOT ENOUGH DEPTH

Thomas Bassinger, @tometrics: If we were just talking about starters, that statement might be true. When you consider the entire roster, however, the answer is false. Think back to the preseason and how little the starters played. Dirk Koetter acted like a coach who knew he had a talented front line but lacked depth at several key positions. At defensive end. At cornerback. Along the offensive line. Every team has injuries; Tampa Bay, though, was particularly vulnerable. In terms of performance, the Bucs might not be as bad as their record indicates. Based on the points they’ve scored and points they’ve allowed, they’ve played more like a 5-7 team.

TALENTED, YES; HEALTHY, RARELY

Greg Auman, @gregauman: Yes, the Bucs have more talent than a 4-8 record would suggest. Has it been healthy talent this season? Not with any consistency. Nearly every position has been shorthanded at one point. Koetter and Jason Licht talked about liking their depth going into the season, but neither wanted to test it at so many key positions over the course of 12 games.

TO QUOTE BILL PARCELLS …

Tom Jones, @tomwjones: False. As Bill Parcells said, “You are what your record says you are.’’ The Bucs are 4-8 because they deserve to be. It’s true that the Bucs have had injuries. Then again, name a team that hasn’t. This goes beyond injuries. This is about not having enough talent on the offensive and defensive lines and that has led to offensive and defensive issues. The Bucs need a pass rusher. Secondary is an issue, as always. This team just isn’t good enough. That’s why they are 4-8.