Tampa Bay moved to 4-2 last season after a win over the Saints, but the Bucs stopped there. Tampa Bay's 2011 season was a complete disaster. They never won another game all year and often found themselves at the wrong end of a blowout. Josh Freeman threw 16 more interceptions than he had the year before. LeGarrette Blount was asked to be the primary back, which proved to not work. And finally Raheem Morris was fired and replaced by former Rutgers head coach Gregg Schiano.
The offense will be run by Mike Sullivan, former quarterbacks and wide receivers coach for the Giants, which could suggest that the Buccaneers aren't going to be afraid to throw the ball despite Freeman's 22 interceptions a year ago. They also added All-Pro guard Carl Nicks to provide Freeman with better protection and greater running lanes for the backs, which include Doug Martin as the guy that's going to provide the 1-2 punch that Blount needs. Pun intended.
Tampa may have been in a special position to turn things around quickly as Freeman still seems like a franchise quarterback, they hit big on free agency and in the draft, and the division could be up for grabs with the Saints scandal. Let's take a look at how their players could perform in fantasy.
2011 Record: 4-12
Drafted Skill Players: Doug Martin, RB (1st), Michael Smith, RB (7th), Drake Dunsmore, TE (7th) (Dunsmore on practice squad)
Dearly Departed: Earnest Graham, Josh Johnson, Kregg Lumpkin, Dezmon Briscoe
It wasn't all bad. Freeman had seven games in 2011 where his QB rating was 89.7 or better. He was inconsistent, he lacked talent around him, he was asked to be the leader of a team without discipline. That will change this year.
I'm going to be a realist though. Tampa has one star receiver, one good receiver and one potentially-good No. 3 receiver, but nothing has been proven yet. Freeman is likely to make mistakes still. I don't expect a repeat of his 16 TD/22 INT season or his 25 TD/6 INT season. The reality is probably somewhere in the middle.
2012 Projection: 62%, 3,600 yards, 23 TD/12 INT. Two rushing TD.
If the Bucs run an offense anything like what the Giants run, it's going to be rather even in carries for Blount and Martin, which isn't necessarily great news for their fantasy owners. I could see Martin getting 2/3rds of the carries but not goal-line carries. I don't like to overpay for rookies.
2012 Projection: 200 carries, 850 yards, 7 TD
I have never been a fan of Blount, and I tried to caution people from drafting him last season. He works better as a third-down, goal-line back and can't be counted on to consistently deliver on 25 touches in a game. Over his last five games last season, Blount had 46 carries for 137 yards.
He'll work better as the No. 2 back.
2012 Projection: 140 carries, 500 yards, 5 TD
Seventh-round pick Michael Smith will be third in line.
He's one of the best deep threats in the NFL and I expect the Bucs to go to him often this year. If he can catch 60 percent of his targets, he could have a career year. There's a bit of a consistency issue here, as Jackson had less than 50 yards in eight games. What's hard to resist is his big-play ability and that he has had some monster games in his career.
2012 Projection: 70 catches, 1,200 yards, 9 TD
He should be a lot more productive with Jackson now taking over as the deep threat. Williams can take advantage of having more openings underneath.
2012 Projection: 75 catches, 900 yards, 5 TD
Parker had a couple of good games last year. He might be a sleeper after finishing 2011 with 554 yards in his second season and if Williams fails to be productive in his opportunity this year, Parker might step up. Sullivan's Giants had several productive receivers last year, but Victor Cruz was the one to come out of nowhere to be the most valuable. Parker, Arrelious Benn and Sammie Stroughter are the only other receivers on Bucs' active roster.
He was an All-Pro in 2009 with a career season. He has made just sixteen starts in the two years since and has not been as productive. Clark is a good tight end and a good receiving threat and that's it. Danny Noble and Luke Stocker back him up.
2012 Projection: 45 catches, 500 yards, 3 TD
The flipside to all of this: Another complete disaster!
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