For the next two weeks, 98.7 The Fan will break down the 2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster. We’ll go position by position to see how the Bucs look all the way up to the start of training camp Friday, July 25th.
But we kick-off today in an area where we saw the biggest change take place this offseason, coaching and management.
There are many new faces walking the grounds of One Buc Place compared to last year. However a familiar face from Tampa Bay’s past is back and now in charge, that being head coach Lovie Smith.
Smith took the year off from the NFL last year, spending the 2013 season watching football from his basement in Chicago. After nine seasons being the head man of the Chicago Bears, Smith felt it was necessary to re-evaluate himself until the right opportunity came along. He now returns where his NFL coaching career began. In Tampa with the Bucs.
Lovie brings instant credibility to the locker room. With nearly two decades of NFL coaching experience under his belt, his message should be received much more favorably then that of Raheem Morris or Greg Schiano in previous years. And aligning himself with former head coaches Jeff Tedford (University of California) and Leslie Frazier (Minnesota Vikings) to run the offense and defense will only add credibility for the players to gravitate towards.
Another new face is new and first-time general manager, Jason Licht. Licht wasted little time in luring key free agents to piece together the roster. Signings like DE Michael Johnson and CB Alterraun Verner have bolstered the defense. And the acquisition of QB Josh McCown was so big that Smith immediately came out and said McCown would be the starter over Mike Glennon.
From there, Licht and Smith looked ahead to the NFL Draft. In need of offensive weapons, the Bucs selected Texas A&M WR Mike Evans to lineup opposite Vincent Jackson for big play ability. Tampa Bay would go on to select all offensive players in the NFL Draft, the first time in franchise history.
Now training camp is on the horizon. The offseason has come and gone. What can we expect from the Lovie Smith run Buccaneers in 2014? Players that are relentless on defense, swarm to the football, and create turnovers. Very similar to the Tampa 2/Cover 2 that the Bucs made famous in the late 1990’s. On offense it could look a whole lot different. With depth at nearly every position, expect a lot of unique formations and big play potential from the backs and receivers.
One thing is for sure, there is a sense the Buccaneers have not felt this confident in their head coach and management since winning the Super Bowl. Lovie Smith and Jason Licht have been brought in to unify the Tampa Bay franchise and provide sustained success. For years the Bucs have been relatively inconsistent. Having not made the playoffs since 2007, this is a franchise in need of a clear direction. Similar to the days when Tony Dungy righted the ship and made the Buccaneers a legitimate contender for years.
Can history repeat itself? Will the duo of Lovie Smith and Jason Licht bring the Tampa Bay back to relevancy? Only time will tell. The time starts July 25th.