The Bucs are a popular “team on the rise” going into the 2017 season. And why shouldn’t they be? A great young quarterback leading the offense, depth and talent on the defensive line, two of the best linebackers in the game, and a deep stable of pass catchers to work with. It seems like nothing and no one can hold this group back from making the postseason and making some noise once they get there. Well, at least, almost no one. But if there were players to hold the Bucs back here’s who they’d be.
5. Devante Bond
The Bucs moved back into the end of the third round to draft Kendell Beckwith to fill a need a strong side linebacker. However, Beckwith is recovering from an injury and will likely miss a significant amount of time. Until then it will probably be Bond, a second year player with almost no NFL experience, who occupies that spot. Last year’s sixth round pick has a lot to prove as he inherits the job from veteran Daryl Smith. It’s safe to say that if there’s one hole in the Bucs front seven, it’s Bond.
Brent Grimes was one of the best in the NFL at breaking up passes in 2016. pic.twitter.com/6tOyXyf6uw
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) June 25, 2017
4. Brent Grimes
Grimes turned out to be a nice veteran signing for the Bucs last season. He made several big plays and interceptions throughout the year and was a great presence in the secondary. However, Grimes is turning 34 this month. I question if he can keep playing at a high level as he approaches the end of his career. If Grimes drops off then the Bucs have limited depth behind him and it would leave the Bucs desperate for answers.
What all this means is that if Doug Martin is anything like he’s shaping up to be in 2017, Tampa Bay could have a Top 5 offense.
— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) July 5, 2017
3. Doug Martin
After being the second leading rusher in 2015, Martin was a non-factor last season. He struggled with injuries on the field and had various personal problems off the field that led to a four game suspension. Despite his issues, the Bucs brought him back to be their main ball carrier for the upcoming season. Based on reports from offseason workouts, Martin looks better than ever. However, it’s hard to put too much stock into that. Bottom-line, if Martin is the guy from 2015 then this offense will be explosive and if he’s the guy from 2016 then the rushing attack will be all but nonexistent.
2. Donovan Smith
Smith is at a pivotal point in his career. He has had his fair share of growing pains over his first two seasons; now it’s time to prove that he’s the long-term answer at left tackle. He’s shown solid ability as a run blocker, but his pass blocking has left something to be desired. If he can’t protect Winston and it results in the franchise quarterback getting injured, then that could be the end of the Bucs season. Smith needs to step up his game this year or he will certainly hold the team back.
1. Roberto Aguayo
The Bucs invested a lot into Aguayo in the form of a second round pick. He did not live up to that investment as a rookie and now the pressure is on him to preform. While kicker isn’t thought of as a critical position, a good one is the difference between winning and losing. If Aguayo can bounce back from a bad rookie year (like many early round kickers have done in the past) then he’d be the element of the Bucs offense that has been missing for a long time. If not, then I hope they don’t have to win a lot of close games.