Flashbacks of 2002- Tampa Bay Buccaneers

by: Jensen Diaz

TAMPA, Fla.- I’m not here to brag about the Bucs’ offense. I’ve been doing that all off-season and the recent addition of Leonard Fournette was the icing on the cake. Only in Madden with force trades in ‘Franchise Mode’ will you ever see such a stacked offense.

Battling against that offense in this shortened off-season is the Buccaneer defense led by future Hall of Famer Lavonte David. Boasting a front seven that stuffed opposing running backs with the league’s top run defense, the defensive depth chart blends youth and athleticism with strength and experience. Despite critics who don’t watch Bucs football claiming the secondary is our team’s “Achilles heel,” Buccaneer defensive backs will become house-hold names led by potential rookie Pro Bowler Antione Winfield Jr.

There’s no sugar coating it, the Bucs defensive line can stuff the run. Christian McCaffery fantasy owners were only weary of the Bucs last year. The front three is anchored by Vita Vea, a gem of a pick by Jason Licht instead of injury-prone Derwin James who is missing yet another season with a knee injury. Vea will disrupt every play if not double-teamed by the center and guard. The focus on containing Vea frees up defensive ends William Gholston and Ndamukong Suh and linebackers Devin White and Lavonte David to stop the run.

Lavonte David, long time captain of the team and most underrated player in the NFL, tops Luke Kuechly and Bobby Wagner in most major defensive statistics. After a year of national spotlight with Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, Lavonte David’s career will be considered Canton worthy when we win the Super Bowl in the next two years.

The other captain of the defense is second-year linebacker, Devin White. White has the talent, speed, strength, and intangibles to be a DPOY candidate in a few years. With JPP and NFL sack leader Shaq Barrett on the edges rushing the passer like a vintage Simeon Rice, expect the Buccaneer’s middle linebackers to play like a 2002 Derrick Brooks.

The devil’s advocate to the Buccaneer preseason hype is their secondary. Too bad that’s a flawed argument. After drafting free safety Antione Winfield Jr. in the second round this year, the secondary is set despite being young. With Todd Bowles’ schemes and our front seven applying constant pressure, Winfield Jr. will be positioned to make game-changing splash plays like Super Bowl champion Tyrann Mathieu. The rookie and son of former NFL cornerback Antione Winfield Sr. could be on his way to the Pro Bowl if he gets his hands on a few interceptions and fumbles that our front seven will generate.

Lining up next to Winfield Jr. is strong safety Jordan Whitehead, who has proven to be much better than Chris Conte in coverage and a strong tackler in the box. The Bucs even have safety depth for once, with Justin Evans, Andrew Adams, and Mike Edwards all being capable back-ups. Sorry M.J. Stewart, you’re fired.

After years of free agency misery at the cornerback position, from Darrelle Revis to Eric Wright to Alterraun Verner, Jason Licht recently drafted three young studs. Lining up across from the opposing team’s number one receiver is Carlton Davis.

Davis has the size and strength to challenge division rivals, Michael Thomas and Julio Jones. He also finished second in the league in passes defended with 19, only one shy of Patriot’s shutdown corner Stephon Gilmore. Coach Arians trusts Davis and considers him top ten at his position, which is some high praise I can get behind.

Opposite Davis is second-year Central Michigan product Sean Murphy-Bunting, another Jason Licht draft pick I praised. Murphy-Bunting capped off an impressive rookie campaign with a pick-six against the Lions in his home state of Michigan.

Another Auburn product, Jamel Dean, adds depth to the secondary and the versatility to cover modern NFL offenses. In only FIVE starts last year, Dean tallied 17 passes defended, adding to the Bucs’ total of 44 forced incompletions on the year, first in the league.

Mike Evans will most likely be joining teammates Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and potentially Lavonte David in the Hall of Fame. This year, Evans looks to pass Randy Moss for most consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to begin a career. That’s good company for the captain of our top-five offense.

The captains of the defense will be playing for Defensive Player of the Year honors just as Shaq Barrett was last year. Despite many defensive stars poised to have notable seasons, I believe Antione Winfield Jr. will be the most talked about player on the Bucs defense.

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