Friday, November 24, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs have done enough to make playoffs

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TAMPA

Yeah, but what about the pass rush?

The Bucs are better today, no question about that. The flames in the secondary have been doused. The locker room is crowded with young, impressive stars. The team feels good about itself, and considering its immediate past, it should.

On the other hand, what about the quarterback's bouts with inaccuracy? What about the tight end? What about right tackle? What about a starting strongside linebacker?

Furthermore, what about the playoffs?

Is this team ready for those?

Here at the conclusion of the NFL draft, that's the only question that counts, isn't it? Yeah, the Bucs liked their picks (what team doesn't?), and they liked their free agent signees. But does it add up to the playoffs? Does bringing in Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson and Johnthan Banks and the rest get them to the postseason?

Answer: Yes. A cautious yes.

After all, isn't it about time?

"I believe we made ourselves better," Bucs coach Greg Schiano said Saturday. "I felt like we let some opportunities get away from us or it could have been that way last year.

"But we need to get to work. Time is our enemy. It isn't the other 31 teams, it's the clock. How fast can we get some of these talented rookies to play? We have some newcomers we acquired through free agency. They have to get on board with our schemes. I'm excited."

Dare you believe? For the past decade, the Bucs have been so pedestrian that it is easy to be skeptical.

But look around. As much as any Bucs team since the Super Bowl team started sprouting gray hair, you have to like the make of this locker room. Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams? Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David and Mark Barron? Carl Nix and Davin Joseph and Donald Penn? Mason Foster and Adrian Clayborn and, yes, Josh Freeman?

Isn't it time it got ripe? Isn't it time to win?

"Yes, we believe so," said general manager Mark Dominik. "I think that's exciting for everyone in the organization. I get in the community, I feel the same energy and excitement."

Oh, it won't be easy. The NFC South is still a quarterback's division with Drew Brees and Matt Ryan and Cam Newton. The Bucs also have uphill games against San Francisco and New England and Seattle.

That said, this team has the look of a playoff team. It has the potential to cross the bridge back to the neighborhood that matters in the NFL.

Think of it this way: Last year, if the secondary had been as good as average, this team makes the playoffs. If they could have held off comebacks by Eli Manning and Robert Griffin III and Matt Ryan and, yikes, Nick Foles, then life would have been good and the season would have continued to January.

Now with a rebuilt secondary, the Bucs are suddenly not playing chase in the secondary. Revis should be excellent, the first name an offensive coordinator is going to try to avoid. The safety combination of Goldson and Barron should be brutal. Banks, an intriguing draft pick, could put the heat on Eric Wright. That secondary could shave as much as 50 yards a game from the stat sheet.

No, it is not a perfect team. No one is saying that. For instance, does the drafting of Akeem Spence and William Gholston offset the losses of Roy Miller and Michael Bennett? Does the pick of Mike Glennon motivate Freeman, or does it make him look over his shoulder? Was a seventh-round pick enough (which helped fuel the trade for Mike James) for former 1,000-yard rusher LeGarrette Blount?

(For the record: I liked the drafting of Banks, of Gholston, of James. I am willing to wait and see on the others. I think the free agents, beyond Goldson, are interesting, especially tight end Tom Crabtree, linebacker Jonathan Casillas and defensive tackle Derek Landri).

But we've seen "interesting" for some time now. We've seen "promising." This time, the question is what it all adds up to being.

This time, it ought to end up as "successful."

This time, it ought to add up to the playoffs.

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