CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

Draft team needs: Tampa Bay Bucs


In 2010, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' motto, courtesy of then-coach Raheem Morris, was a "Race to 10." That meant a race to 10 victories, which they accomplished.

That carried over in 2011, only the race to 10 was a race to 10 consecutive losses in a 4-12 season that cost Morris his job.

Former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano takes over for Morris. Expect a tighter ship under Schiano.

The Bucs spent big in free agency this offseason to land receiver Vincent Jackson, guard Carl Nicks and corner Eric Wright to shore up three weak spots.

More on Buccaneers
Related links
NFL coverage on the go

The addition of Jackson from San Diego gives quarterback Josh Freeman someone who can stretch the field. Without that last year, Freeman regressed in terms of numbers from 2010.

That has to change going forward, and the young defensive players have to stay on the field. Too many injuries slowed that unit last season.

The Bucs pick fifth in the first round and should be able to get an impact player there -- either at corner or running back.

Schiano has a big job turning this team around, but let's not forget it was only two seasons ago they were nearly a playoff team.

QB: Freeman threw 25 touchdown passes in 2010 and looked to be on the verge of becoming a top-10 quarterback. But the lack of speed all around him really slowed his progress. Freeman forced a lot of passes and was picked off 22 times after getting picked just six times in 2010. His yards-per-attempt went down from 7.3 to 6.5, a clear indicator of a lack of speed. Dan Orlovsky, who started some in Indianapolis last season when Peyton Manning went down, is the backup. Brett Ratliff is the No. 3 quarterback.

RB: The lack of speed really showed up here. LeGarrette Blount just doesn't have the speed to scare defenses. He also can't catch the ball out of the backfield and has trouble with blitz pickups. That makes him a one-trick pony, which is why the Bucs need help here. They have to get some explosiveness to help open up the passing game. Mossis Madu is the backup, but he is little more than that. At some point in this draft, the Bucs need to get a back. Whether it's in the first round -- meaning Trent Richardson -- remains to be seen.

WR: The addition of Jackson in free agency really upgrades a unit that needed it. Jackson can stretch a defense, which the Bucs didn't do last season. Mike Williams should start opposite him. He is more of a possession receiver, which should be a nice complement. Arrelious Benn does have speed and should help out more now that he's another year removed from a torn ACL. Preston Parker did a nice job as a slot receiver last year and Dezmon Briscoe came on as the season went on. He lacks speed, but has a knack for getting open. Jackson's addition will really amp up this unit -- and it needed it.

TE: Kellen Winslow caught 75 passes, but his per-catch average was just 10.2 yards and he had two touchdowns, which is the lowest of any of his seasons in the league in which he's started at least half the games. He didn't seem as quick as in years past. There isn't much behind him, although the Bucs do have high hopes for Luke Stocker. Zack Pianalto is another backup.

OL: The Bucs did a nice job upgrading the line by signing guard Carl Nicks away from the Saints. He is a mauler in the run game who will team with Davin Joseph to give the Bucs a nice inside combo. Both guards are coming off good seasons. The center will be Jeremy Zuttah, who takes over for Jeff Faine. Zuttah has started at both guard and center in his time with the Bucs. Left tackle Donald Penn is a top tackle when he's in shape, but he seemed to let that slip some last season. Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood is just OK. Ted Larsen, who has started at guard, is the top backup inside. Jamon Meredith and Demar Dotson are the top tackle backups. They could use a young tackle here.

DL: They have the makings of a good, young line, but the players have to live up to expectations and stay on the field. That mostly means defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. He has ended the past two seasons on IR, which has limited his growth. He was the third player taken in the 2010 draft and has to start playing like it. Brian Price, another 2010 pick, has also been bothered by injuries. He has potential, but hamstring problems have been a real concern. Roy Miller and Frank Okam are backups. The Bucs did sign Amobi Okoye from the Bears for depth. The ends will be Adrian Clayborn, last year's first-round pick who showed pass-rush potential with 7 1/2 sacks. Da'Quan Bowers, another rookie, showed much better late in the season as he battled back from a knee injury he suffered the year before. Michael Bennett is a top backup.

LB: This unit was a major flop in 2011. The Bucs gave Quincy Black a big contract before the season and he hardly looked like the same player. They did move him around a lot, which had to hurt, but his play wasn't the same. He has to bounce back. Rookie Mason Foster started at middle linebacker and had a rough go of it. But he has potential. The other starter will come from a camp competition. Among those competing will be Adam Heyward, Rennie Curran and Dekoda Watson. They could also add a draft pick here.

DB: There is uncertainty on the corner with Aqib Talib possibly facing legal problems. He has a ton of ability, but hasn't lived up to it. He's also had injury concerns. The team did sign Eric Wright as a free agent from the Lions. He will start at one spot. If Talib can't play, expect veteran Ronde Barber to start at the age of 36. E.J. Biggers and Myron Lewis are backups. The safety play wasn't good last season. Cody Grimm, who was limited to two games because of injury, is expected to be the strong safety. He can tackle, but his coverage skills aren't great. The other safety spot will be a battle between Larry Asante and Ahmad Black. I would expect Black, a good tackler, to get the first shot. A young safety could come at some point in the draft.

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.

Biggest Stories

CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
Conversation powered by Livefyre


Most Popular

CBSSports.com Shop

2016 Super Bowl
Super Bowl