The Buccaneers were horrendous on a worldwide level last season, losing games in multiple cities and continents. They closed out with a good spurt, though, winning two of their last three games, including a victory against the Saints' second-stringers, and reports out of Tampa indicate the Bucs' recent minicamp had a crisper feel to it. Let's take a look at the Buccaneers for the fifth stop of NESN.com's 32-day trek around the NFL.
2009 Record: 3-13 (missed playoffs)
2010 Schedule Difficulty: Their opponents went a combined 123-133 (.480 winning percentage) in 2009, which makes for the eighth-easiest schedule in the NFL.
Key Additions: Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (draft), defensive tackle Brian Price (draft), wide receiver Arrelious Benn (draft)
Key Losses: Wide receiver Antonio Bryant, quarterback Byron Leftwich
Burning Question: How long is Raheem Morris' leash? Morris took over in 2009 after Jon Gruden was fired, and Morris immediately started cleaning house. In one day, he released linebackers Derrick Brooks and Cato June, running back Warrick Dunn and wide receivers Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard — all of whom were respected veterans. Morris rubbed guys the wrong way, and former Tampa Bay tight end Alex Smith, who spent part of last summer in New England, sounded irked with the way Morris was captaining the Bucs' ship.
Tampa Bay lost its first seven games in 2009 — matching its loss total in each of its previous two seasons — and there's very little reason to believe the Bucs can do much better this year. Morris wanted to do it his way with his people, and if that plan fails, it won't be a quick fix.
2010 Outlook: The NFC South has been famous for having its last-place teams rise up the next season to win the division, so the Bucs have that going for them, which is nice. But let's get down to brass tacks: This is a pretty lousy team, and its two most important pieces — Morris and quarterback Josh Freeman — are too underdeveloped. Tampa Bay did a pretty solid job with its draft, but there doesn’t seem to be enough quality leadership to guide the youth movement.
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