Profootballtalk.com has released its preseason power rankings and it's little surprise that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are near the bottom of the list after a dreadful 4-12 campaign in 2011.
The Bucs got demolished every week during their 10-game losing streak to end the season, which led to widespread changes across the board. General Manager Mark Dominik, who managed to somehow keep his job, fired Raheem Morris and replaced him with Greg Schiano, who promises to bring order and discipline to the youngest team in the NFL.
Then, the Glazers went on a surprising spending spree and landed two of the top free agents in wide receiver Vincent Jackson and guard Carl Nicks.
Things have changed around Tampa Bay and optimism is in the air for Bucs fans. However, Profootballtalk.com has the Bucs ranked No. 26 in their preseason power rankings.
Here is some of what they have to say regarding Tampa Bay:
If he plays the way he did in 2010 (25 touchdowns, six interceptions, 95.9 rating) rather than 2011 (16 touchdowns, 22 interceptions, 74.6 rating), the Bucs could have a solid set of personnel.
It doesn’t help that the Bucs play in one of the most competitive divisions in the league, as the NFC South is annually difficult.
Atlanta and New Orleans are legitimate contenders for the division title, and Carolina has improved significantly.
And while the Bucs are among the teams that could really use a quick start to dispel some of last year’s problems, the first month of the season opens with a visit from the Panthers and trips to the defending champion Giants and the Cowboys.
Win a pair of those, and it becomes a lot easier for Schiano to sell his program at the pro level. Drop enough games to push the losing streak into the teens, and it becomes much tougher for him to play the tough-guy card.
Last offseason, people were hyping Freeman, who was a first-round pick in 2009, up as a top 10 quarterback following his brilliant 2010 season. However, something happen to Freeman last year and he regressed, badly. His mechanics were bad and he threw off his back foot way too much. Freeman also forced way too many balls to receivers, which is why he threw 22 picks last year.
This is a big year for Freeman because he becomes a free agent after the 2013 season and the team wants to lock him up long-term well before that. That won't happen though if Freeman has another bad season. He must step up and have a big year.
Also, a lot will depend on how well Tampa Bay's young defensive line comes together. This unit, which features three former first-round and two second-round picks, needs to play big up front in order for the defense to be successful.
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was really coming into his own last season and was playing at a high level before a biceps injury landed him on injured reserve. After he left the lineup, the Bucs' run defense was virtually nonexistent and that led to some lopsided losses.
If the Bucs want to turn things around and have a winning record in 2012, Freeman and the defensive line need to elevate their play and bring their A game.
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