Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2011 Season Preview: Continuing The Success Story

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 12: Quarterback Josh Freeman #5 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drops back to pass against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first quarter on August 12, 2011 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

SB Nation is previewing the 2011 season for all 32 teams and up today is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Check out all of our 2011 NFL season previews.

The 2011 NFL season is almost here which means it's time to preview every team's chances this year. SB Nation's Bucs Nation gives us the scoop on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Record Prediction

It is undeniable that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a bright future ahead of them. With a talented young quarterback, they know they have their franchise cornerstone for the next decade. Over the past drafts, the Bucs have been accumulating talent on both sides of the ball. In addition to all this, the Bucs are coming off a 10-6 season in which they barely missed the playoffs.

Despite all those positives, I am predicting that the Bucs will take a small step backwards. Last year's successful season was filled with close wins and weak opponents. The Bucs will not be so fortunate this season, and will have to go through a much stronger slate of opponents to get to ten wins.

Don't despair, though, Bucs fans. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may not improve on their record, but they will almost certainly be a better team. Their time will come, just not this year.

Best Game On The Schedule

In week 5 of the 2003 season, the Tampa Buccaneers played the Indianapolis Colts on a Monday night. It was a game for the ages but with an ugly finish for the Bucs, as Tony Dungy returned to Tampa Bay to lead the Colts to victory. In the final five minutes of regulation the Indianapolis Colts scored three touchdowns on a proud Bucs defense to take the game to overtime. Mike Vanderjagt then kicked a game-winning field goal.

That loss sent the 2003 Bucs spiraling out of control, but now the 2011 Buccaneers have a chance to set things right. In week 4 of the season the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football. Josh Freeman will duel Peyton Manning in Tampa. It should be a great game, and it certainly looks like the most attractive game on the schedule.

Player Who Takes A Step Back This Year

Ted Larsen was the surprise of last season. The waiver-wire pick-up managed to start 11 games last season, and performed pretty well for a sixth-round rookie. While he was drafted by the Patriots as a center, he played guard for the Bucs and showed power as a run-blocker and skill as a pass-blocker.

Unfortunately, Larsen has had a horrific preseason and looks like he has taken a significant step back, where he was expected to improve on his rookie effort. Larsen looked like a genius pickup last year, but it may not be long before he loses his starting job.

Breakout Player Candidates

Gerald McCoy was drafted third overall last season, one spot behind Ndamukong Suh. Unfortunately for McCoy, he was constantly compared to the rookie phenom. McCoy struggled in his first year, although he started to play very well before ending up on IR in week 13.

Since then, Gerald McCoy has reshaped his body and his attitude to the game. When he came into training camp McCoy looked leaner and stronger. He was explosive as a pass rusher and very strong as a run blocker. The new defensive line coaches Keith Millard and Grady Stretz also fit his style much better. Instead of asking him to hold his gap, the new scheme asks McCoy to get upfield and be disruptive.

This new style was on display in the preseason. The second-year player missed the first preseason game with a minor shoulder injury, but he came back with a vengeance. Against the New England Patriots he was nearly unblockable, while he was explosive and disruptive against the Miami Dolphins.

Gerald McCoy will be the centerpiece of a young but talented defensive line, and the defensive tackle looks ready to have a great year.

Best Bucs Player Others Haven't Heard Of

Cody Grimm was a seventh-round pick last year, but was forced into action as the starting free safety when Tanard Jackson was suspended indefinitely. Grimm ended the year on injured reserve with a broken leg, but opened a lot of eyes in the nine games he started.

Grimm is undersized, but fast and physical in run defense and disciplined on the back end, despite giving up an ugly touchdown in his first start. Not a lot of people have heard of Cody Grimm, but he was a key cog in a Bucs defense which was starting to come together before Grimm was lost to injured reserve last year.

Overrated/Underrated/Just Right

One underrated player on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is Earnest Graham. The veteran running back has done it all for the Buccaneers: he has been a lead back, a third-down back, a fullback, a special teams demon. Whatever the team asks of him, he will do, and he will do it well. 'Insurance' Graham's versatility and selfless attitude make him very valuable for this team, but he is rarely mentioned. This makes him one of the most underrated Buccaneers.

Fantasy Football Outlook

There are just four players on the Bucs' team who are relevant in fantasy football: Josh Freeman, Mike Williams, Legarrette Blount, and Kellen Winslow.

Josh Freeman was a solid fantasy quarterback last year, but not someone who was going to bring you anywhere. I think you can expect more of the same this year: a steady output of solid but unspectacular games, with no stinkers.

Mike Williams produced in very much the same way: he had either a touchdown or a bunch of yards in most games. Williams should be a better NFL player this season, but reproducing his rookie season in fantasy football will be tough, because catching 11 touchdowns is pretty impressive.

Legarrette Blount will be a solid second or third running back in fantasy football, but I don't see him doing much more than that. His lack of pass-catching prowess will limit him, especially in PPR formats. A lack of touchdown production will also hurt him, as the Bucs plan to use other running backs on the goalline.

Kellen Winslow, on the other hand, could have a huge year. The tight end was fickle in fantasy football last season, but he could be one of the top producers this time around. This is the first time in years Winslow has not had offseason knee surgery, and the tight end spent most of his summer working out with Josh Freeman. The chemistry those two built should pay off in a big way during the regular season.

Best Player To Follow On Twitter

Geno Hayes (@genohayes54) is one of the more active Bucs on twitter, always having something funny to say. He also frequently interacts with fans and followers.     

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