The Comeback is previewing all 32 NFL teams from worst to first leading up to the start of the 2018 regular season on Sept. 6. Up next in our preseason rankings are the tumult-plagued Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
2017 in a nutshell: Despite high expectations following a breakout 2016 campaign, they start 2-1 and then win just three games the rest of the season.
What’s different: They won’t have supposed franchise quarterback Jameis Winston for the first three games as he serves a suspension.
Why they could be awesome: Winston could return from suspension and finally take off in his fourth season, and their retooled defensive line could become a tremendous asset.
Why they could suck: Winston is a mess and there remain questions regarding the offensive backfield and the defensive backfield.
Major additions: Center Ryan Jensen, second-round rookie running back Ronald Jones, and new defensive linemen Jason Pierre-Paul, Vinny Curry, Beau Allen and Vita Vea.
Major losses: Veteran running back Doug Martin, defensive linemen Chris Baker and Robert Ayers.
Breakout watch: First-round tight end O.J. Howard didn’t dominate as a rookie last season, but he did get hot late in his maiden campaign. He put up strong numbers and caught 70.6 percent of the passes thrown his way while averaging 17.1 yards per reception during his final five games, before a mid-December ankle injury ended his rookie season prematurely.
Position to watch: They’re clearly trying to emulate the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles with that loaded defensive line. A unit that already featured stud Gerald McCoy will have a heavy rotation with former Eagles Allen and Curry, former Giant Pierre-Paul, and first-round monster Vea teaming up with veterans William Gholston and Noah Spence.
Prediction: Winston hasn’t hit a groove on or off the field, and while he has lots of support in the passing game, the Bucs still have issues on both sides of the ball, a ho-hum head coach, and the toughest batch of divisional opponents in the NFL.
5-11, 4th place in the NFC South