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Pro Football Focus gave huge 2019 respect to four Bucs

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With the NFL season having come to a conclusion with the Chiefs win last Sunday over the 49ers in Super Bowl 54, everyone is taking a look back at whom did well at what position for the season. And, the analytics guys at Pro Football Focus have a lot of love for the Bucs.

In the unveiling of their annual 101 top players for the season, the 20199 Buccaneers obviously stood out to PFF.

That’s because the receiving tandem of Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, along with star linebacker Lavonte David and Center Ryan Jensen, Tampa Bay placed four players on the prestigious graded list.

The qualifiers on the PFF rankings is they sought out the top graded players/their production in order, regardless of position. And, very interesting for the resting of this item, PFF also took into account post season play.

So, that means numerous players on their list improved their standing, while the 7-9 Bucs were home watching like everyone else.

Leading the way was the thrid year phenom, Godwin, who had a breakout year that had the entire NFL buzzing. After being in the top 5 in the NFL virtually all year in receptions and yards, Godwin ended up making the Pro Bowl and here’s what PFF had to say on their analysis/metrics:

“This season, Chris Godwin emerged as one of the best receivers in all of football, and he was a human highlight reel in Tampa Bay where Jameis Winston was intent on airing the ball out and only vaguely concerned with whether the ball went close to its intended receiver. Godwin caught 75.4% of his targets (while Jameis completed just 60.7% of all his passes) and had just one drop all season despite making several circus catches. Overall, when targeting Godwin, Winston had a passer rating of 121.7. “

As for David, he was selected as having the 36th best overall year, despite being snubbed for the 2020 Pro Bowl. Without question, David is the best linebacker that gets the least amount of national recognition and respect in pro football. And here’s a quick portion of why Pro Football Focus has them in their top 40:

“David posted one of the best overall PFF grades of his career (89.2), and he recorded 54 defensive stops over the season, the third-best mark among all linebackers. David was also deployed more on the blitz this season and registered 18 pressures from 98 pass-rushing snaps while finishing the season as the highest-graded linebacker in coverage.”

Next, for the Buccaneers at the 49th position is there number one receiver Mike Evans. The 1-2 combo of he and Godwin with Jameis Winston firing to them were killing defenses much of the year. Evans has been Winston’s top target since, Winston came into the league in 2015. And, PFF said this, in part, to justify their ranking,

“Due to injury, Mike Evans played as many as 200 fewer snaps than some of the other wideouts on this list, and yet, he still finished the year with 1,157 yards and eight touchdowns. Evans gained 2.3 yards per route run this season…. Evans made some of the biggest catches of the year for the Bucs and makes the PFF Top 101 for the fourth time in his career.”

And, that led to the final Buccaneer to be selected in the PFF 101 player list with center Ryan Jensen. One of the most expensive interior offensive lineman in the NFL lived up to it this past year, according to PFF,

“But for an iffy stretch in the middle of the season, Ryan Jensen could have ended the season as the best-graded center in football, because either side of that, he was excellent manning the middle of the Bucs’ offensive line. Jensen ended the year having been beaten for just one sack and 15 total pressures, despite being asked to pass protect on 751 snaps of high-octane Bruce Arians passing offense. Jensen was also solid in the run game and posted by far the best season of his career overall.”

Clearly, PFF could have also included DE, Shaq Barrett, who ended up breaking the Buccaneers single season sack record and led the NFL with 19.5 of them on the year. However, it demonstrates just how stringent their grading system is that he didn’t make the list.

But, again, it’s quite the compliment that four others on a 7-9 team did.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs will put former defensive coordinator Kiffin in Ring of Honor

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucs are looking forward to their future with a second year under new coach Bruce Arians, but on Friday night, they reached back to their past to honor one of their top assistant coaches in franchise history. And. this fall they will put him in their “Ring of Honor.”

Monte Kiffin, who along with coach Tony Dungy were the architects of the Buccaneers “Tampa 2” defense will become the team’s 14th member of their Ring of Honor in the 2020 season:

The Buccaneers made the announcement Friday night as Kiffin was being honored by the organization, his former players, friends and family, as part of his 80th birthday celebration.

Kiffin who came with Dungy in 1996 to the Bucs and led the defense for 13 seasons, helped Tampa Bay’s defense become one of the youngest fastest and fiercest in all of the NFL in just a few short seasons.

Led by now Hall of Famers, Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp, plus Hall of Fame finalists John Lynch and Ronde Barber, the Bucs defense rose to the number one in the NFL in 1999 and again, in 2002. That season, led by new coach Jon Gruden in his first year and Kiffin’s defense, Tampa Bay won their first and only World Championship cementing Kiffin’s legacy.

Kiffin left the Bucs to go coach at the University of Tennessee, when his son Lane became the head coach for one season in 2009. He then left Knoxville after that season when Lane Kiffin took the USC  job. He has spent recent years, as a defensive coach/consultant with the Cowboys and also the Jaguars.

The last couple of seasons he had been with Lane Kiffin in an advisory role at Florida Atlantic.

The Bucs have put 13 previous former players, coaches and even owner Malcolm Glazer, in their Ring of Honor. And, that list includes Sapp, Brooks Lynch and Barber, who was inducted a year ago. Kiffin will be the first assistant coach to be honored. Previously, Gruden (2017) and Dungy (2018) have also both been put in as head coaches, with the architect of the original Buccaneers, John McKay also being inducted also back in 2010.

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Should RT Jack Conklin be on Bucs free agent radar?

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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

As NFL teams continue to do their due diligence on not only their own potential free agents, but what others might be out there too, an interesting name has emerged that could give the Bucs, and other teams, some offensive line help.

It appears that the Titans, fresh off a tremendous playoff run into the AFC Championship game may be willing to part with former number 1 pick, starting right tackle Jack Conklin. And if they’re going to let the former Michigan State star test free agency, Tampa Bay may have a real interest.

First, the Bucs are looking at options on their line, as the senior member of their roster, right tackle Demar Dotson, who’s played his entire 11 year career in Tampa and will be 35 years old this fall, is slated to be a free agent, as well.

And while Dotson has been a mainstay over the course of the last decade on the Bucs offensive line, GM Jason lick and Coach Bruce Arians maybe looking to get younger and some better play out of that position.

Tennessee elected not to pick up Conklin’s fifth year option on his rookie deal and there are some concerns about his ability to pass block. However, there’s no doubting that with power back Derrick Henry, Conklin was part of the unit on offense that played “smash mouth football” throughout the postseason. And, they scored upsets of the Patriots and the Ravens in part behind their tough ground game before falling at Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game.

Next, earlier this week, NFL.com’s reporter/writer Nick Shook, matched Conklin as a possible free agent fit with Tampa Bay, as free agency begins in March.

Conklin did suffer an ACL injury in his second season but is fully healed from that now, and he could be a very cost-effective option four teams looking to solidify their offensive line. Conklin made only $2.7 million in the final year of his initial four year deal with the team declining his $12.9 million option.

As for the Bucs, they already have massive money invested in center Ryan Jensen, guard Ali Marpet and left tackle Donovan Smith on their line, but at the same time, the Bucs also have close to $85 million under the cap once free agency begins.

Clearly, their top priorities are figuring out whether to bring back QB Jameis Winston (and at what price?) and also, how many free agent to be defensive linemen out of Shaq Barrett, Jason Pierre Paul and Ndamukong Suh they can also fit under their cap.

Still, you cannot have enough good lineman, and perhaps grabbing the Titans former starter off a playoff team would improve their run game, which sputtered a lot of 2019.

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