Originally posted on This Given Sunday  |  Last updated 12/17/11

For a team that looked youngry and ready to take the next step it sure went south in a hurry. Coming off of a 10-6 season where the Buccaneers narrowly missed out on the playoffs they were supposed to battle the Saints and Falcons for supremacy of the NFC South.

After a promising 3-1 start, this team is now is in full-blown crisis mode. Now after seven straight losses they will be watching the playoffs from home again this time around. Their passing game just isn’t what it was last year, and their defense has been equally as bad.

New head coach Raheem Morris was ushered in as Super Bowl winning head coach Jon Gruden was shown the door. As it stands now Raheem Morris has gone from being a darling coach of the media spotlight to being firmly on the hot seat, while Gruden could have his choice of available coaching jobs should he decide to leave the booth.

How did his stock fall so far? Let's take a look at the biggest culprits in the Bucs' collapse.

Quarterback Josh Freeman has not played nearly as well in 2011 as he was in 2010. When he’s not under pressure, he averages just 6.9 yards per attempt, and has more interceptions (11) than touchdowns (10). To be fair, he hasn’t gotten much help from his receivers, who are led by Mike Williams. Last year he averaged 5.3 yards after the catch, and this year it’s down to 3.4.

Tampa Bay had high hopes after Josh Freeman’s breakout season and an influx of youth to the defensive line, but the year has not gone as planned. Freeman has seemingly regressed, particularly since Week 3, and the defense has been terrible. Instead of competing for a playoff spot, the Bucs find themselves trying to avoid the cellar in the NFC South.

LeGarrette Blount has not delivered as expected either. The problem with him is he will have some excellent games mixed with some sub-par ones. In six games this year he has averaged 4.8 yards per carry or more, while in the other five he’s played in he has averaged 3.4 yards per carry or less.

The Bucs have had varying success with their defensive front. 2010 first round pick DT Gerald McCoy has shown flashes of elite ability, but was lost for the season. Last year’s second round pick, DT Brian Price has struggled in his first extended action after missing most of 2010, and was notably sent to the showers mid-game by his coach after picking up one too many flags. The 2011 draft netted defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and De’Quan Bowers. To their credit, Clayborn has made an impact as a pass rusher since Week 1, and Bowers had a breakout game against the Carolina Panthers. Bowers' durability has been in question since the draft due to a knee injury.

For as much heat as Steve Spagnuolo and the St. Louis Rams take for their dismal season, Raheem Morris and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers have followed a similar path over the course of the last three seasons. Morris took the Buccaneers from three wins in 2009 up to ten in last year only to find themselves with only four in 2011.

One thing is for sure, competing in NFC South, which has quickly become one of the best divisions in the NFL with New Orleans, Atlanta, and up and coming Carolina, they better right the ship soon in Tampa.


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