For the second time in four weeks to begin the 2019 season, the Los Angeles Rams will play an NFC South opponent. After playing the Carolina Panthers on the road to start the season, the Rams will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 4.
For the eighth time in the last ten years, the Buccaneers posted a losing record. 2018 capped off back-to-back 5-11 seasons, leading to the eventual firing of head coach Dirk Koetter.
The Buccaneers brought Bruce Arians out of retirement to coach up young quarterback Jameis Winson and hopefully put the franchise back on track.
Week 1 – at Carolina, 1 p.m. ET – Opponent Preview
Week 2 – vs. New Orleans, 4:25 ET – Opponent Preview
Week 3 – at Cleveland, 8:20 p.m. ET (SNF) – Opponent Preview
Week 4 – 4:25 p.m. ET vs. Tampa Bay
After being suspended for the first three games of the 2018 season, Ryan Fitzpatrick began the year at quarterback for the Buccaneers in place of Winston. Fitzpatrick would be nicknamed “FItzmagic” after a 48-41 win over the New Orleans Saints, and a 27-21 win over the Philadelphia Eagles got Tampa Bay off to a 2-0 start.
The magic would end there as the Buccaneers would lose seven of their next eight games. The only win in that stretch was a 23-20 win over the Cleveland Browns in overtime.
The Buccaneers would win back-to-back games with Winston under center against the San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers before wrapping up with four straight losses.
Despite an unstable quarterback situation, the Buccaneers led the league in total passing yards and scored a franchise record 396 points.
Biggest Offseason Gains/Losses
Added: LB Deone Bucannon, LB Shaquil Barrett, OG Earl Watford, WR Breshad Perriman, K Cairo Santos, DT Ndamukong Suh, LB Kevin Minter, S Kentrell Brice
Lost: WR DeSean Jackson, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, LB Kwon Alexander, DE Vinny Curry, WR Adam Humphries, DL Gerald McCoy
Outside of McCoy, the Bucs also lose Jackson to the Eagles after trading him away and parted ways with Fitzpatrick.
The Buccaneers were not able to add a lot in free agency, but they bring in Bucannon who has a history with Arians. Watford will be a much-needed piece on the offensive line while Barrett could be a terrific low-risk signing. The only team that has struggled at kicker more than the Chicago Bears is the Buccaneers. This team will never live down taking Roberto Aguayo in the second round, but they bring in Cairo Santos to hopefully solidify the position.
A look at the Draft
The Buccaneers’ draft started with Devin White out of LSU at No. 5 overall. White will bring a lot of speed and athleticism to the linebacker position and replace Alexander.
Sean Bunting in the second round was a little bit of a surprise, but they finished day two with a stellar pick also at the defensive back position in Jamel Dean. The Buccaneers struggled on day three, taking a kicker in the fifth round.
Biggest on-field question
The biggest question for the Buccaneers will be at quarterback. Is Jameis Winston the answer? Winston has thrown 58 interceptions in his four seasons and hasn’t thrown for more than 4,000 yards in a season since his second year in the league.
The Buccaneers have given Winston talent and are a team with one of the most talented wide receiver groups in the NFL. Koetter may not have been a good head coach, but he was an excellent offensive-minded coach – Arians will be both.
It’s now or never for Jameis Winston, and we’ll see how he responds.
Depth Chart Analysis
Quarterback: With the Buccaneers letting Ryan Fitzpatrick walk in free agency, this is Jameis Winston’s job. Behind Winston, the team brought in Blaine Gabbert who has experience with Arians in Arizona.
Running Back: At running back is where things get muddy for the Buccanneers. Ronald Jones was drafted in the second round last year, but undrafted free agent Peyton Barber beat him out in the preseason. Tampa Bay had the 29th ranked rushing offense last season.
Wide Receiver: This might be one of, if not the deepest wide receiver group in the NFL despite trading away DeSean Jackson and losing Adam Humphries. It starts with Mike Evans, but the Buccaneers have Chris Godwin on the opposite side and just drafted DeMarcus Lodge. The team signed Breshad Perriman in the offseason. Keep an eye on Justin Watson and Scott Miller as well.
Tight End: OJ Howard has turned into one of the best young tight ends in football, and behind him, the Buccaneers have Cameron Brate. The Bucs don’t have a lack of weapons, that’s for sure.
Right Tackle: Demar Dotson is reliable on the right side, but behind him is a lot of inexperience. Ruben Holcomb didn’t play any snaps last season and behind him are two rookies.
Left Tackle: On the blind side is where it get shaky. Donovan Smith‘s sacks (8), hits (9), and hurries (32) allowed all ranked inside the top-10 most in the league. Similar to the right side, there isn’t a lot of depth behind him.
Center: The Buccaneers have struggled at the center position. Ali Marpet didn’t play well in 2017 after moving there from guard. The team added Ryan Jensen to come in and play center last season, and he was less than stellar as well. His 10 hits allowed were the most for a center in the NFL. Evan Smith provides veteran depth behind Jensen.
Left Guard: Marpet moved back to guard last season and had a fantastic year as one of the few bright spots of the Buccaneers offensive line. He was the fourth-highest graded left guard in the NFL. The free agent signing of Watford will provide solid depth.
Defensive End: Jason Pierre-Paul headlines the Buccaneers pass rushers. His 12.5 last year sacks were the second most in a season for the veteran. Carl Nassib plays opposite of him and is coming off of a career-year with 6.5 sacks. William Gholston brings depth to the position.
Defensive Tackle: Suh comes from the Rams to replace McCoy on the inside. He goes back to a 4-3 system where he is more comfortable. Suh will play next to second-year player, Vita Vea. Beau Allen comes in from a deep group in Philadelphia where he played behind Tim Jernigan and Fletcher Cox.
Linebacker: There are a lot of unproven faces at linebacker for the Buccaneers. The team loses Kwon Alexander, but draft Devin Bush. Barrett will play more of a full-time role opposite of Lavonte David.
Defensive Backs: You would have liked to see the Buccaneers add more here in the draft and free agency. Vernon Hargreaves suffered a shoulder injury that put him on injured reserve last season. De’Vante Harris was the highest graded cornerback for the Buccaneers last season and listed near the bottom of the depth chart. The team brought in Kentrell Brice in the offseason to play safety, but this isn’t a promising group.
The playoffs will be a long shot for the Buccaneers. 2019 is undoubtedly a rebuilding year. However, if Jameis Winson can make strides and the team remains competitive and finishes 7-9, that should be seen as a good year. Bruce Arians has his work cut out for him, but he’ll need to set himself up for 2020 this season.