Bucs Have The Talent To Take NFC South

The blockbuster deal between Darrelle Revis, the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers finally came to fruition.

Early this morning, there were numerous reports of a deal coming close and later in the day, with Revis officially in Tampa Bay for a physical, all speculation quickly became a reality.

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The key parameters of the deal are simple: The Jets will get Tampa Bay’s 2013 first round pick and a conditional draft pick (most likely a 3rd rounder in 2013, if Revis is not cut) for Revis. The latter also reached an agreement on a 6-year contract worth $96 million, although none of that money is guaranteed. On the onset though, if you are getting Darrelle Revis at his best– which is still a question mark–you can only go up from there.

Say what you will about the compensation the Jets received as it was not as high a coup as originally thought , but it was a deal they had to make to ensure the proper rebuild of a team that is a mess and devoid of talent at numerous positions. They can now use these assets to fill needs for a pass rusher, tight end or offensive lineman or they may try and trade up to get a player they covet.

For the Bucs, this marks a trade that gives them the potential to make some noise in the extremely competitive NFC South. Revis now forms a secondary that can challenge as one of the best in the league, with rising star Mark Barron, Eric Wright, the recently signed 2-time Pro Bowler, Dashon Goldson and Ronde Barber who is still mulling a return to the only team that he has played for in 15 NFL seasons.

The NFC South features a plethora of great receivers, with the likes of Roddy White, Julio Jones, Steve Smith and Marques Colston. The bolstering of the Buccaneers secondary was desperately needed considering they ranked 32nd in pass defense a season ago.

That is all fine and well, but if their pass rush does not improve, most notably Da’Quan Bowers who has only registered 4.5 sacks in two seasons in the league, as good as those additions are, they may not completely live up to their potential. Adrian Claiborne, who had 7.5 sacks in 2011, will return from an injury and should help that pads rush.

The front and the back end must always work together; especially in the new pass happy NFL. You can have the most talented corners in the league, but when you finished 30th in sacks and lost your best pass rusher in Michael Bennett, quarterbacks cannot be able to count 7 to 10 steamboats without being pressured or that will leave your secondary in a rather precarious position. Just look at the Eagles who had good corners, but zero pass rushers  and finished 27th in the NFL in sacks. Unless you have a built-in scheme that doesn’t require elite pass rushers, you can potentially get away with leaving your corners on an island. And that is what the Jets did and it worked, but the Buccaneers do not have a Rex Ryan or a type of scheme that can hide such deficiencies. We will see if Revis alone can be the key.

The rest of the Buccaneers front four has potential. Gerald McCoy is a beast and his continued growth as a 3 technique will be imperative for Bowers and the rest of the front four to gain pressure.

On paper, as much as this move screams a massive improvement in the Bucs overall defense, especially against the pass, expectations must be tempered until we see how this secondary works as a unit and more importantly, how their down lineman develop a consistent pass rush.

Offensively they have a lot of talent at the skill positions and a big offensive line featuring Davin Joseph and Donald Penn. Last season’s rookie sensation Doug Martin dazzled us with his speed, elusiveness and tough inside running. Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams are a formidable duo of wide receivers that have the potential to be one of the better pairings in the NFC.

The key will be Josh Freeman and if he can regain his 2009 form, where he was stellar with a 95.6 quarterback rating, throwing for just under 3,500 yards, 25 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions. He has the talent with regards to arm strength to make all the throws an NFL starting quarterback needs to make. However, over the last two seasons, he has lacked accuracy and his decision-making has wavered, throwing 39 interceptions over that stretch.

It will be imperative for Freeman to revert back to his previous form where he was one of the rising young pivots in the league. In a division where Drew Brees and Matt Ryan were top 10 in pass attempts last season and Cam Newton is one of the budding superstars at the position, that leaves Freeman as the lone quarterback who has yet to establish himself as a bona fide starting quarterback that can lead his team (Okay, the jury is still out on Newton as a leader, but you get my point). That division for a long time has been about the quarterbacks and their passing prowess. The Bucs have all the talent on offense and they have improved the foundation of their defense enough to best the Panthers and potentially challenge the Saints and Falcons. They finished 6-10 in 2012, but they also lost 3 games by a combined 5 points, so the cup is not bare by any stretch. However, all the additions in the world will only make the Buccaneers paper NFC South champions if they cannot get consistent play from Josh Freeman and their pass rushers.

Ultimately, Greg Schiano is the type of coach that will not accept mediocrity from Freeman and he has already unofficially challenged him, with the report coming out that he is not convinced Freeman is the guy to lead the Bucs at the quarterback position. It will be interesting to see how this motivates Freeman, as he is due for a new contract at the end of the 2014 season.

The Bucs and Jets will not waste time in seeing how Revis fares against his former team, with Tampa Bay travelling to New York for week 1 of the NFL 2013 season. In the immortal words of Bart Scott: CAN’T WAIT.

 

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