Roster Analysis: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Here is a close look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as they head into their season opener against the New York Jets Sunday, 1 p.m.(ET)

QUARTERBACKS: Starter - Josh Freeman. Backups - Dan Orlovsky, Mike Glennon.
This is a make-or-break season for Freeman, who is scheduled to become a free agent in 2014. He set franchise records for passing yards (4,065) and touchdown passes (27) last season but was plagued by some poor decision-making and 17 interceptions. He failed to get his offense into the end zone in preseason, completing 12 of 26 passes for 101 yards passing (46.2) with no touchdowns and no interceptions for a 56.7 efficiency rating. He was sacked nine times and fumbled once. Freeman should benefit from his second year in the system under offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan.
RUNNING BACKS: Starters - RB Doug Martin, FB Erik Lorig. Backups - RB Brian Leonard, RB Mike James, RB Peyton Hillis.
Martin rushed for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie last year. His one fumble in 368 touches was impressive. He appeared in only two preseason games after taking a knee to the helmet, but will start vs. the Jets. Leonard, who played for coach Greg Schiano at Rutgers, won the No. 2 tailback spot. The Bucs also kept James, their sixth-round pick from Miami, and Hillis, who is two years removed from a 1,100-yard rushing performance for the Browns.
TIGHT ENDS: Starter - Luke Stocker. Backups - Tom Crabtree, Nate Byham, Tim Wright.
The Bucs lost veteran Dallas Clark to free agency. Stocker, a fourth-round pick from Tennessee, needs to make a giant step forward in his third pro season. He has yet to prove he can be a complete tight end and missed much of training camp with a calf injury. Crabtree suffered a high ankle sprain in the final preseason game, forcing the Bucs to keep Bynam and Wright.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters - Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams. Backups - Kevin Ogletree, Eric Page, Russell Shepard.
The Bucs have the best tandem of receivers in franchise history. Jackson was everything as advertised and more, setting career marks for receptions (72), receiving yards (1,384) and average (19.2). Look for him to have an increased role in the slot when the Bucs go to three receiver sets to give him a two-way go. Williams thrived as the Bucs' No. 2 WR. He lacks sizzling speed but has great body control. Ogletree will be a good addition as the third wideout. The Bucs claimed Shepard off waivers from the Eagles.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - LT Donald Penn, LG Carl Nicks, C Jeremy Zuttah, RG Davin Joseph, DT Demar Dotson. Backups - T Gabe Carimi, G/C Ted Larsen, T Jamon Meredith.
The Bucs allowed the third-fewest sacks in the NFL last season, which is a great accomplishment considering the injuries to Joseph and Nicks. But they developed some depth. Carimi, who is reunited with Winsonsin OL coach Bob Bostad, could start the season at LG for Nicks. Penn was the only Bucs offensive lineman to start all 16 games at the same position last season. Zuttah emerged as a leader and has the unselfishness to switch to guard if needed.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - RDE Adrian Clayborn, DT Gerald McCoy, NT Akeem Spence, LDE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim. Backups - DE Da'Quan Bowers, DE William Gholston, DT Derek Landri, DT Chris Jones, DE Steven Means, DE Trevor Scott, DT Gary Gibson.
The biggest question surrounding the Bucs' fortunes are on the defensive line. McCoy was named to the Pro Bowl after playing in 16 games for the first time in his career. But the Bucs lost sack leader Michael Bennett (Seattle) and nosetackle Roy Miller (Jaguars) to free agency. Clayborn led the Bucs with 7.5 sacks as a rookie but missed nearly all of 2012 with a knee injury. Bowers missed the first eight games last year with an Achilles injury and failed to win the job, will begin the year as a situational pass rusher. Spence, a fourth round pick from Illinois, was dynamic at times during the preseason.
LINEBACKERS: Starters - WSLB Lavonte David, MLB Mason Foster, SSLB Dekoda Watson. Backups - Jonathan Casillas, Adam Hayward.
David was an All-Rookie performer who led the team in tackles last season while calling all the defenses. Foster took a big step forward last season as a run stuffer, but lacks the ability to remain on the field in pass situations. Watson and Casillas still are battling for the starting strong side spot but both will play. Hayward is a special teams maven who can play all three spots.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Darrelle Revis, RCB Johnthan Banks, S Mark Barron, FS Dashon Goldson. Backups - CB Michael Adams, CB Leonard Johnson, CB Danny Gorrer (IR, designated to return), S Ahmad Black, CB Rashaan Melvin, S Keith Tandy.
Last in the NFL in pass defense in 2012, the Bucs upgraded their talent by signing 49ers free agent safety Goldson and trading for Revis. He did not play in the preseason but will start against the Jets. The Bucs also used a second-round pick on Banks, the Thorpe Award winner as the nation's best defensive back. He will start opposite Revis.
Barron had a spotty rookie season with only one INT but should be used less in coverage with the addition of Goldson. Gorrer is on injured reserve, designated to return.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Starters - PK Rian Lindell. P Michael Koenen, LS Andrew Economos, KOR/PR Eric Page.
The Bucs were dealt a late blow when PK Connor Barth tore his Achilles in a basketball game for charity. Tynes contracted MRSA and was placed on the Non-Football Injury list. The job went to Lindell, who spent only 10 days in Tampa Bay after being cut by the Bills. Koenen and Economos are among the best at their positions, albeit the former saw his punting average drop a notch or two in 2012. Page won the job as both the punt and kickoff returner with a solid job in the preseason.

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