The first commandment in the Gospel of Lovie is simple. Thou shalt not have a negative turnover ratio. You can preach perfection all day long, but even the most efficient offense can make mistakes. Jaboo and the Boys will try to minimize that, but Tampa Bay’s secondary will need to hold up its end of the bargain as well. Even if the front seven creates sufficient pressure, the secondary has to be able to capitalize on every shaky ball an opposing quarterback commits to throwing. As for special teams, there’s plenty of room for improvement available to everyone not named Patrick Murray. Let’s look at the way the rest of the Buccaneers are shaping up with Training Camp looming only weeks away.
Currently In Stock: Alterraun Verner, Leonard Johnson, Johnthan Banks, Mike Jenkins, Isaiah Frey, Brandon Dixon, Deshazor Everett, Sterling Moore, C.J. Wilson
Hot Commodity: Alterraun Verner, Johnthan Banks, Leonard Johnson, Isaiah Frey
Due to Expire: Mike Jenkins, Deshazor Everett, Brandon Dixon, Sterling Moore, C.J. Wilson
Product Notes: Not unlike other units within the defense, it took some time for cornerback to really settle in during 2014. Alterraun Verner was consistent, but didn’t provide the amount of takeaways and big moments that some might have expected out of him. Missed opportunities for interceptions occurred far too often, and Verner was one of many to blame. Despite these flaws, he should only be better going into next season. By the end of the year, Johnthan Banks proved himself as a safe start opposite Verner. Expect this duo to hold the outside, while there will be some competition at nickel.
Isaiah Frey, coming off a respectable 2014 outing, and Sterling Moore, a former Cowboy looking to make his name, will be fighting incumbent Leonard Johnson for the coveted nickel position. Meanwhile, Mike Jenkins will be looking to redeem himself after a pectoral injury kept him out during the majority of the 2014 season. Dixon made a minor impact in 2014, but hungry rookies could easily push him down to the practice squad. Wilson got some playing time last season thanks to a need for depth, but didn’t make any waves. The wildcard is former Texas A&M Aggie Deshazor Everett. Everett isn’t as refined as he needs to be, but he plays with a mean streak and hits like it too. He played safety his junior year at A&M, and this versatility could land him a roster or practice squad spot.
Currently In Stock: Major Wright, D.J. Swearinger, Bradley McDougald, Keith Tandy, Chris Conte, Chris Hackett, Derrick Wells
Hot Commodity: Major Wright, D.J. Swearinger, Bradley McDougald, Chris Conte, Keith Tandy
Due to Expire: Chris Hackett, Derrick Wells
Product Notes: I’m more than pleased to safely categorize over 70% of this position as a “hot commodity.” That definitely wouldn’t have happened coming out of 2014. Major Wright has proven himself, and he should remain a starter going into 2015. Bradley McDougald stepped up one week at a time, but he’s got significant competition coming in. The most obvious man looking to step right into the starting lineup is former Texan D.J. Swearinger. I can personally speak that I had some friends here in Houston who were not thrilled to see him go. He’s no J.J. Watt down here, but he was still important to that defense.
With stiff competition already lined up, Keith Tandy will return and easily challenge for a rotational position. Chris Conte comes in with a familiarity that will give him an edge going in. Chris Hackett and Derrick Wells aren’t bad players, but they’ve got a tough road ahead if they want to be wearing pewter and red on a weekly basis in 2015. When Training Camp rolls around, keep your eyes peeled for the battles forming at safety. A position with little hype and some worry coming out of 2014 is suddenly much more intriguing, and it’s only June.
Currently In Stock: Patrick Murray, Michael Koenen, Andrew Wilder, Brandon Bogotay, Courtland Clavette, Andrew DePaola
Hot Commodity: Patrick Murray
Due to Expire: Michael Koenen
Product Notes: Y’all remember Pat Murray, right? You keep doing’ you, Pat. Hey yo Bogotay, don’t get too comfortable. Michael Koenen on the other hand…stop doing whatever the crap you were doing in 2014. Remember when you used to not suck? Try doing that. While Koenen tries to soak up whatever is left of his contract, Andrew Wilder will be fighting to replace the recently disappointing veteran.
Wilder was an outstanding punter in college, and that should translate regardless of skill level. If Wilder doesn’t impress, Koenen could sit pretty by default. Should anyone show enough skill, it’s not hard to do the math on releasing an underperforming veteran who would be the sixth highest paid punter in 2015 based on his current contract. Andrew DePaola is the incumbent with no reason to lose the race, but Courtland Clavette will push for a spot like anyone else.
The gray area on special teams is that many of the men who will make an impact I’ve already covered in previous positions. Just because a player isn’t in line to start, that doesn’t mean they can’t be a playmaker. Any name at just about any position, if they’re a hard enough worker, can find a start to their career on special teams. Keep an eye out for some to be earning that honor coming out of training camp and preseason.
That’s a wrap, folks. That’s a full inventory of what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have to work with at the moment. Training Camp is slowly beginning to loom in the distance, and the waiver wire could easily add to this inventory plenty of times between now and opening day. However, with plenty of interest around the team, this should give you a jump start moving forward.
Now that we’ve looked at what the Buccaneers have to offer right now, the next several weeks will be about looking at the teams they’ll be facing in 2015. Know Thy Enemy returns next week with a look at the rest of the NFC South starting with the New Orleans Saints, and later a special look at the Tennessee Titans, who Tampa Bay will open the 2015 season against.