Tampa Bay’s Unlikely Heroes
With a new coaching staff, comes new schemes. Although, there are some similarities between the Buccaneers newly hired head coach Bruce Arians and the previous, Dirk Koetter. It would be pretty naive to say that they are the same. Arians turned around the Arizona Cardinals relatively quick, even earning him the Coach of the Year award in 2014. However, their stand out year was in 2015. Finishing 13-3 and placing second in the NFC. At the beginning of the year, they were able to snag former 2,000-yard rusher, Chris Johnson. Johnson was cast off by a bad Tennessee Titans team and was considered washed up by many. From the jump, he was an impact, rushing for 814 yards in only 9 starts (placed on injured reserve in week 11). And then as everyone knows, David Johnson burst onto the scene and took over that spot, and the next year was considered to be the best running back in the league.
How does this relate to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
Well, last year Tampa Bay drafted a running back in the second round. Some fans already consider him a bust, even though he rarely even saw the field. Yes, I am talking about Ronald Jones II. I’m sure you have already heard it, but RoJo could bounce back and have a stellar year in 2019. Bruce Arians has already expressed his excitement for the former USC product: “I’m really anxious to get on the field with all our guys, but [Jones] especially, to see how much he can do of what we did in Arizona.” If Arians revitalized Chris Johnson’s career at the age of 30, why can’t he ensure Jones has a great sophomore year? Right after the draft, all of Tampa was excited to see how RoJo would perform. Even some NFL analysts had him as their “sleeper” to win Rookie of the Year. Under a new coach, expect RoJo to see the field a lot more. And production should follow.
What about on defense? Arians came to Arizona with a basically already established defense. Already having an all-pro cornerback Patrick Peterson, made his job very easy. But one acquisition in the 2013 off-season was pretty impressive. Veteran John Abraham. In 2013, Abraham was 35 and managed to tally up 11.5 sacks. That number led his team in sacks and it also earned him another pro bowl selection. Fast forward to October 12, 2015. Cardinals signed Dwight Freeney in the middle of the season. The year prior, Freeney played for the San Diego Chargers and sacked the quarterback three and a half times. The former three-time all-pro was 34 years old and his best days were behind him. No one signed him in 2015 until the Cardinals were desperate for some pass rush. In only 11 games, Freeney finished the season with 8 sacks, proving he could still play.
Jason Pierre-Paul must be next, right? Possibly. But how about the player on the other side of him, Carl Nassib? Nassib was picked up by Tampa Bay after the Cleveland Browns cut him in week 4 of the pre-season. That didn’t slow him down though, he is coming off of a 6.5 sack season with only 9 starts. But sacks aren’t the only thing that matters. Nassib finished the season with two forced fumbles and tackled the opponent behind the line of scrimmage 18.5 times. All of those numbers put him second on the team in those respective categories. Nassib will likely return to being the starter in this upcoming season and the sky’s the limit. If he stays a starter for the team, a breakout year from the former third-round pick is not very far-fetched.
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