Senior Writer

Bucs: Love and hate


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TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are getting there at quarterback and several other key positions, but defensive shortcomings will be tough to overcome.


 I really like second-year quarterback Josh Freeman. He loves the game. He works at it. He had a better completion percentage than Mark Sanchez and Matt Stafford last season, yet few noticed. Now that he knows the offense even better, I look for him to make big strides. He is also a huge man. At 6-feet-6, he is every bit as big as his offensive linemen.

 Quincy Black. If you want to see a put-together linebacker, Black is the guy. He is 6-2, 240 pounds and can run. The Bucs love him. He really has a chance to be a breakout player this season.

 Aqib Talib is on the verge of being a special cornerback. When I watched tape with Matt Ryan this spring, he raved about Talib. What's not to like? He's big, strong and physical. Talib has a chance to be part of the elite corner group by the end of this season. He said he has to make sure there are no days off in practice. "I had days where I just went through practice last season," Talib said. "I know I have to practice hard every day to be an elite corner."

 General manager Mark Dominik. I like it when teams promote good football men. Dominik was a long-time scout for the Bucs who worked his way up. His first two drafts have been good, especially this year's class. He's building the right way: Through the draft. Tampa Bay didn't spend big in free agency, and that's wise.

 I love the look of first-round defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. As the third overall pick, he has the speed and quickness needed in the Tampa-2 defense. He is running with the first team and should be a fixture there for a long time.


 I'm not enamored with their running backs. Cadillac Williams has done a nice job bouncing back from knee injuries, but he isn't a game-breaker. He averaged 3.9 per carry last season. Derrick Ward was a disappointment in his first season after signing as a free agent. The running game needs to be better. Williams played better late last season, getting his only 100-yard game in Week 16 against the Saints, so maybe he's close to getting back to 100 percent.

 The outside pass rush isn't very good. They hope starters Stylez White and Kyle Moore can provide the pressure, but that's asking a lot. White was a security guard at Best Buy a few years ago, but has made it as an NFL starter after spending time in the Arena League. You can bet this is a position that will be addressed next spring early in the draft.

 While Talib is good at one corner, veteran Ronde Barber is nearing the end at the other. He still is a decent player, but probably should be a full-time nickel corner. The problem is there isn't anybody behind him.

 Sabby Piscitelli. The free safety was bad last season, and Sean Jones is challenging him hard for his starting job. The best thing for the Bucs would be for Jones to win that job, and I think he will.

 The instability of the first year and a half under coach Raheem Morris. He relieved his offensive coordinator of his duties right before the regular season opened. He then took over running the defense during the season himself. Morris told me he has no regrets and feels good about the decisions that were made. Year 2 will be a telling one for Morris.

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.

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