I love the preseason for so many reasons. Getting to watch rookies take the field for the first time, watching position battles and just knowing that the regular season is right around the corner. But what I like most about the preseason are the hot takes that come with the optimism of a new year. Some much over analyzing preseason games. So much overhyping. It’s fun to see the crazy opinions people develop during this time. So, crazy or not, here are my takes on the Bucs as they enter the 2017 season. May we look back at the end of the year and judge them accordingly.
- Jameis Winston will be one of the best passers in the NFL this year: Specifically, I think he’ll be in the ball park of being a top five quarterback in the league. After throwing for 4,000+ yards and 28 touchdowns last year, Winston was already better than most quarterbacks in the game. Now with the additions of DeSean Jackson, O.J. Howard, and Chris Godwin, it’s fair to expect Winston to grow on these numbers in a big way. If I were to take a guess, I’d estimate about 4,500 yards and 35 touchdowns. Those kind of numbers would have made him fourth in both passing yards and passing touchdowns.
- The Bucs will be better at running the ball in 2017: Sure, that isn’t the most bold statement after the Bucs ranked in the bottom five in both rushing yards per attempt and rushing touchdowns, but it’s something that has to be said. The team is deeper at the running back position this year with the addition of Jeremy McNichols, the return of a healthy Charles Sims and Peyton Barber looking better as he enters his second year in the league. On top of that, Tampa should have better blocking this season. J.R. Sweezy, who thrives as a run blocker, is finally healthy after missing last season with a back injury. The Bucs also added a blocker in the first round of the draft with tight end O.J. Howard. Bottom-line, the talent is better so the result should be better.
- The Bucs will have a run defense thank ranks in the top half of the league: This was one of the team’s big goals going into the offseason as they looked to get bigger and stronger up the middle. To this end they signed defensive tackle Chris Baker and drafted defensive tackle Stevie Tu’ikolovatu and linebacker Kendell Beckwith. This in addition to one of the best defensive tackles in the game, Gerald McCoy, and and two of the best linebackers in Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander. So now with a few more role players to go along with their established stars, the Bucs should be improved in this area.
- O.J. Howard will not be a top tight end this season: While I have often said that Howard is going to be one of the best to ever play the game, that’s not going to happen as a rookie. Cameron Brate will lead the tight ends in receiving yards. From Howard I expect around 400 yards this year. Anything else is just too much to ask from a first year player. He should be particularly impactful in the redzone though. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him get seven touchdowns.
- The Bucs will NOT win the south: I know, I hate saying it even more than you hate hearing it. Sadly, I don’t think the Falcons are going away. Many will talk about the Super Bowl hangover. Others will bring up that Atlanta lost their great offensive coordinator. Both are valid arguments of why the Falcons will drop off. However, I can’t bring myself to bet against their talent. This means the Bucs will probably be fighting for second place in the end.
- The Bucs WILL return to the playoffs this year: The team is just too talented and too well coached to not make the playoffs. Now that could always change with injuries, but with everyone healthy at this point in the preseason they’re off to a good start. If they do stay relatively healthy then I expect this team to win ten games this season. After that, we’ll just take it one game at a time.