As part of our mid-season analysis, RealSport are looking at reasons why the fans of the cellar-dwellers of each division still have reasons to be optimistic about their futures. We continue the series with a look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. See the other editions below: AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West | NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West
Sitting at the bottom of the NFC South with a 3-5 record we have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team who’ve drafted a guy who threw 2 interceptions in his first game as the #1 pick in the NFL Draft, and got beaten by the 2-6 Titans. There weren’t a lot of reasons to be optimistic after Week 1, but there are many reasons for the Bucs to be thinking positively going forwards. The play of Jameis Winston Yes, the guy who threw two picks in his first ever game is getting better every week, with an ever-increasing completion percentage (when the run game gets going), and a decreasing turnover ratio. It often takes at least a year for a rookie to get up to speed with the pace of the NFL, and at quarterback, that transition is even harder; you have to not only learn your playbook, but learn the speed of the game, get to know new receivers and develop as a passer. Luckily Winston was pretty much the finished product coming out of college, so had experience as a passer, with footwork and a quick release that is coveted by NFL Executives. The Backfield Doug Martin and Charles Sims have combined for chunks of yardage this season, and are averaging an impressive 4.5 and 4.7 yards per carry respectively. When the Bucs get their run game going they keep their defense off the field, and control the clock. This gives Winston one-on-one coverage which Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson can destroy with their ability to high-point the ball in the air against tight coverage. The Receiving Corps Both Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans have combined for 855 yards and 3 touchdowns over the past 8 games. Averaging at least 100 yards a game for the past 8 weeks is not only a testament to their ability to beat defenses weekly, but show consistency in their receiving abilities. Alongside this, RB Charles Sims has been catching passes left, right and center out of the backfield, with 238 yards and 2 TDs to his name so far. The Ever-Improving Defense Through Week 8, the Bucs’ defense has forced 14 fumbles, had 3 interceptions and scored 2 touchdowns which evidences a high level of speed and athleticism. The play of rookie linebacker Kwon Alexander in Week 8 was a testament to the scouting department at Tampa Bay, and their defensive ends Jacquies Smith and Howard Jones both forced fumbles and score touchdowns. There’s a lot to think positively for Tampa Bay; even if their record doesn’t show it, they could potentially turn it around and battle their way for a wildcard slot. However I’d expect that this would happen next season after another solid draft.