The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are this season’s featured team for Hard Knocks. History has shown that 58% of teams featured don’t make the playoffs. After coming off a disappointing season filled with injuries and only one receiver worth mentioning, the Bucs look to bounce back. But with past Hard Knock participants not faring well after starring in front of the cameras, how will the Bucs do?
On The Rise
Doug Martin is coming into this season with a target on his back as he looks to get back in the good graces of his team. He missed half the season due to suspension and injury and while he was out, bench rider, Jacquizz Rodgers became a stud. With the return of Martin, it’s now a crowded backfield and someone needs to come out on top. With Martin having to serve out his suspension by missing the first three weeks, Jacquizz will get his first chance to claim the title.
In the past, their offense has focused a lot on running the ball. Now that they have added another lethal receiver, DeSean Jackson, in free agency, that game plan should change a little.
If DeSean can stay healthy, he and Mike Evans could be the best WR duo in the entire NFL. They’re both downfield threats and difficult to handle for their own unique abilities, but Evans will remain the #1 guy. He’s tall and can be a perennial jump ball tactician as an end zone threat, or just the Bucs’ top target in the passing game for his size.
Teams that decide to focus on him because of this will quickly realize that an open Jackson is even more dangerous. Once Jackson has the ball in his hands there’s no stopping him, he will score. But this all hangs on Jackson staying healthy.
The Bucs have been hurt by a lack of depth at wideout, forcing them to use one of their RB’s as a threat in short yardage situations. They also relied heavily on running the ball, which led to an exhausted Doug Martin who has already been known to be injury prone.
Fortunately, now they have Martin back, fully rested after a season in which he only played in eight games, and another solid back in Jacquizz who led the team in rushing yards last season, not to mention Charles Sims.
With a star quarterback in Jameis Winston, two elite receivers, two good running backs, a short yardage threat in the backfield, a young prospect at tight end, and a solid defense, Tampa Bay looks playoff bound. Now they just need to find a kicker.
Hard Knocks has captured the quest of 12 teams as they began their football journey at the beginning of each season. History has shown that less than half of those teams actually make it to the playoffs; the Bucs are this season’s featured team. So let’s look at those past teams compared to the current Bucs team selected.
To be in Hard Knocks, a team must NOT have the following:
- First-year head coach
- Playoff berth in past two seasons
- Hard Knocks appearance in the past 10 years
The fact that being a non-playoff team is a requirement for the series, means it should come at no surprise that most of the team’s cast don’t become contenders during their Hard Knocks season. But for the few that managed to overcome that and like this season’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, these teams made smart personnel decisions in order to improve where they were suffering.
In a division that has sent the past two Super Bowl runner-ups, Tampa Bay will have a hard time fighting within its division for the best record. But given the competition they’ll face inside their own division, the Bucs should be ready to face anybody, and have a real sleepers shot at surprising a lot of people.