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3 steps to success: Tampa Bay needs to decide quarterback issue

Greg Schiano made strides in his first year, but this is put up or shut up time with the team's big investment in Darrelle Revis.


He was brash, methodical, and didn't care what the media thought about his end-of-game play calling. Greg Schiano took the helm of one the least disciplined rosters in the NFL in 2012, and installed a new system on the field and in the locker room. The Buccaneers took strides forward, but in order to take the next step they'll need to do these things right.

Entering his second year, Schiano got plenty of support from his front office. The team needed an elite cornerback to stop the potent passing offenses in the NFC South, and they executed the biggest trade this year -- acquiring Darrelle Revis from the New York Jets.

1. They need to make a decision at quarterback quickly

Rumors may be overblown on how much third-round rookie Mike Glennon is pressuring Josh Freeman, but that doesn't mean there's no smoke. The Bucs showed their lack of faith in Freeman by selecting Glennon early, and if he can prove that he can take better care of the football than Josh, that might be enough in Schiano's run-first offense.

That being said, floundering at the QB position is a huge liability. It's what marred the Jon Gruden era in Tampa Bay, and whoever is given the reins needs to have full support of the organization. Is Josh Freeman as talented as he was in 2010, or as flawed as 2011? The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, but he needs to be more consistent.

2. The defensive line needs to stay healthy

Tampa's starting defensive line missed a combined 19 games in 2012, and now they'll lean on Gary Gibson to add to this group and prove he's starting material. There are a lot of questions for a unit with so much talent. Da'Quan Bowers will need to prove he can take the next step to become an effective pass rusher.

Revis is a huge asset in buying the line time by locking down a receiver, but if the pass rush can't support him it's pointless. No team can predict injuries. They can mitigate them through solid depth. Right now, there's little evidence the defensive line depth is there.

If Akeem Spence can prove to be a valuable contributor, then a lot of these ills are solved. That's a long shot for a fourth round pick.

3. New coaching hirings need to pay off

Schiano kept his offensive and defensive coordinators, but made widespread changes in his support staff. Five new position coaches were hired, mostly on the offensive side of the ball.

Position coaches are necessary, but largely overlooked on most teams. For the Buccaneers' young roster, they are vital. These coaches will be leaned on to develop Tampa's young talent, and find a balance with their veteran presence.

Schiano is talented, but there have been critiques of his bedside manner. Where Raheem Morris was too easy on his players, he tends to be too harsh. If his position coaches can be a necessary buffer, they'll take big steps forward.

Ultimate answer

The Buccaneers are a young, talented team who happen to find themselves in a division with two NFC veteran powerhouses. They'll need to bide their time along with Carolina while the Falcons and Saints make their last pushes until the wheels fall off.

Building slowly is the name of the game, and while it's wholly possible they exceed their seven-win total from 2012, it's hard to imagine they'll be able to crack the playoffs this year.

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