Originally Published: September 2, 2010
Scott A. Miller/US Presswires JOHN CLAYTON QB RANKING (29): The Buccaneers are trying to build around Josh Freeman, who threw 10 TD passes and 18 interceptions as a rookie in 2009.

Expert Picks (Consensus: 4th)

Intelligence Report

Five things you need to know about the Buccaneers:

1. Freeman the focus: This is Josh Freeman's team. The Buccaneers declared Freeman a franchise quarterback on the day they drafted him. They spent almost all their offseason efforts on solidifying the parts around Freeman. They signed left tackle Donald Penn to a big contract, mainly because they wanted to make sure Freeman had adequate protection from the blind side. They booted Antonio Bryant, who wasn't a favorite of Freeman or the coaching staff, and drafted receivers Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams while also trading for Reggie Brown. Freeman had some bright moments when he got to play at the end of last season and he did that with tight end Kellen Winslow as his only true weapon. With a supporting cast better-suited to his skills, Freeman is expected to take a huge leap forward.

2. Tranquil times: Coach Raheem Morris is starting to get "it." It wouldn't be inaccurate to say Morris looked clueless early last year. He was firing coordinators and not even sure what schemes his team was running. But give Morris and general manager Mark Dominik credit for admitting their mistakes and learning from them. Morris has taken over the defense and gone back to the Tampa 2 scheme, and offensive coordinator Greg Olson had an entire offseason to install his system while new quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt worked intensely with Freeman. There's been a calm and quiet atmosphere around One Buccaneer Place all throughout the preseason and that's great news. It's a lot better than last year, when Morris was starting off surrounded by constant controversy.

3. Defense making progress: The defense might not be that bad. We'll get to the front four in a minute. But let's start with the back seven. The Bucs believe cornerback Aqib Talib, always a physical talent, has matured to the point where he has a chance to become a Pro Bowler. Ronde Barber can be solid for another year in the Tampa 2 scheme and free safety Tanard Jackson is more than solid. It looks as though the Bucs will go with Sean Jones over Sabby Piscitelli at strong safety and that makes for a decent secondary. The linebacker corps is similar. Barrett Ruud already is established in the middle, and the Bucs believe Geno Hayes and Quincy Black are on the verge of truly emerging.

4. D-line the weakest link? Yeah, but what about the defensive line? That might be the biggest question facing the Buccaneers. But seriously, even with a bunch of young faces, this line can't be any worse than it was last season. The Bucs used to get blown off the ball in the running game and there wasn't much of a pass rush. Tampa Bay used its first two draft picks on defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price, and the Bucs also have second-year pro Roy Miller. Those three should help the run defense and they might be able to generate some interior pass rush. But there are no real signs the Bucs have much of pass-rush threat in any of their defensive ends.

5. Cadillac revving up: Watch out for Cadillac. Throughout his career, Cadillac Williams has been star-crossed by injuries. He's made some remarkable comebacks and the Bucs love his heart. But they're even more excited by the fact that this is the first time in several years Williams didn't spend his entire offseason recovering from a major injury. He's been able to focus on football, and the Bucs believe he can provide them with a strong running game.

-- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN.com

Scouts Inc.'s Fabulous Five


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