Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

New energy puts Bucs on right course

As a team, there is a better feel. These days, the Bucs feel fresher, newer, re-energized.

The new head coach is impressive. The new general manager seems efficient. The old owners, once again, have opened their wallets. There are new players, and new attitudes, and new ideas.

Ah, but are the Bucs good yet?

That is the question that counts, of course. Even as you scan across all the new reinforcements with all of their fresh millions, the question is not if the Bucs are better — they are — but how much better?

Are they good enough to get to eight wins?

To 10?

To the postseason, finally?

This is the proving part. It is one thing to add Josh McCown and Michael Johnson to the depth chart, it is one thing to envision the finest possible results for Alterraun Verner and Evan Dietrich-Smith, but winning on the field is a harder proposition. After all, this team won only four games last season, and it is hard to get healthy in a hurry.

It is impossible not to like the boldness with which the Bucs have operated. Say this for GM Jason Licht and coach Lovie Smith, they are men of conviction. They do not judge resumes, they judge performances.

For instance, they look at McCown and his 38 career starts, and they see the answer at quarterback.

They look at Johnson and his 3½ sacks last season, and they think he could be the best pass-rushing end here since Simeon Rice.

They look at left tackle Anthony Collins and his seven starts from a year ago, and they see an upgrade over Donald Penn.

They look at Clinton McDonald, who was cut by the Seahawks last preseason, and they see a pass-rushing presence at defensive tackle.

They look at Verner, whose man coverage ability has been questioned, and they see a perfect fit at cornerback.

Will they be right on all of these players? The history of free agency suggests they won't. But is McCown an upgrade over Mike Glennon? Yes, he is. Will Johnson apply more pressure than any of the Bucs who played defensive end last year? Yes, he will. Will Collins be more consistent than Penn? Yes again.

Here's something else to like about the moves. Of the core positions on the field — quarterback, right defensive end, left tackle and cornerback — they addressed them all.

Yes, the team still needs more players, which tells you about the size of the crater that was here. As Smith says, however, the Bucs are not done yet. They still might add a wide receiver, especially if he can return kicks. Maybe an offensive guard. Maybe another linebacker.

There may yet be another wave of free agency, provided the salary cap holds out. Obviously, there is help coming from the draft.

But, yeah, you have to like what you see from the Bucs. They are, at least, intriguing. They are, at least, interesting.

Are they better? Yes, probably with every unit except the secondary, where most onlookers would agree that cornerback Darrelle Revis is a better player than Verner. But at $16 million, Revis was an awfully expensive toy for this franchise. Think of it as owning a Lamborghini while living in a trailer park. The payments were just too pricey.

What a dreadful deal Revis turned out to be for the Bucs. Basically, they gave up a first-round pick, a fourth-round pick and $16 million (the original price of the franchise itself) for a guy to rehab at their facility.

As rotten deals go, this one is going to be remembered up there with the Booker Reese trade and the Bo Jackson nonsigning. Basically, Revis, the human ATM, collected $4 million per victory while with the Bucs.

Instead, the team took that money and sprinkled it across several positions. Will it work out? We'll see. Tampa Bay has Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Green Bay and Chicago on this season's schedule.

Still, this free agent haul, along with players such as Lavonte David, Gerald McCoy, Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson, make you think of the possibilities.

Johnson, for instance, is an interesting talent. You hope he's the real deal, because the Bucs have spent most of their history in pursuit of a pass rusher. In the beginning, there was Lee Roy Selmon, and he was great. And in the good old days, there was Rice, and he was very good.

Except for that, however, the Bucs have started a series of forgettable, interchangeable guys named Ned. They have drafted nine players in the first round who ended up at defensive end, and they have traded two other first-round draft picks for defensive ends.

And all they have gotten is Ron Holmes and Eric Curry and Keith McCants and Regan Upshaw and Gaines Adams and the rest of them. They have been through Wally Chambers and Dexter Manley.

You hope Johnson is different. He'll tell you that he played better last year, when he had only 3½ sacks, than the year before, when he had 11½. And Bengals coaches did grade him out at 33 pressures. Still, a defensive end has to get the quarterback on the ground. If he can get to, say, 7½ sacks, which would be his average over the past two years, then the Bucs have a chance.

