Bucs: Big changes, better results?
After Week 13 last season, the Bucs were 9-3 and had allowed just one rushing TD all year. But a Week-14, Monday-night smackdown at Carolina (that included 299 rushing yards and four rushing TDs by the Panthers) started a tailspin that ultimately resulted in Tampa missing the playoffs and making several key changes to the organization.
Former coach Jon Gruden is gone, as is legendary defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and offensive coordinator Bill Muir. Starting QB Jeff Garcia is now in Oakland, and franchise favorite RB Warrick Dunn is looking for work. Veteran receivers Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard were also shown the door, as were LBs Derrick Brooks and Cato June. In other words -- a good old-fashioned housecleaning (though, amazingly, Carnell Williams is still there).
The Bucs promoted former defensive backs coach Raheem Morris, just 32, to head coach, and brought in former Dolphins coach Jim Bates to lead the defense. The offense will be overseen by former Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski, but he's not the only new face on that side of the ball. Veteran QB Byron Leftwich, rookie QB Josh Freeman, RB Derrick Ward and TE Kellen Winslow Jr. will be charged with improving a Bucs offense that ranked 18th in points per game (22.6) and 14th in total yards per game (341.0).
Defensively, the Bucs will be looking to get faster and more aggressive. By getting rid of a couple veterans and relying more on youth, Tampa hopes to avoid another late-season collapse.
Unfortunately, the Bucs' schedule, lack of collective experience and an injury to No. 1 WR Antonio Bryant might lead to an early-season collapse. Still, a strong O-line means the Bucs' offensive players -- particularly the running backs -- won't be completely worthless. And that should help Bucs players avoid a fantasy housecleaning by impatient owners.