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Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Justin Evans could earn first Pro Bowl appearance

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When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted safety Justin Evans out of Texas A&M they addressed a position of need and found a young man who appears to be growing into a fan favorite.
Well, among some of the underselling and lowballing predictions circling the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ahead of 2018, Evans is one of the young players seeing a little hype growing around him individually.

Our own Derek Quesenberry recently submitted his thoughts on Evans and his path towards becoming yet another young leader on the Bucs defense and it seems he’s not alone in his high hopes for the second-year safety.
Gil Brandt of recently published his predictions for each NFC franchise relating to one player who might crack the Pro Bowl rosters this upcoming season.

For the Bucs, his pick was Evans, writing,

“Evans is a very athletic player with cover skills and great instincts. In 14 games as a rookie (11 starts) he had 66 tackles, three interceptions and six passes defensed.”

Tampa had four defenders reel in three interceptions in 2017 with Evans joining fellow defensive backs Brent Grimes and Robert McClain as well as Keon Alexander all tied for the team lead in the category.
His 66 tackles came in second only to fellow safety Chris Conte amongst the members of the secondary, and placed him fifth on the defense in total.

Not bad for a first act.
And he’s not alone. Joining the rookie production train last season was wide receiver Chris Godwin and first-round pick O.J. Howard.

All three showed they can be serious contributors to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ future, and all three have a solid hype train building with each of their names on them.

There was some surprise this off-season when Jason Licht chose not to draft any pure safeties in the NFL Draft, instead opting to draft defensive back prospects who could factor in to the secondary in a number of ways.
Of course, this lends validity to the thought that the Bucs will likely enter training camp with a starting safety tandem consisting of returning players instead of inserting a first-year name in the defensive backfield.

Not everyone was happy about it, but if the front-four sees a boost in their own play after adding several key players to the rotation, then we might just see Evans and whoever his running mate is also experience increased efficiency this year.

Will it result in a Pro Bowl appearance? We’re way too early to predict those things with any accuracy. But if I had to pick one guy, Evans would not be a bad choice to see a Tampa Bay Buccaneers player get his first trip to the all-star game.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers ranked 24th by NFL Spin Zone power rankings

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When you enter a season like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did in 2017 there’s a lot of expectations which come along with the amount of buzz the team had built in the off-season. And when you perform to a 5-11 finish, there’s a lot of pain and anguish as well.
It’s no surprise then, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have found this off-season to be filled with cautioned hope and overwhelming undervalue.

The disrespect is going to continue until the season kicks off and this 2018 version of the Bucs shows the world they are who we thought they were. Hopefully.

But for now the pain-train continues as another list has once again placed our beloved Tampa football franchise near the bottom of the barrel.

NFL Spin Zone’s Dan Parzych published his post-mincamp power rankings for the NFL, and the Bucs came in 24th. This places the team in the bottom quarter of the league.

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Why so low?

Here’s a bit of what Parzych had to say about the team,

“From poor play on the defensive side of the football to Jameis Winston failing to take full advantage of DeSean Jackson playing alongside Mike Evans in the passing game, there was a lot of blame to go around for Tampa Bay’s struggles. All of a sudden, Dirk Koetter better hope the results are much different this time around in 2018, or the head coach may be looking for work by the time the offseason rolls around…”

Sharp words. And accurate unfortunately.
Joining them in this bottom quadrant are (from 32nd to 25th) the Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns, New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, Chicago Bears and New York Giants.

There are a few teams I would stack the Tampa Bay Buccaneers up against and feel confident the team would come out victorious. The Baltimore Ravens for one. Unless Lamar Jackson can be this year’s Deshaun Watson, I just don’t see how they are much better than a team who happens to play in a division with the Bengals and Browns.

However, the Washington Redskins represent the team I feel should most be under the Bucs in any power rankings.

Parzych’s own description of the Redskins actually is part of my reasoning for disliking the fact they are put ahead of Tampa.

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It’s all Alex Smith. Not for nothing, but the last time Smith was a quarterback capable of single-handedly taking a franchise to the promised land was, well, never. Maybe in Utah?

Now, I don’t believe Smith is as bad as some 49ers and Chiefs fans think he is, but he’s not going to have the weapons and defense he had with Kansas City.

Oh, and he’s not playing in a division with an underperforming Raiders and Chargers teams, and the Broncos team trying to re-identify an identity.

They’re going up against Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys. A now healthy Odell Beckham Jr., Eli Manning and Giants defense which is better than they looked last year. Oh, and the Super Bowl champions.