At this point, I would put the Bucs' over-under for the coming season at eight wins. That means they'll be twice as good. But, yeah, they have more work to do.

Are they better? Yes, they are. No doubt about it.

Are they good yet? We'll see.

Still, it feels better. They feel closer.

They feel … possible.

Comments
NFL’s new anthem policy requires players to stand on sideline or remain in locker room

NFL’s new anthem policy requires players to stand on sideline or remain in locker room

ATLANTA — The NFL and the owners of its 32 teams enacted a new national anthem policy Wednesday designed, they said, to compel players to stand if they’re on the sideline for the playing of the anthem prior to a game."Clearly our objective as a leagu...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Bucs bring back Lakewood’s Bernard Reedy to compete for WR/KR job

Bucs bring back Lakewood’s Bernard Reedy to compete for WR/KR job

Lakewood grad Bernard Reedy, who handled the Bucs' kickoff and punt returns for much of last season, is back with Tampa Bay again.Reedy, 26, was signed on Wednesday, one day after the Bucs began OTA workouts. Thomas Sperbeck, the former Boise State r...
Updated: 9 hours ago
NFL policy: Players can stay inside during anthem if they won’t stand

NFL policy: Players can stay inside during anthem if they won’t stand

NFL owners passed a new policy Wednesday with the hopes of moving on from boycotts and political turmoil related to some players protesting by not standing during the national anthem before games.Under the new policy, NFL players are not required to ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
New Super Bowls: Arizona in 2023, New Orleans in 2024

New Super Bowls: Arizona in 2023, New Orleans in 2024

And you thought our headline would be "Mariota hosts NFL draft before Winston."The NFL owners are meeting in Atlanta this week, and that means a new batch of future Super Bowls getting announced for their homes.A year ago, Tampa got the huge news, an...
Published: 05/23/18
Winston: Bucs’ Ryan Jensen ‘one of the toughest, meanest, baddest centers’

Winston: Bucs’ Ryan Jensen ‘one of the toughest, meanest, baddest centers’

It's hard to miss new Bucs center Ryan Jensen at OTA workouts this week, with his long red hair visible from across the field even when he's wearing a helmet."Any recommendations for anti frizz shampoo and conditioner?" Jensen wrote on Twitter with a...
Published: 05/23/18
Gerald McCoy appreciates help on D-line, but knows it will take more than names on paper

Gerald McCoy appreciates help on D-line, but knows it will take more than names on paper

TAMPA — He's 30."I know. I'm getting old," Gerald McCoy said Tuesday, shaking his head.He's still a young man, of course. But in football years, McCoy has finally reached a black balloon birthday. This is his ninth season with the Bucs, which i...
Published: 05/22/18
HBO: Ex-Buc Scot Brantley battling Alzheimer’s, claim denied by NFL

HBO: Ex-Buc Scot Brantley battling Alzheimer’s, claim denied by NFL

Former Gators and Bucs linebacker Scot Brantley, also once a popular sports radio host in Tampa, is battling Alzheimer's Disease and has been rejected from the NFL's concussion settlement, according to tonight's episode of HBO's "Real Sports with Bry...
Published: 05/22/18
Bucs’ Mike Evans: Yards after catch must improve in 2018

Bucs’ Mike Evans: Yards after catch must improve in 2018

Mike Evans is one of just three receivers in NFL history to open his career with four straight 1,000-yard seasons, but he understands one area where he can make a big improvement in 2018: yards after the catch."I think last year was my worst year in ...
Published: 05/22/18
Gerald McCoy: Sorry, but Vita Vea is Maui from Moana

Gerald McCoy: Sorry, but Vita Vea is Maui from Moana

If you've been dipping your toes in the "Gosh, Vita Vea looks a lot like the guy from Disney's Moana" pool, Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has jumped in all the way.The Bucs' 347-pound rookie is massive, has a family history on the Pacific island...
Published: 05/22/18
Jason Pierre-Paul, Brent Grimes absent as Bucs open OTA practices

Jason Pierre-Paul, Brent Grimes absent as Bucs open OTA practices

The Bucs started another chapter of their offseason Tuesday with the first OTA (organized team activity) practice at One Buc Place, with veterans Jason Pierre-Paul and Brent Grimes as the only healthy players absent from what is officially a voluntar...
Published: 05/22/18