Every person should know, if a man has a feather in his hat, a knife in his mouth, an ear-ring in his ear, and he is winking at you, your probably about to get something you were not asking for. Thus is the history of our Buccaneers’ offense.
I would dare to say that very few people understand just how offensive our Buccaneers’ offense history is actually. Let me take a moment to bring some fans up to speed on a few historical facts.
The Buccaneers have thirty-six (36) years of NFL history to their existence. The NFL expanded in 1976 to add two more teams, Tampa Bay and Seattle, bringing the total number of teams to 28.
Since the Buccaneers inception their offense has ranked in the top ten (10) of the NFL during only two (2) season of the thirty-six (36) played. In 2003 and 1984 the offense ranked 10th. That’s the highest rankings in their history.
For a quick reference of the Buccaneers’ offensive rankings here they are from 2011 going back to 1976. 21, 19, 28, 14, 18, 29, 23, 22, 10, 24, 26, 21, 28, 22, 29, 28, 27, 20, 25, 16, 26, 24, 22, 17, 27, 27, 23, 10, 28, 13, 18, 15, 14, 28, 28, and 28. Keep in mind that there were only 28 teams until the NFL expanded in 1995, adding Carolina and Jacksonville. So the bottom line for the history of the Buccaneers’ offense is an average of twenty-second (22nd).
Enough of history! Let’s look at new beginnings. Let’s examine what the potential is for the Buccaneers’ offense taking the field this season. First we must look at the offensive coordinator and his offensive philosophy. The Buccaneers have traditionally ran either a west-coast offense or a hybrid version of the west-coast offense. This offense is predicated on short dump off passes and relies greatly on yards-after-the-catch to be successful. The Buccaneers have hired Mike Sullivan from the New York Giants as their new offensive coordinator. To determine Sullivan’s offensive philosophies we take a look at the New York Giants. Even though Sullivan was the quarter-backs coach and not the OC, a coaches corp beliefs are generally molded through their past experiences. The Giants utilize a little more old-school philosophy to their offensive approach. They love to run the ball heavily and allow their QB to play-action off the run fake. I would expect nothing less from Sullivan and the Bucs’ offensive scheme.
Now let’s look at the offensive leader, QB Josh Freeman. Freeman will be entering his fourth (4th) year as a QB in the NFL. He has a very strong arm, he’s intelligent and he exhibits the extreme desire to be great at his craft. Freeman gave us a taste of what great potential in 2010. Now I understand that Freeman had a set back in statistical numbers for 2011. But I’m not quite sure that there was not a certain player that was yammering in Freeman’s ear during each huddle to throw it to him down the middle because he’s always open. That player is no longer in Freeman’s ear and this is Freeman’s time to be a true leader.
What tools have we given our offensive leader to work with? Will he have time to perform and will he be protected? Well the Bucs have a pro-bowl left-tackle in Donald Penn, they went out and signed the number one rated offensive guard in the NFL, All-Pro Carl Nicks, they moved Jeremy Zuttah to center (his natural position), they have a pro-bowl guard in Davin Joseph and Jeremy Trueblood is in his contract year. With that offensive line, as long as Trueblood can hold the right edge, Freeman should be quite comfortable in the pocket.
Does our offensive leader have outside weapons? In 2010 the Buccaneers took WR Arrelious Benn in the second (2nd) round and then made what I truly believe was the steal of the draft when they grabbed WR Mike Williams in the fourth (4th). Benn was struck by the ugly injury bug and has had to fight his way back, but Williams flashed some wide-receiver brilliance during the 2010 campaign. I’m not sure if it was a sophomore slump or just plain poor offensive scheming that lead to Williams fall-off in 2011. Only time will tell. But the Buccaneers did not sit pat in this area either. They went out and got the number one wide receiver available in free agency with Vincent Jackson. Jackson is a proven number one receiver that not only has deep threat ability, he will go over the middle just as well. I look for the Buccaneers to move Arrelious Benn to the slot position. This is the position that he excelled at in college. Jackson will split wide, and Williams split wide, with Benn in the slot, is a formidable wide-out corps. Let’s not forget that the Buccaneers signed TE Dallas Clark, drafted TE Drake Dunsmore and TE Luke Stocker is, after being injured during his first professional practice in 2011, healthy and will have a full training camp and OTAs.
Does our offensive leader have a running game behind him that defenses have to respect? RB LaGarette Blount began his Buccaneers career turning a great deal of heads. If not turning them, at least making them look up as he flew over them. Blount exhibited a great deal of potential when the Bucs picked him off the Titans’ waivers in 2010. A great deal of people jumped on the “Blount fumbles too much” bandwagon during 2011, and yes he does need to secure the ball much better. And there has been rumors of his success going to his head and he had become lazy with studying his playbook. That being said, the Buccaneers once again did not sit pat this off season. They traded from the top of the second round of this year’s draft, back into the first round, and selected running back Doug Martin of Boise State. Martin is consistently described by most NFL analyst as a clone to RB Ray Rice. The Buccaneers also selected RB Michael Smith in the seventh (7th) round. Smith is a speedster that has been compared to the Saints’ Darren Sproles. With the acquisition of these two running-backs it appears that, not only have sparks been lit, but there may be a full-blown inferno lit under Blount’s backside to fight for his position.
So Buccaneers fans, it’s been thirty-six (36) years and only two (2) top ten (10) offensive rankings. I look at this year’s offense like this. With the offensive line blocking I truly believe our running backs are going to post some serious yardage numbers. Running the ball successfully will force eight (8) man fronts or, with this trio, maybe even more. This will in turn open up the passing game where Jackson and Williams are spread out with Benn in the slot. If opposing defenses have eight (8) in the box, the double teams will be eliminated; and if they were to slide out to a double-team, they can only double one player. With Clark down the middle, and after a play action, our running-back swinging to the flats, this offense may just be dangerous. I will be the first to climb out on that limb and predict our offensive ranking to be in the top eight (8) of the NFL by years end. As always GO BUCS!