The Bucs are in a tough division of their own, granted, but I see them coming out on top of the NFC South much more than I can see the Redskins coming out on top of the NFC East.

I guess Derrius Guice is just going to be that good.

Not surprisingly the other three NFC South teams finished ahead of the Bucs.

Carolina came in at eleven while the Falcons and Saints hit the list at eight and seven respectively. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have some ground to cover if they’re going to get back into national conversations.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Receiving corps is Top-5 in NFL

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Nobody is expecting much out of the 2018 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After a big drop-off following sky-high hype leading into 2017, it seems everyone is hedging their bets when predicting Tampa’s upcoming season.
I can’t say I blame people for underselling the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 2018. The team made a lot of people look bad. Themselves mainly.

However, there’s correcting and there’s over-correcting. We, ladies and gentlemen, are in a full-blown over correction here.

If you read the news and opinions coming out across the landscape, you’re more likely than not to find the Bucs missing representation if possible. When not possible, you’ll see very middle of the road evaluations and predictions.

Well, not here. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a Top-5 NFL receiving corps. Period.

Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean they will have Top-5 production. That’s a discussion for another time.

But looking at this roster and these pass catchers, I’d have a hard time accepting anyone trying to tell me they aren’t Top-5 in the league as they currently stand.
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First of all, none of the blame for offensive woes has been laid at the feet of the receiving group. Locally or nationally.

Depending on who you talk to, it’s either a problem with play-calling, pass protection, Jameis Winston or a combination of the three.

Bucky Brooks of took on this topic of Top-5 receiving corps in the league, and his rankings is what sparked me to write this very post you’re reading.

Brooks is a smart NFL mind, obviously. I’m not calling into question his own competence or ability to identify talent. What I am saying is he, like many others, are over-correcting on the Bucs.

He ranks the Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons, Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns as having the best receiving corps in the NFL. In that order.

So, obviously, we aren’t using past performance as a measuring stick here. Cleveland’s receiving group is welcoming the addition of Jarvis Landry. The Steelers will be asking JuJu Smith-Schuster to step into an even bigger role than he had in 2017.

The Falcons don’t have Julio Jones on the field right now, and the Chiefs, well they have Sammy Watkins.

Out of the five, the only team returning their 2017 receiving corps is the Vikings. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are solid, of course, and Kyle Rudolph is one of the best tight ends around.

The Falcons may or may not have Jones (they will) and Mohamed Sanu has been quietly solid since arriving to the team. Calvin Ridley is an exciting pickup for them from the draft but beyond his yet-to-be-proven NFL status Atlanta is riding with Justin Hardy and Austin Hooper, who is so good Brooks misspelled his name in his post and whoever edits his writing didn’t catch it either.

The Steelers have the best receiver in the game in Antonio Brown. Smith-Schuster has a ton of potential and is easily one of my favorite young receivers. Still, the departure of Martavis Bryant is something to look for.
Bryant brought in 50 passes for the Steelers in 2017. Not a small number. With him gone, Pittsburgh will look to rookie James Washington to pick up some of the slack or maybe even Eli Rogers. Either way, having Smith-Schuster bring in 50 balls last year was impressive, but having another unexpected guy do it is a tall task.

Kansas City and Cleveland are in similar spots. New additions to already established receiving groups. The Chiefs add Sammy Watkins to Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. Meanwhile, the Browns are adding Landry to Josh Gordon and David Njoku.

Not bad receiving groups on paper. None of them. So, this isn’t a slight towards them necessarily. But they’re all missing two key factors which the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have currently.

Four quality receivers and two stud tight-ends. Pick one of those receiving corps above and choose to ship out Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries, Chris Godwin, Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard for them.

You can’t. Pittsburgh’s is the only one which comes close. At least for me it is. Individually? Sure.

I’d love to see AB or Smith-Schuster in a Bucs uniform. Kelce to Tampa? Cool. Honestly though, I wouldn’t give up both Brate and Howard for him. Maybe it’s just me.

Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are both good receivers in their own right, but I think they benefitted from a defense which allowed them time to get rolling and smart coaching which really put them in a good position to make plays.

Cleveland? Yeah, you can keep all those guys. And Atlanta. Julio is the only piece there which interests me when comparing them to Tampa’s group. And he may not even be there anymore if he doesn’t get a new contract. (He will)
So, I don’t blame Brooks for underselling the Tampa Bay Buccaneers here. Everyone is doing it. However, I can easily make the case for at least two of these receiving corps being shuffled out for Jameis Winston’s guys.

Again, this isn’t about production. This is about the stable of players. And if you ask me, the Bucs have a Top-5 group no matter how you slice it.

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