NFL

Overhauled Buccaneers look to compete in the NFC South

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Mike Hetherington, TSN.ca
8/29/2014 11:18:02 PM
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The 2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be a very different team than the 4-12 club of 2013. New coaches, a new quarterback, new stars and, to top it all off, new uniforms combine to make the new Buccaneers.

Lovie Smith has replaced Greg Schiano at head coach, 2013 starting quarterback Mike Glennon will be open the season as Josh McCown's backup, Darrelle Revis is gone at cornerback and Vincent Jackson is no longer the team's lone receiving weapon.

The Buccaneers used their offseason to overhaul their roster, implement a new offence under offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford and convert their base defence to Smith's Tampa 2 scheme.

The Buccaneers significantly improved their offence in the offseason, bringing in McCown, who posted a 109.0 quarterback rating with 13 touchdowns and one interception with the Bears in 2013. The team also drafted receiver Mike Evans in the first round of May's draft and selected tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the second round.  Finally, the Bucs have added benefit of running back Doug Marin, who is fully recovered from a season-ending shoulder injury suffered in Week 7 of last season.

The reason for the overhaul? The Buccaneers offence posted less yards in 2013 than any other unit in the league. Only Vincent Jackson had more than 600 receiving yards, and his 78 catches were 24 more than next best tight end Timothy Wright, who was traded to the Patriots in the offseason. The Buccaneers hope the added weapons and offensive changes will lead to more balance across the receiving core.

On defence, the Buccaneers ranked 20th in yards allowed and 16th in points. Smith brings with him the same defensive system he used in nine seasons with the Bears, who ranked in the top-10 in takeaways in seven of Smith's nine seasons.

The Buccaneers secondary lost a superstar when the team released Revis, however the signing the Alterraun Verner will help minimize the loss. Opposite of Verner will be either second-year corner Johnthan Banks or veteran Mike Jenkins. At safety, the Buccaneers boast a solid duo in former first-round pick Mark Barron and 2012 All-Pro Dashon Goldson.

However, the strength of the Buccaneers defence will likely be the team's front seven. On the defensive line, former first-round picks Gerald McCoy and Adrian Clayborn will join free agent signees Michael Johnson and Clinton McDonald to create an intimidating front. At linebacker, Lavonte David totaled 145 tackles last season and will line up once again beside Mason Foster, with Jonathan Casillas playing strongside linebacker.

The Buccaneers may struggle to adjust with the amount of changes made throughout off-season, however, the team will surely be different than last year - and just not because of their helmets.

Notes:

Questions on the Line: The Buccaneers signed centre Evan Dietrich-Smith in free agency and traded for left guard Logan Mankins during training camp, however their offensive line remains questionable. Left tackle Anthony Collins was an injury replacement for the Cincinnati Bengals last season, while right tackle Demar Dotson is the lone holdover from last season's line. At right guard, the team is currently slated to start Patrick Omameh, who has never dressed for an NFL game. He was signed by the Buccaneers off the San Francisco 49ers' practice squad last season.

Not Wide in Depth: Should the Buccaneers lose either Jackson or Evans to injury, the team will struggle to find a viable replacement at wide receiver. Behind the two starters, Chris Owusu and Louis Murphy hold backup spots. Owusu caught 13 passes for 114 yards in nine games with the Bucs last season, while Murphy has six receptions for 37 yards in 14 games with the New York Giants. The Bucaneers drafted Robert Herron in the sixth round of the 2014 draft, but he remains listed with the third-stringers.

Josh McCown (Photo: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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