So many reasons to be cheerful
The Bucs may have arrived. Tampa Bay is 12-7 since the beginning of the 2010 season, and the improvements are noticeable. Raheem Morris has the entire locker room in his corner, how many other NFL coaches have anywhere near as much internal support?
The Bucs are the youngest team for the second year in a row, yet already have depth at so many positions- wide receiver, tight end, offensive line, defensive Line, linebacker, and the secondary.
The quarterback is one in a million; how many have come before him in Tampa Bay? Steve Young, Vinny Testaverde, Craig Erickson, Steve DeBerg, Trent Dilfer, Shawn King, Brad Johnson, Brian Griese, Chris Simms, Jeff Garcia, and need we forget Bruce Gradkowski!
All of them full of promise, for a week or two, but other than Brad Johnson, all failed in their efforts to bring a championship. Freeman is only 23 years old, yet he already has 8 incredible 4th QTR comebacks, and he’s going to be around for another 12 to 15 years! THAT is hope!
And while the receivers are exciting, and LeGarrette Blount is a bruising running back in need of a scat back to compliment him, the heart and soul of Tampa Bay Football is defense. Up until yesterday that unit failed to impress anyone, yet, but we know the players are young.
Yet Sunday you saw things that brought back memories. A pass rush emerged from a group of youngsters that are hungry to make a difference. Linebackers like Dekoda Watson and Mason Foster are learning one game at a time, and will only get better.
Defensive linemen like Gerald McCoy and Brian Price may not be another Sapp and McFarland, but this team will probably be built to rush from the outside, from Adrian Clayborn and eventually Da’Quan Bowers. Those will be the guys who build the future Bucs pass rush on the defense.
We even have a money place kicker and punter too, it’s a full house on special teams! But is it enough; have the Bucs arrived?
In the Tony Dungy era, it was a little easier to tell- When the Bucs beat the Chargers on the road in 1996, we knew something happened. But was it any different at the end of 2009 when the Bucs beat the Seahawks and Saints? In 1997 the Bucs turned it around and finished 10-6 with a playoff win, but in 2010 10 wins wasn’t enough for a playoff birth, was the feat any less spectacular because of the high playoff bar?
The knock on the 2011 Bucs was supposed to be their harder schedule and that the team was going to go through growing pains with young defenders. But Mason Foster looks like he is on pace to have the Mike LB job down after the first quarter of the year, and the schedule is not what it looked like in August.
The Bucs play tons of teams with first year QBs and first year head coaches. With the team set up as a young squad with lots of cap room to sign its own free agents for years to come, is this another 1990’s Dallas Cowboys, or 2000’s Indianapolis Colts/ New England Patriots?
Only time will tell, but with a leg up on chief rival Atlanta, within a few weeks we should have our first look at what this team will be for the next decade in Tampa Bay.