Don’t hold your breath on the Tampa Bay’s offense.
A season ago, there wasn’t a whole lot the Buccaneers were great at. Although improvements are expected in the upcoming year — I mean, how could there not be — it appears more of the same for the Bucs in 2014.
After ranking No. 9 in the NFL in total offense in 2012, the Bucs fell to dead last in the league in total offense in 2013, including a league-worst 176.3 passing yards per game. Denver, the league’s best offense a season ago, scored 606 points; Tampa Bay, 288. The Bucs gave up 47 sacks (No. 6 overall), giving up 361 yards in the process (No. 3 overall).
Strip Vincent Jackson’s 1,224 yards in 2013 from Tampa Bay’s totals (38 percent of their receiving sum), and you’re left with 1,957 yards.
Jackson enters this season as a 31-year-old coming off absolutely zero seasons of 80 receptions and 10 touchdowns receiving. As Rotoviz’s Rich Hribar notes, “he led the entire NFL in market share percentage and had third-most targets trailing by two or more scores (51).”
When compared with receivers of similar merit Torrey Smith and Mike Wallace his numbers and production don’t stack up.
Enter Lovie Smith and his abysmal résumé on offense. You may remember him from the 2006 season in which his quarterback Rex Grossman completed more passes to the Green Bay defense than to his Chicago colleagues, or the win sparking Arizona then-Coach Dennis Green’s blow-up and permanent spot in YouTube heaven when the Bears won despite not scoring an offensive touchdown.
“I’ve never played so bad and won a game like that,” said Grossman following the win, after throwing four interceptions and losing two fumbles. “It was unbelievable.”
Rookie wide receiver Mike Evans from Texas A&M could very well have a breakout season. Running back Charles Sims could become a pass-catching fiend in his first season, too, despite not being a conventional runner. All reports indicate that Austin Seferian-Jenkins is as skilled as they come, and has created a logjam at the tight end position. Tampa Bay might be operating with the most depth in terms of receiving that they’ve had in the last half-decade.
So, perhaps you heard that Mike Evans made a KINDA GOOD catch today in practice. Here’s what it looked like. pic.twitter.com/IzhbKeNxBg
— Scott Smith (@ScottSBucs) May 16, 2014
Josh McCown is coming off an attention-grabbing year in Chicago, one where he more than adequately buoyed the Bears in starter Jay Cutler’s absence. In games where attempted more than 20 passes (six), he threw for an average of 291.16 yards a season ago. The Bucs didn’t have a quarterback throw for that many yards in a game all season.
It still won’t be enough, though.
Given that Lovie Smith is notorious for exclusively working with the defensive side of the ball, Jeff Tedford, Tampa’s new offensive coordinator, will likely be calling all of the plays.
Aaron Rogers, Marshawn Lynch, Shane Vereen, Jahvid Best, DeSean Jackson and Keenan Allen, are just a few of the NFL players that have learned under his tutelage.
Tedford’s track record indicates a 54-46 ratio of rush-to-pass play calls. If Doug Martin can stay healthy, he’ll be the focal point of the offense. That also could help ease McCown into the new system in the same way having Matt Forte eased him into Chicago’s. But considering how challenging the NFC South is — New Orleans (11-5 a season ago), Carolina (12-4 a season ago), and Atlanta (4-12 a season ago) — the road will be far from easy for Tampa Bay. Carolina had the league’s second-best total defense a season ago, New Orleans is always in the playoff picture and now has their play caller in Sean Payton back, and Atlanta hasn’t missed the playoffs in consecutive years since 2007.
Young talent can be found on any NFL lineup, and every training camp this fall. Very few teams can claim to have more latent prospects than Tampa Bay, but that doesn’t mean the Bucs can fight their way out of one of the toughest divisions in football in 2014.
Josh Planos has had his work featured at Rivals, Bleacher Report, Denver Post, CBS Sports Radio, Fox Sports Radio, and ESPN Radio, and is currently a columnist for the ESPN TrueHoop Network, FanSided and The Pick and Roll. He loves interacting with readers via Twitter (@JPlanos).