Team MVP: Gaines Adams. The efficiency of our offense will once again be a key our teams' success, so I was inclined to put the entire offensive line as the Team MVP, as I feel that this is the best O-line the Bucs have ever put on the field. The real key to success for the Bucs this season, just as it is in most seasons, will be the dominance of our defense. The Tampa 2 is predicated on pressure on the QB. Gaines had a great finish to last season, finishing with 6 sacks, but Simeon Rice-esque dominance will give the Bucs D a chance to really shine. I expect a sack total in the 12-15 range.
Break-Out Player: Aqib Talib. Tough to proclaim a rookie as the breakout player, but Talib has that kind of ceiling. He should see the field in at least 60% of our defensive snaps, as we ran a lot of nickel packages last season, and should continue to do so with our new depth at CB.
Biggest Disappointment: To the dismay of many of our fans in Tampa, the Bucs will not be an explosive offensive team. When Jon Gruden came over Raiders, he was proclaimed an offensive innovator. I think that few people realized that he was such a time control, pound it down your throat kind of guy. I tend to think we will follow that trend this season, as we have great depth at RB, and a road grading kind of offensive line.
Fantasy Stud: Much to my own dismay, I tend to think stud, does not really apply to any fantasy options on the Bucs. If I had to take a Bucs player offensively, Ernest Graham would have to be the choice. Whether or not he puts up stud numbers for fantasy purposes, he should still account for most of the runs in the goal line area for the Bucs. He ended last season with 10 TD's in 10 starts, and has a chance to surpass that touchdown total this season.
Offensive Outlook: As stated earlier, I think this will be a pound it down your throat style football team. Our O-Line is anchored at the guard and tackle positions by some real road grading style lineman. The addition of John Gilmore will only add to the blocking for Ernest Graham, Michael Bennett and Warrick Dunn. I tend to believe we will integrate a little more of the Eagles screen game into our offense this season as Gruden has a back whose hands he trusts in Warrick Dunn. In the passing game, we should continue to be a dink and dunk offense with the occasional downfield throw to the oldest fastest guy in the world, Joey Galloway.
Defensive Diagnosis: In my opinion, this defense is better than the defense that won us the Super Bowl. We have never possessed the kind of depth that we have currently on all three units (Defensive Line, Linebackers, Secondary). I do not believe that we will trot out a marginal player defensively all season. The Defensive Line should be the key as always to the Tampa 2. We have the personnel to rotate in at least 7 to 8 defensive lineman all game, keeping constant pressure on the opposing teams' QB's. The emergence of some young draft picks, Gaines Adams at DE, Aqib Talib at CB, and Tanard Jackson at FS, as well as the veteran leadership of LB Derrick Brooks, DE Kevin Carter and CB Ronde Barber should put the Bucs' D back on the map as one of the league's elites.
"Red Letter" Game: Week 1, @ New Orleans. Starting out the season, on the road, against a potential division winner and obvious division rival will say a lot about our season. If we can open Week 1 with a win in NO, the Bucs will put themselves in the drivers' seat in the NFC South.
Projected Record/Outlook: This squad should continue to build on last season's success. I'm expecting a 10-6 or 11-5 season. Our schedule is not terrible, with big road games against Denver and Dallas, and big home games against Green Bay, San Diego and Seattle as well as the obvious games against our division opponents.
Parting Smack: Should we even have to play the Falcons this season? One of the worst teams in recent memory.
New Orleans Saints: We should play fine against this team, as long as Sean Payton likes to run reverses at the end of games. Thanks Sean!
Carolina Panthers: While my colleague, John at CatCrave.com loves to talk about how good this team will be, people have been saying that for 3 years, with nothing to show for it. Steve Smith's suspension certainly will not help.
Atlanta Falcons: Uh....This team is horrid.
- Dustin Staggers