Bucs have high expectations for next year
Carnell Williams (AP Photo)
Carnell Williams (AP Photo)
Bucsblitz@gmail.com
Posted Jan 8, 2010


As the Bucs 3-13 season comes to an end, fans can now start looking towards the offseason and how the Buccaneers can improve in time for next year. Read on to find out everything you need to know about the Bucs including the team's biggest neads, the latest on player's injuries, which players have likely played their last game in Tampa and who the fans could see return to for another season.

Raheem Morris is not one and done as the Bucs head coach. Despite a 3-13 record, the Glazer family, which owns the team, believes Morris has the franchise pointed in the right direction.

The Bucs have what appears to be a young, franchise quarterback in Josh Freeman, established their identity on defense when Morris took over the play-calling duties, and the ability to get better with five of the top 99 selections in this year's NFL draft.

"I've got a feeling that Year 2 will be a lot less dramatic for me," Morris said Monday at his press conference.

For Morris, the suspense ended when he was summoned to the Glazers' office later Monday afternoon and learned he would be returning for the 2010 season.

"We are committed to the plan that we began 12 months ago with coach Morris, and we look forward to building on the pieces that were put in place this season," vice president Joel Glazer said in a statement released by the team.

Morris, 33, had the deck stacked against him when he was named head coach to replace Jon Gruden, who was fired last Dec. 16.

Morris had never been a head coach at any level and had just been named the Bucs' defensive coordinator on Christmas Eve to replace Monte Kiffin.

He was paired with first-year general manager Mark Dominik, who helped Morris hire a coaching staff.

That's where the first cracks developed. The Bucs fired offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski 10 days before the regular-season opener. Greg Olson, the Bucs' quarterbacks coach at the time, took over the play-calling duties and was given a contract extension.

Then 10 weeks into the season, with the defense ranked at or near the bottom of every category and allowing 29 points per game, Morris took over the defensive play-calling duties from defensive coordinator Jim Bates.

Morris will continue to run the defense in 2010 and provide continuity for Freeman.

"I know it was a tough year," said Morris. "I know it wasn't what everyone wanted it to be, but they are a tough team. I know that when I turn on my tape of my team and I watch them play down the stretch, you see nothing but hard, tough play. You see those guys never quit. Not just one individual player but all of them."

NOTES, QUOTES

--RB Cadillac Williams finished second to Pats QB Tom Brady for the NFL Comeback Player of the Year. Brady received 19 votes, while Williams had 15. Williams rushed for 821 yards and four touchdowns.

--Linebacker Barrett Ruud made a strong case for the Bucs to consider signing him to a new contract. After recording 20 tackles in Sunday's 20-10 loss to the Falcons, Ruud finished with 205 tackles. The last player to surpass the 200-tackle plateau in a single season was linebacker Hardy Nickerson, who had 214 tackles in 1993.

Ruud is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. But if there is no extension to the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and its players, there will be no salary cap in 2010. That means Ruud will be among the 212 players who will go from unrestricted to restricted. The Bucs will have the right to match any offer he receives from another team.

Under that scenario, a player will need six years to reach unrestricted free agency.

Ruud said he is disappointed he might not enjoy free agency.

"I think everybody would be," Ruud said. "There's 212 guys in that situation and I think we're all hoping for the CBA to get signed up. If it doesn't, I don't know. It's the next step from there. But I think there's 212 guys in my situation that are rooting for the CBA to get signed."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "As far as priorities for me, No. 5 (Josh Freeman). He is the No. 1 priority. It starts with him." -- Bucs coach Raheem Morris.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Bucs will have plenty of changes in the off-season. Raheem Morris is back, but many on his coaching staff may not.

The Bucs dismissed both coordinators before or during the season. That means assistants who were brought to Tampa Bay by Jeff Jagodzinski or Jim Bates are vulnerable, particularly offensive line coach Pete Mangurian, defensive backs coach Joe Baker and defensive line coach Robert Nunn.

A lot of players are likely to be asked to move on, including QB Byron Leftwich, defensive tackle Chris Hovan and safety Jermaine Phillips.

TEAM NEEDS

Defensive tackle: The Bucs allowed nearly 160-yards rushing per game. That is a direct reflection on the defensive line. Granted, many players were square pegs put in a round hole under Jim Bates' two-gap system. Tampa Bay traded former first-round pick Gaines Adams to the Chicago Bears for a second-rounder in 2010. Stylez G. White led the Bucs with just 6.5 sacks.

Wide receiver: The off-season will be geared toward building around QB Josh Freeman. That starts at wide receiver. Antonio Bryant, who battled through a knee injury, is an unrestricted free agent. Michael Clayton, who was guaranteed $10-million after re-signing, had just 16 catches in 2009. Maurice Stovall is not an NFL quality starting receiver. Freeman needs help.

Offensive guard: Arron Sears missed the 2009 season with a non-football related illness and there's no guarantee he will return next season. Jeremy Zuttah struggled in place of Sears. The Bucs need an upgrade at left guard.

MEDICAL WATCH

--RB Clifton Smith is recovering from two concussions and should return for off-season workouts.

--S Will Allen is recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL.

--P Josh Bidwell had hip surgery and hopes to return.

--RB Earnest Graham tore ligaments in his right big toe.

--DE Jimmy Wilkerson had surgery to repair a torn ACL.

--WR Sammie Stroughter had surgery to repair as broken foot.



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