Buccaneers positional analysis: Offense
FEB 20, 2013 1:38p ET
It could be a glimpse of more to come. Coach Greg Schiano’s first season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers saw career passing numbers for quarterback Josh Freeman and the breakouts of rookie running back Doug Martin and veteran wide receiver Vincent Jackson. The production resulted in the Bucs finishing ninth in total offense (363.8 yards per game), 10th in pass offense (248.9 ypg) and 15th in rush offense (114.8 ypg) – with reason to entertain thoughts that they can build on those results with added experience this fall.
Freeman, Martin and Jackson will be centerpieces of the Bucs’ attempt on offense to earn their second winning record in five years. Martin, who rushed for 1,454 yards last season, will be particularly intriguing to follow. He could establish himself as one of the NFL’s most consistent threats within a division that's far from short on offensive firepower.
As the Bucs enter free agency, a few questions stand out: What will become of veteran fullback Dallas Clark? Will general manager Mark Dominik try to add more depth at wide receiver?
Was last year just the start? Stay tuned.
Josh Freeman – The fourth-year pro threw for a career-high 4,065 yards with 27 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He had a quarterback rating of 81.6 – the second-highest of his career, behind his 95.9 total from 2010.
Dan Orlovsky – He appeared in one game, a Week 15 loss to the New Orleans Saints, completing 4 of 7 passes for 51 yards. It was his first season with Tampa Bay after spending the 2011 campaign with the Indianapolis Colts.
Final Analysis: Freeman is the clear answer for the future. At 6-foot-6, 240 pounds, he can be a load to bring down. If he progresses as a passer in the coming years, he could have a sustained, notable career.
Doug Martin – The rookie from Boise State had quite the debut, finishing fifth in the league with 1,454 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns. He had five games of at least 100 yards, including a 251-yard outburst in a Week 9 victory over the Oakland Raiders. He also contributed 472 yards receiving, which stood third on the team.
LeGarrette Blount (restricted free agent) – The Oregon product lost his starting job to Martin and received minimal playing time in his third year with the Bucs. He only ran for 151 yards on 41 carries – 630 yards fewer than his sophomore season.
D.J. Ware – The fifth-year veteran had 51 yards on 11 carries.
Michael Smith – He was a rookie contributor taken in the seventh round, 212th overall, from Utah State. He only appeared in a Week 1 victory over the Carolina Panthers and was used primarily on kick returns.
Erik Lorig (FB) – A player with experience as a defensive end, he earned a career-high 12 catches for 83 yards and a touchdown.
Final Analysis: Martin is Schiano’s choice at the position for the foreseeable future – and for good reason after the back’s rookie season. But how will the back-up slot be resolved? Blount has a history of injuries and was used sparingly in 2012. That could be an issue that needs addressed soon.
Vincent Jackson – His first year with the Bucs was a career effort, after spending his first seven seasons in the league with the San Diego Chargers. He finished with 1,384 yards receiving, the NFL’s fifth-best total, and with eight touchdowns after being targeted 147 times.
Mike Williams – He became a viable No. 2 option, earning 996 yards receiving and a team-high nine touchdowns on 63 catches. The third-year talent earned 225 more receiving yards than the previous season.
Arrelious Benn – The third-year player was used primarily on kickoffs. He earned a team-high 306 return yards, including a long of 55. He also had four catches for 26 yards.
Tiquan Underwood – He earned a career-high 425 yards and two touchdowns after playing for his third team in as many years. (He also spent time with the Jacksonville Jaguars and New England Patriots.)
Roscoe Parrish (unrestricted free agent) – The seventh-year player was used strictly on punt returns. He led the Bucs with 30 for 298 yards, including a long of 39.
Chris Owusu – The undrafted free-agent rookie had one catch for 24 yards in five games.
David Douglas – He was signed in November from the New York Giants’ practice squad. He played in a Week 17 victory over the Atlanta Falcons but didn’t earn any stats.
Sammie Stroughter (unrestricted free agent) – He’s known for injury issues. He was moved to injured reserve in September, which led to Owusu’s signing. He only had one catch for 14 yards in two games. The fourth-year player missed four games in 2010 because of injury and played in just six in 2011 for the same reason.
Final Analysis: Tampa Bay has a solid one-two combination in Jackson and Williams. Jackson’s addition last season, in particular, elevated the Bucs’ passing game and led to Freeman’s career year. Beyond Williams, though, there’s a significant drop-off in production (Underwood’s totals were third among receivers). Adding a dependable fourth option at some point would enhance the Bucs’ depth.
Dallas Clark (unrestricted free agent) – The longtime Colts player finished fourth in receiving on the team with 435 yards on 47 catches. He spent the first nine years of his career in Indianapolis.
Luke Stocker – The second-year Tennessee product had a career-high 165 yards receiving with a touchdown.
Danny Noble – He participated in four games, with no stats, after being signed as an undrafted free agent in May.
Nate Byham – The Bucs signed him in October, and he had three catches for 18 yards in 11 games. Previously, he had spent the 2010 season with the San Francisco 49ers.
Final Analysis: The Bucs have showed interest in re-signing Clark for at least another season. That could give Stocker, who inked a four-year deal in 2011, more time to develop. Clark offers a veteran pass-catching option, and he’s someone who could mentor Stocker.
Carl Nicks – The Pro Bowl left guard was placed on injured reserve in late October after a left toe injury. He had been one of the Bucs’ major free-agent signings of last year.
Donald Penn – A dependable left tackle who hasn’t missed a start in five consecutive seasons.
Ted Larsen – The third-year pro received time at center after Nicks’ injury. He started 13 games last season after just three in 2011.
Jeremy Zuttah – A guard-turned-center who moved back to left guard after Nicks’ injury.
Jamon Meredith – The four-year pro has experience at right guard and tackle. He started 12 games last year, his first with the Bucs. He was signed to a two-year deal as a free agent last March.
Demar Dotson – He’s a three-year right tackle who started all but one game for the Bucs last season. He has 17 starts in three campaigns with Tampa Bay. He was signed to a two-year deal as a free agent last March.
Final Analysis: If Nicks stays healthy, Tampa Bay’s unit should be in decent shape after last season’s effort. The Bucs only allowed 26 sacks (tied for third-fewest in the league) and 66 quarterback hits. A shuffle in Nicks’ absence created some uncertainty, but his return should solidify their situation.
A top-10 offense from a year ago, the Bucs have key playmakers in place to try to build off the momentum. Bringing back Clark would be a plus, as would be signing more depth at wide receiver. If Freeman, Martin and Jackson continue to create chemistry -- and Nicks’ toe injury doesn't linger -- the unit has reason to look forward to the coming year.
You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at email@example.com.
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