Buccaneer position grades for 2018
For the second consecutive season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished with a disappointing 5-11 record.
There was a lot to like, but even more to dislike about the 2018 season. There was a record-setting offense. A defense that looked at times like it would never be competitive at the NFL level. Also a kicking game that was disastrous for most of the season until Cairo Santos added some stability later on.
Here are the position by position grades for the 2018 Buccaneers.
It was truly a season of inconsistency for this position as the Bucs led by Ryan Fitzpatrick the first three games of the season averaged 363 yards passing. The “Fitz Magic” train ran out of gas in Chicago as the Bears defense kept Fitzpatrick in check, and Jameis Winston saw his first action of the season in the second half.
Winston played like the Winston of old his first couple starts. Poor decision-making and carelessness with the football ultimately led to his benching in the second half of the Cincinnati game.
The last seven games of the season, once Koetter committed to Winston for the rest of the season, he had 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. His decision making was the best it has been since entering the NFL.
Running back: D+
The trio of Peyton Barber, Jacquizz Rodgers, and Ronald Jones combined for just over 1,000 yards rushing and three yards-per-carry on the season.
You can pin some of the blame on the poor play from the offensive line, but the Bucs had no one in the backfield that could make a play when they needed one.
Ronald Jones proved to be a bust as he had just 77 yards combined rushing and receiving on the season. The lackluster play led to a Bucs offense that averaged just 98 yards per-game on the ground, which ranked 28th in the league.
This is an area the Bucs have to improve and quickly.
Wide Receivers: A+
The group of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Adam Humphries, and DeSean Jackson were one of the top groups in the NFL.
Evans had over 1,000 yards receiving for the fifth consecutive season, and became the all-time leading receiver in Bucs history.
This group played a huge role in helping the offense become the best ever in Buccaneer history averaging 415 yards per-game.
With Jackson being all but gone, third-year receiver Chris Godwin is ready to step in the No. two receiver role. The Bucs also have the speedy Bobo Wilson ready for a larger role. Wilson saw action late in the season primarily as a return man.
Tight End: A+
When healthy, O.J. Howard continues to be a Problem for opposing defenses. Howard averaged over sixteen yards a catch with six touchdowns before being placed on season-ending IR.
Cameron Brate is a solid number two to O.J. Howard as he had six touchdown catches. This duo is one of the best tight end combos in the NFL and barring injuries this duo should be together for a long time.
Offensive Line: D+
This easily could have been an F. According to Pro Football Focus, this group was the worst run-blocking unit in the NFL.
The Bucs were also one of the highest penalized offensive lines in the league. Ryan Jensen, the former All-Pro, had 11 penalties. The majority of those were unnecessary roughness calls after the play had ended.
Jensen, Ali Marpet, Evan Smith and Demar Dotson will be back. Donovan Smith the worst left tackle in the game and Caleb Bennonech will not be back.
Defensive Line C+. A lot of the Bucs defensive problems can be traced to the lack of pressure put on the quarterback by this group.
When Mark Duffner took over for Mike Smith as defensive coordinator, the overall play of the defense and the line play did improve.
Jason Pierre Paul who led the Bucs with twelve and a half sacks was the best player on this defense and the best defensive linemen playing 91 percent of the snaps. Carl Nassib who was picked up as a free agent also played really well notching six and a half sacks.
Once healthy, Vita Vea played well the second half of the season.
This group was hit hard by injuries. When healthy, the trio of Kwon Alexander, Lavonte David, and Kendall Beckwith is one of the top five units in the NFL.
Alexander was put on season-ending IR, David missed two games with injuries, and Beckwith never took the field as his broken ankle suffered in an offseason auto-accident kept him off the field.
Had this group been together the whole season, this grade would have been much higher.
This is an area the Bucs really struggled in. Vernon Hargreaves was again lost for the season and the 2019 season will be a make or break year for Hargreaves.
Brent Grimes the former Pro Bowler was a none factor all season as his head was not really in the game all season.
Three rookies saw extensive playing time and it was baptism by fire. Jordan Whitehead, Carlton Davis, and M.J. Stewart all saw a lot of playing time, which led to the defense giving up a ton of yards. 259 passing and 383 yards overall per game, good for 27th in the league.
Chandler Catanzaro missed four of fifteen field goals and four extra points. Cairo Santos was bright in mid-season and he brought some stability to the kicking game hitting five of six field goals and missing one extra point.
The Bucs finished 29th in field goal percentage and 27th in extra point percentage.
This is an area that the Bucs have to get better in.
Bryan Anger is very solid as a punter and has been consistent game in and game out.
It will be an interesting off-season in Tampa as Jason Licht and Bruce Arians work to bring the Bucs back to respectability.