Buccaneers draft: Defense an area of need

Soon, the wait will end. We’re less than a week before the NFL Draft, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will focus on some clear areas of need that could be helped with strong picks.

Look to last season to find the Bucs’ focus. Expect a heavy emphasis on defense in the war room, with attention given to ways to fix the league’s most porous pass defense from 2012. The defensive line, after the departures of Michael Bennett and Roy Miller, also could use the addition of new talent.

Meanwhile, on offense, the draft could be a time for the Bucs to build depth at tight end and quarterback. Dallas Clark’s future is unknown, and Tampa Bay could use a promising No. 2 behind Josh Freeman. Other areas will be addressed, of course, but study these positions closely.

Here’s a detailed look:

Cornerback

The Bucs restructured Eric Wright’s contract but lost E.J. Biggers to the Washington Redskins in free agency. Of course, this area could receive an upgrade if Tampa Bay lands Darrelle Revis from the New York Jets in a much-hyped possible pre-draft trade, but coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik will certainly try to build depth at the Bucs’ greatest weakness. Remember, a defense that surrendered a league-worst 297.4 yards-per-game through the air last season has lingered in Tampa Bay’s memory all winter.

Desmond Trufant, a 6-foot, 190-pound Washington product, could be a possibility. He has a similar build to Revis — the Jets star is 5-11, 198 pounds — and he has solid bloodlines: His brother Marcus has played for the Seattle Seahawks since being drafted in the first round in 2003. Other names to keep an eye on: Jamar Taylor of Boise State and D.J. Hayden of Houston.

Defensive line

There are plenty of possibilities here. The Bucs lost end Bennett (Seattle Seahawks) and tackle Miller (Jacksonville Jaguars) in free agency, so either position could be an early target. Tampa Bay gained George Selvie (end) and Kerek Landri (tackle) this offseason, but don’t be surprised to see top prospects receive a long, hard look at both positions.  

Players to watch: Tackles Star Lotulelei of Utah and Sheldon Richardson of Missouri, as well as ends Bjoern Werner of Florida State and Ezekiel Ansah of BYU. Bennett was the Bucs’ leader in sacks last season with nine — no one else had more than Gerald McCoyÕs five — so a pair of able pickups here will be key.

Tight end

The Bucs signed Tom Crabtree, formerly of the Green Bay Packers, in free agency. However, Clark’s future remains unknown. Dominik has said Tampa Bay would like to have the 33-year-old veteran return for at least another season. Yet it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Bucs try to go young to build depth behind third-year player Luke Stocker, who had 16 catches for 165 yards last season. By comparison, Clark had 47 catches for 435 yards and four touchdowns.

The position isn’t an urgent need, so the Bucs might have to be savvy with their scouting if they go this route in later rounds. Yes, the defense needs more attention. But players such as Nick Kasa of Colorado or Chris Gragg of Arkansas could be there for the taking deep in the proceedings.

Quarterback

There’s Freeman … then little else. It’s no surprise Schiano wants to create competition behind Freeman, the Bucs’ clear-but-sometimes-erratic top man at the position. But Dan Orlovsky isn’t a strong No. 2, and Schiano and Dominik could look to the middle to late rounds to bring a fresh arm onto the roster.

Freeman is the answer for now, but securing possibilities like NC State’s Mike Glennon (6-7, 225 pounds) or Tennessee’s Tyler Bray (6-6, 232) could give the Bucs a sizable option that might fit in well if asked to work in relief. In a draft that lacks depth among quarterback prospects, this could be a chance for the Bucs to find an under-the-radar talent who can be developed.

Final thought

Defense, defense, defense. The secondary will be a concentration, and nothing about that should be a surprise. The Bucs’ offense seems on the verge of becoming a playoff-caliber unit — it ranked 13th in scoring by averaging 24.3 points per game last season — but Tampa Bay must fix a vulnerable defense to threaten NFC South elites of Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints. If Schiano and Dominik can secure and mold young prospects, especially in the secondary, the future looks promising.

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford

or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.