The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 4-4 midway through the season for the second straight year. But unlike last season, the arrow is pointing up for this team. With eight games left to play, It's time now to give out some midseason awards to the players.
Buccaneers Midseason MVP
Wide Receiver Vincent Jackson – Surprised you don't see Josh Freeman's name here? Well, you shouldn't be. While Freeman has played great so far in the first eight games, his resurgence is in large part due to the arrival of Jackson.
Not only has Jackson made Freeman a better quarterback, he has also opened up things in the running game for rookie Doug Martin and taken some of the pressure off Mike Williams, who is enjoying a bounce back season. Jackson is playing at a Pro Bowl level right now with 710 receiving yards and six touchdowns. If he continues at this pace, Jackson will set new personal bests in both of those categories in just his first season with the Bucs. Signing Jackson in the offseason was one of the best moves this franchise ever made and he should continue to prove his worth in the second half of the season.
Buccaneers Midseason Offensive Co-MVPs
Quarterback Josh Freeman & Running Back Doug Martin – These two are going to back quite the duo for years to come in Tampa Bay. Freeman is playing at a high level again – like in 2010 . The touchdowns are up and the turnovers are down. Freeman currently has 2,047 passing yards with 16 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Double that and No. 5 will finish with nearly 4,100 passing yards and 32 touchdowns – both of which would be career highs.
Meanwhile, Martin, Tampa Bay's second first-round pick, has officially thrown his name in the Offensive Rookie of the Year conversation with his outstanding play. Martin has exploded in the past two games, totaling nearly 500 yards and six touchdowns. Midway through the season, Martin is third in the NFL with 794 rushing yards and has the second-most rushing scores (7) behind only Houston's Arian Foster (10).
Buccaneers Midseason Defensive MVP
Defensive Tackle Gerald McCoy – It's no coincidence that Tampa Bay's rush defense is nearly impenetrable now that McCoy is healthy. After McCoy, the No. 3 pick overall in 2010, went down last season the Bucs can't stop anybody in the run game. He is back and better than ever this season and he's leading the Bucs the top-ranked rush defense.
McCoy is also getting after the quarterback this season. He currently has 3.0 sacks and one forced fumble to go along with 17 tackles. McCoy has been a dominant force on the defensive line and he's the engine that runs the defense.
Buccaneers Midseason Most Improved
Middle Linebacker Mason Foster – Last season, Foster seemed out of place in the middle at times of defense. To his defense, he was a rookie and playing a position he didn't play in college. That said, Foster had a decent rookie season.
But he is even better this season and looking like a future star in the NFL. After having just 84 tackles last season, Foster is on pace for 116 this year. His run fits are much better and he is tackling like a beast in his second season. Foster is also making splash plays and has an interception, 1.0 sack, and a pass defensed so far.
Buccaneers Midseason Biggest Disappointment
Cornerback Eric Wright – He was lauded as a major signing this offseason, but Wright has been nothing but a headache since coming to Tampa Bay. Wright hasn't lived up to his big 5-year, $37-million contract so far because his play as been sub-par. He has just one interception, which is one less than what backup safety Ahmad Black and rookie corner Leonard Johnson each have, and has been getting torched at times by opposing wide receivers.
Wright is also facing a 4-game suspension for violating the league's PED policy by using Adderall without a prescription. Wright better hope his game improves because the Bucs – and their worst-ranked pass defense – need him to be a play-maker in the second half of the season.
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