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New faces board the ship as the Bucs prepare for 2019

by Travis Politakis

After a disappointing regular season in 2018, finishing fourth in the NFC North with a 5-11 record, the Tama Bay Buccaneers look to rebound with new faces in 2019. The Bucs turn to new head coach, Bruce Arians, to lead the team to success after spending the last five seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. Arians has had success as a head coach, winning the NFL’s Coach of the Year award in 2012 with the Indianapolis Colts and leading the Arizona Cardinals to a franchise best 13-3 record, with an appearance in the NFC Championship game. 

In his introductory press conference, Arians praised the young core of the Bucs and is excited to start with the team as he states, “This coaching staff will build a system to what our players do…I think the core is here and obviously some of the rooms are outstanding.” 

The Bucs also brought in former New York Jets head coach, Todd Bowles, as their defensive coordinator. Bowles takes pride in strengthening the run defense, holding teams to just 4.00 yards per carry in his time with the Jets, which is the sixth best in the NFL. 

In the 2019 NFL Draft, the Bucs focused on building their defense, as they took standout linebacker, Devin White, from LSU with the number fifth overall pick in the first round. White was one of the best defensive players available in the 2019 NFL Draft, as he posted 286 tackles and 8.5 sacks in his three years at LSU. White has lightning-quick speed as he ran a 4.42 40 yard dash at the 2019 NFL Combine. White will be paired with inside linebacker Lavonte David which could be scary for opposing offenses. White is poised to be the defensive leader of the Bucs for years to come.

The Bucs also drafted defensive back Sean Bunting from Central Michigan, cornerback Jamel Dean and safety Mike Edwards with their second and third round picks, hoping to secure their secondary. The Bucs will also get their first look at their 2018 first round pick, defensive lineman Vita Vea, who missed the 2018 season due to injury. 

Quarterback, Jameis Winston, talked about the maturity of the Bucs 2019 rookie class, including White saying, “Those guys are coming in willing to work and it heads with Devin White. The guy is a hard worker and he’s a great leader, so they’re going to follow his footsteps. There’s no age limit on leadership”.

On offense, the Bucs took a little bit of a hit, losing deep threat wide receiver Desean Jackson in free agency, but the Bucs have plenty of young weapons who are ready to prove they belong. Third year wide receiver Chris Godwin made strides in 2018, having a career best season posting 842 yards receiving with seven touchdowns on 59 receptions. Pro-Bowl receiver Mike Evans continues to show that he is their most valuable offensive weapon on offense, as he posted 1524 receiving yards with eight touchdowns on 86 receptions in 2018. Evans has reached 1000 receiving yards every year since his rookie season in 2014. The Bucs also have an elite tight end duo of OJ Howard and Cameron Brate. 

The Bucs have a slew of rookie wide receivers battling for the third and fourth wide receiver roster spot in training camp. DaMarkus Lodge, Anthony Johnson, Bryant Mitchell and Scotty Mitchell are all trying to earn their way through training camp and preseason games. 

As of right now, Jameis Winstom remains the starting quarterback for the Bucs, but Winston has a lot to prove to the coaching staff, after a disappointing 2018 season. Winston was in and out of the starting quarterback position in 2018 and struggled with turnovers, throwing 14 interceptions in 2018. Winston has shown flashes of being a franchise quarterback, but in 2019 Winston needs to take command of the Bucs offense. 

In a press conference after practice, offensive coordinator, Byron Leftwich, talked about Winstons’s progression and said “What we’re going to ask him to do is put us in the right position, make the right decision more than not. Put us in the right place to be successful this play, more than not. That’s what we’re trying to get him to do”. 

The Bucs are an extremely young team both with the players and their coaches and are ready to show fans an optimistic future in 2019. The Bucs open on Monday, Sep. 9 against the San Francisco 49ers, right at home in Raymond James Stadium.

Travis Politakis can be reached at travis.politakis@theminaretonline.com

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