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Another hurdle for 2018 Buccaneers? NFC South

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It doesn’t take a NASA engineer to understand that the Bucs play in a tough division. When you consider that the Panthers and Falcons played in back to back Superbowls recently, and that legendary QB Drew Brees, who already has a ring, led the Saints to the division title in 2017, it’s understood.

Consider that all three of those teams made the playoffs last year, too?

Yep. Tampa Bay doesn’t have to be reminded.

Going 1-5 against that division of playoff teams last year?

Same thing.

So, when NFL.com and writer Greg Rosenthal put out Tuesday that the NFC South was not only a strong division, but the best in the NFL, the Buccaneers would agree:

Rosenthal’s rationale:

This is the only division where all four teams are realistic threats for double-digit wins, which comes back to their quarterbacks. Productive passing games are more consistent from year to year than strong defenses, and this is a division led by quarterbacks: Matt Ryan and Cam Newton have won two of the last three MVPs, while Drew Brees was playing at a championship level last season. The 2017 Bucs finished fifth in drive success rate, according to Football Outsiders, with a fluky dead-last ranking in lost fumbles per drive torpedoing their season. No lead is safe in a division with quarterbacks this good.

It should be considered that in their 9-7 season of 2016 (Dirk Koetter’s first as head coach), Tampa Bay was 4-2 in the division and was on the cusp of a playoff berth late in the year. However, they regressed a year ago overall, and specifically against the teams that they are the most familiar with.

If the Bucs want to improve in the upcoming year, they know it begins in the South. And, the schedule maker put them in New Orleans right off the bat in week one in a place (the Superdome), where they’ve won only one time in their last seven attempts.

Tampa Bay did defeat the Saints dramatically with a TD in the final 10 seconds in the season-ender in Tampa last year. So, they do have that memory to rely on to begin this season.

Yes, Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, and Drew Brees are three tough challenges to face every year, but in an important year for Koetter’s job status, Jameis Winston’s future/salary, etc., they have to be ready to face it and win.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs QB Winston on practice with Titans- “We’re out here competing”

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Aug 9, 2018; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) calls a play at the line against the Miami Dolphins during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Day one of workouts with the Buccaneers and the Titans concluded on Wednesday and by all accounts, the Buccaneers offense was solid.

And for quarterback Jameis Winston it’s especially important to get good work in for a lot of reasons.

As you probably know by now, Winston is suspended for the first three games of the upcoming season for violation of the NFL personal conduct policy. However there’s also extra motivation while his team is practicing against Marcus Mariota’s team.

As we wrote earlier on Wednesday those two will be forever linked for a lot of different reasons from college and now the NFL.

And Winston did not shy away from questions about comparisons to Mariota and other subjects when he met with the media Wednesday afternoon:

On working against the Titans defensive backs for the first workout,

“First of all, I’ve just got to thank the Titans for letting us come out here and compete against them. I think it’s so much fun playing against different guys every day. When you’ve got guys like Mike (Evans) and DeSean (Jackson) paired against Malcolm Butler and the 25 (Adoree’ Jackson), oh my gosh, he’s incredible. So, it’s just good to get out here and compete.”

Here was an example of Winston hitting WR Chris Godwin in one of one on one drills:

Winston then talked about the value of getting to practice with “live reps,” against another defense:

“Yeah, it’s the closest feeling to a game that you get. We play against our guys every single day and sometimes they can predict some things that we’re throwing at them and sometimes make it unfair, especially on the defensive side when they’ve seen the same guys every single day. When you play against new guys, we get as much work done as they get of playing against us, too.”

And most of Winston talked about improving all the time, even with looming time off:

“I’m getting better every single day….Again, I’m just out here to compete. When you are out here competing, you don’t think about stuff (not being available for first three games) like that.”

It is expected that Winston will get the chance to compete some in the first half of the game on Saturday night. However, his work with the likes of Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and Chris Godwin in these practices with Tennessee is also very valuable, as well.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs practicing with Titans- Winston/Mariota debate continues

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Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

As the Buccaneers and the Titans hit the practice field together on Wednesday, the ongoing highly-publicized debate rekindles about who was the better choice three and a half years ago to lead a franchise?

The Bucs held the number one overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and had a very intriguing and also controversial decision to make. Should they take the regional favorite and former Heisman trophy-winning and National Champion quarterback, Jameis Winston, from Florida State?

Or should they take the Heisman Trophy winning star quarterback from the University of Oregon in Marcus Mariota?

As you know by now, the Bucs took the risk, despite Jameis Winston’s background problems, including a sexual assault allegation at FSU, and drafted him anyway with that first pick.

