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It’s that time of year again. Time to pick and choose the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tickets that will make your season a great one. With a full slate of games and a new crop of up and coming players, the NFL is about to begin its yearly assault on our senses. Be ready for thrills, spills, and bone crunching tackles. Be ready for elation and celebration, dejection and resurrection. Be ready for the 2014 season with NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers tickets from Frontrow.com.
Can the Bucs Turn Heartbreak to Victory?
When we left the Tampa Bay Buccaneers eight months ago, a promising 2008 season appeared to be sailing into a playoff port. Jon Gruden’s squad needed a victory at home over the lowly Oakland Raiders to extend the season and give the Bucs a chance to host the biggest game of all. Visions of a possible Super Bowl XLIII at Raymond James Stadium featuring the home team filled the heads of Buccaneer fans like a pre-game tailgate of Cuban sandwiches and slightly chilled beer fills their stomachs.
However, the course to the playoffs hit an Oakland Raiders iceberg. Al Davis’ edict of “Pride and Poise” made a rare 21st century appearance. The Raiders came from behind to stun the Bucs 28-24 while turning the pirate ship in Tampa Bay’s end zone into an artificial reef.
Fans were heartbroken. Management was angry. The Glazer brothers weren’t about to let the captain go down with the ship.
General Manager Bruce Allen was tossed overboard.
Gruden walked the plank into the cold waters of NFL unemployment.
And that was only the beginning of the Buccaneer bailout. Veterans like Linebacker Derrick Brooks, Running Back Warrick Dunn, and Wide Receivers Ike Hilliard and Joey Galloway were all sent packing. Quarterbacks Jeff Garcia and Brian Griese left too. The 0-4 finish to the ’08 season prompted ownership to chart a new course.
There are lots of new faces at One Buc Place.
Pro personnel director Mark Dominik climbed the front office ladder to general manager. Gruden’s replacement rode a comet to the head coaching vacancy.
The plan for 32 year old defensive backs coach Raheem Morris was to take over for defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. That lasted for a month. Once Gruden was gone, Morris suddenly found himself as not just head coach, but also the youngest sideline leader in the National Football League. Only five players on the current roster are older than Morris; four of those by less than a year.
The departures of Garcia and Griese have opened up a quarterback battle that might be settled by opening day.
Luke McCown is the only signal caller left over from last year’s disappointing 9-7 season. He threw just one pass and that was an incompletion. Seven year veteran Byron Leftwich becomes Tampa Bay’s answer to the “experienced quarterback needed to show the ropes for hot shot rookie” want ad. Leftwich has playoff experience with Jacksonville, but that was four seasons ago. Since then, he’s started only eight games. Morris says Leftwich and McCown are battling for the starting spot while first round draft pick Josh Freeman watches and learns. The Bucs invested highly on Freeman in last spring’s draft, hoping he’ll become the pewter and red savior for years to come. According to Morris, he’s not ruling out giving his much-hyped rookie some playing time later in the season. But at the start of the ’09 campaign, the starting quarterback will be McCown or Leftwich.
The off-season changes extended to Tampa Bay’s running game. Derrick Ward, fresh from a 1,000 yard season with the Giants, has been brought in to shore up what’s been an inconsistent and banged up running game over the last couple of seasons. He’ll battle for the halfback spot with Earnest Graham. Last year, the former Florida Gator piled up more than 700 yards rushing and receiving under Gruden’s short yardage west coast offense. The biggest wish for the organization though is for the Cadillac to get out of the garage. Cadillac Williams enters his fifth season in Tampa’s backfield in what could be a pivotal year for his NFL future. Since suffering a major knee injury two seasons ago, Williams has rushed for just 441 yards in eight games. After an explosive rookie campaign in 2005 when he helped rush the Bucs to their last NFC South title, the Cadillac has been beat up leaving some fans wondering if he might be eligible to trade in in the Cash for Clunkers program.
Questions already abound about Morris’ receiving corps. Antonio Bryant is questionable to start the regular season. Michael Clayton is still trying to recapture the magic of his rookie season five years ago when he caught 80 passes for 1,193 yards. Since then, his highest single season receiving total was last year’s 484 yards.
The major addition to the passing game is actually a soldier, or so he once claimed. Tight end Kellen Winslow heads to Tampa after what can mildly be described as five roller coaster years in Cleveland. After an injury-filled start next to Lake Erie, Winslow rebounded to average nearly 1,000 yards receiving a year in ’06 and ’07. He dropped off to less than half that in ’08. The Bucs basically used their 2nd round pick on the one-time Miami Hurricane. It appears he’ll wind up as their #1 tight end on opening day.
If Morris and company can count on one thing this year it might be the offensive line. Four of the five starters return led by Pro Bowl alternate Davin Joseph at right guard. The only O-line problem could be at left guard; the position charged with protecting a right handed quarterback’s blind side where Jeremy Zuttah takes over for Arron Sears.
Tampa Bay’s defense could be formidable up front and in the secondary, but weak in the middle. The defensive line of ends Jimmy Wilkerson and former first round draft pick Gaines Adams and tackles Chris Hovan and Ryan Sims is experienced and has been able to stop the run. It gets a little shaky behind the line. While middle linebacker Barrett Ruud comes off a season with 137 tackles, returning outside backers Geno Hayes, Adam Hayward and Quincy Black combined for just 46 tackles in ’08.
In the secondary, cornerbacks Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib bring experience to one side and a hope for continued improvement on the other side in Talib’s case. They picked off four passes apiece last year. Third year strong safety Sabby Piscitelli returns from his two interception, 40 tackle season of a year ago. The free safety position could be an early problem for new defensive coordinator Jim Bates. Tanard Jackson has to serve a four game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Will Allen will fill-in, but he hasn’t picked off a pass in four years.
The Tampa Bay Bucs of 2011 could contend for the NFC South title. This patchwork ’09 bunch might win four games.
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Alabama in the NFL
Tuscaloosa News (subscription)
Mark Barron, Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety, made eight tackles vs. St. Louis. James Carpenter, Seattle Seahawks guard, started vs. San Diego. Josh Chapman, Indianapolis Colts nose tackle, made two tackles, including one tackle for loss, vs. Philadelphia.
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As Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans found out this week—both literally and figuratively—when it rains, it pours. Coming off two straight losses at home against teams without their starting quarterbacks, the Bucs head to Atlanta for a Thursday Night Football ...
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