Tennessee wasted no time and took Mariota to lead their franchise with the second overall pick.

And as the rotation of the NFL schedule would have it, and the NFL wasting no time to seize the opportunity, the Buccaneers hosted the Titans in week one of the 2015 season.

Weeks and weeks of built up to that opening game, which lead to Mariota playing brilliantly throwing four touchdown passes and having a near perfect quarterback rating. Meanwhile, Winston’s first NFL regular-season pass was intercepted and run back for a touchdown.

Winston would go on to have a shaky day with another “pick six,”  and, the Titans blew out the Buccaneers 42-14.

From then on, there has been” back and forth” scrutiny over which player is better for their franchise, and in the Bucs case, how might things have been different, if they had simply taken Mariota?

Both players would go on to have their teams on the verge of the playoffs at the end of the 2016 season. But, despite Winston having a good season, the Bucs could not capitalize on being 8-5 and lost two critical games at the end of the year at Dallas and at New Orleans virtually eliminating them from the playoffs.

Meanwhile, Mariota also had Tennessee in position, but was injured in week 16 suffering a broken leg in a defeat at the Jaguars, which basically eliminated the Titans from playoff contention.

Fast forward to the 2017 season, where Winston suffered a shoulder injury that cost him parts or all of five games. Tampa Bay floundered and were never relevant in 2017, finishing 5-11. Meanwhile, Mariota had a strong season and helped by Tennessee strong run game with Derrick Henry and a good defense, the Titans earned a wild-card spot.

Mariota then led a second-half comeback in the AFC Wildcard win at Kansas City. Thus, cementing his legacy for now, in Nashville.

Meanwhile, as has been heavily reported, allegations surfaced in November that Winston had inappropriately touched an Arizona female Uber driver in March of 2016. The NFL essentially believed the accuser and suspended Winston for the first three games of this upcoming season.

This further casts doubt as to Winston’s future in Tampa Bay.

So while it is just training camp, and these are just practices before a preseason game upcoming on Saturday night.

Nevertheless, get ready for much more debate and talk about which quarterback was the better choice then, which quarterback is the better bet now, and how big of a mistake did the Bucs truly make three years ago?

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Former Bucs coach Dungy excited to join “Ring of Honor”

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Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

It was a day to reminisce for the Bucs and their fans, as the coach, who turned the franchise fortunes around in the 1990’s, returned to the building Tuesday to talk about his upcoming induction into the team’s “Ring of Honor.

Tony Dungy, who still makes his home in Tampa, was back at One Buc Place.

The Buccaneers had previously announced this spring that Dungy would become the 12th inductee, since they began honoring their great players, coaches, etc. in 2009.

And Dungy stood at the podium and smiled ear to ear reminiscing about when he took over.

“It’s awesome to be here. A special day for me. Got a chance to come here (Bucs facility) this morning, speak to the team…Got a chance to watch practice and just think about what has happened in the last 22 years.

On what he remembers, Dungy went back to the beginning with the Bucs,

“I remember just coming here and talking to Mr. Glazer (late owner Malcolm) and saying ‘we want to get our team connected back to the city. We want to get people excited about the Buccaneers, again. We want to our guys to be part of the community and doing things right. And, by the way, we want to win'”

And the importance of being grateful to everyone that helped him,

“It’s an awesome, awesome tribute and honor for me and my family. I am proud of that and I am grateful. I thank God that I got a chance to come here. And I am thankful for the people that I got a chance to come in contact with. We had some tremendous players. Some of them are here today. And I obviously would not be here without those guys.”

Dungy took over the reins as the Bucs coach in 1996, when they had already achieved a dubious modern NFL record with 13 consecutive losing seasons. They were 6-10 his first year, but with the help of now, Hall of Famers themselves, Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks, plus Mike Alstott, Hardy Nickerson, John Lynch, Paul Gruber, etc., the Bucs became a playoff team a year later.

And eventually, they went to the playoffs four total times in his six seasons, including the 1999 narrow NFC Championship Game loss to the eventual Superbowl Champion St. Louis Rams.

Dungy, was fired by the Glazers after not being successful enough (ironically) after the 2001 playoffs, where they lost for the second consecutive year to the Philadelphia Eagles.

He went to the Colts and QB Peyton Manning the following season and eventually, they won the Superbowl in 2006. After retiring from coaching in 2008, Dungy has been the lead analyst on NBC’s Football Night in America pregame and halftime coverage.

He will  join two former coaches John McKay and Jon Gruden, in the “Ring of Honor” , when the Bucs play against the team he began his playing career for, the Steelers, on Monday Night Football September 24th.

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