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                 === Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2013 Season Preview ===
 
 By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
 
 (Sports Network) - They were just 7-9 last season and 4-12 the year before,
 but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the vibe of a team with loftier expectations
 in 2013.
 
 Faced with a subpar defensive ranking against the pass from 2012, the front
 office moved aggressively to trade for difference-making cornerback Darrelle
 Revis, sign safety Dashon Goldson to a five-year deal worth more than $41
 million and draft highly-touted collegian Johnthan Banks in the second round.
 
 The activity was less noticeable on the offensive side, but the Bucs did
 dispatch one former 1,000-yard rookie rusher (LeGarrette Blount) to clear the
 ball-carrying decks for 2012's dynamic arrival -- 1,400-yard sensation Doug
 Martin -- and they extended another impactful arrival, Vincent Jackson, with a
 long-term deal that'll pay him more than $55 million for five more seasons.
 
 So, even though they were five games behind the Atlanta Falcons in the chase
 for the South Division crown last season, the sense is that they feel the
 ground can be made up.
 
 "We're not going to be last again, I know that much," Revis said. "Last season
 they were last in pass defense here, and the organization wanted to address
 that in a big way. Bringing in me and Goldson, and drafting Johnthan, it's
 awesome. We're going to be fine. We're going to compete."
 
 Any suffocating presence by the defense will take heat off embattled
 quarterback Josh Freeman, who enters his fifth season with two weighty wild
 cards -- he's in the last year of his contract, and the Bucs drafted another
 quarterback, North Carolina State's Mike Glennon, in the third round in April.
 
 Freeman's completion percentage dipped below the 60-percent respectability
 threshold in 2012, though his touchdown total was up and his interception
 number went down.
 
 Regardless of the QB controversy, however, he insists it's business as usual
 on his end and feels confident that a quick break from the gate in September
 will quiet the whispers.
 
 "We want to come out and have a fast start, that's the main goal," he said.
 "We have the ability to, for sure. It's just going to be a matter of guys
 locking in, focusing and ultimately doing their job, and me doing my job as
 well."
 
 Overall, the task of ensuring improvement falls to second-year coach Greg
 Schiano, who encountered immediate skeptics upon his arrival from Rutgers
 University, but hushed at least some of the commentary while guiding the Bucs
 to six wins in their initial 10 games.
 
 Tampa Bay finished just 7-9, but the three-game boost from Raheem Morris'
 final season and the tangible difference in mindset earned widespread kudos
 for Schiano, a longtime friend of the consensus best coach in the business
 these days -- New England's Bill Belichick.
 
 "I had the opportunity in the last seven or eight years to get to really know
 him before I came to the Bucs, and there are a lot of things I gleaned from
 him when I was at Rutgers and he would come down," Schiano said. "I think he's
 the best, so there's a lot of things, coaching points and things like that.
 We've always been pretty organized, but just a different way to think of some
 things."
 
 2012 RECORD: 7-9 (tied for 2nd, NFC South)
 
 LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2007, lost to New York Giants in NFC Wild Card
 Playoff
 
 COACH (RECORD): Greg Schiano (7-9 in one season with Buccaneers)
 
 OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Mike Sullivan (second season with Buccaneers)
 
 DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Bill Sheridan (second season with Buccaneers)
 
 KEY ADDITIONS: CB Johnthan Banks (second round, Mississippi State), G Gabe
 Carimi (from Bears), OLB Jonathan Casillas (from Saints), TE Tom Crabtree
 (from Packers), RB Jeff Demps (from Patriots), DE William Gholston (fourth
 round, Michigan State), QB Mike Glennon (third round, North Carolina State),
 S Dashon Goldson (from Niners), P Chas Henry (from Eagles), K Nate Kaeding
 (from Dolphins), DT Derek Landri (from Eagles), FB Brian Leonard (from
 Bengals), DT Andre Neblett (from Panthers), WR Kevin Ogletree (from Cowboys),
 CB Darrelle Revis (from Jets), DE George Selvie (from Jaguars), DT Akeem
 Spence (fourth round, Illinois), K Lawrence Tynes (from Giants).
 
 KEY SUBTRACTIONS: S Ronde Barber (retired), WR Arrelious Benn (to Eagles), DE
 Michael Bennett (to Seahawks), CB E.J. Biggers (to Redskins), OLB Quincy Black
 (free agent), RB LeGarrette Blount (to Patriots), TE Dallas Clark (to Ravens),
 CB Brandon McDonald (free agent), DT Roy Miller (to Jaguars), WR Sammie
 Stroughter (free agent), OT Jeremy Trueblood (to Redskins).
 
 QB: Incumbent starter Freeman enters his fifth season with the Buccaneers,
 and, similar to 2009 draft mate Mark Sanchez in New York, could be nearing a
 crossroads with the team. The 6-foot-6, 240-pounder has no real training camp
 competition this season, but the third-round selection of Glennon from North
 Carolina State in April may be indicative of his fate when free agency beckons
 after 2013. Freeman's completion rate dipped from 62.8 to 54.8 last season,
 though his TDs were up by 11 (16 to 27) and his INTs dropped from 22 to 17.
 
 Also on the depth chart in the summer are veteran journeyman Dan Orlovsky and
 novice Adam Weber.
 
 GRADE: C
 
 RB: The versatile Martin was a rookie sensation on Florida's Gulf coast last
 season while rumbling for 1,454 yards, catching 49 passes and scoring 12
 times. He went for four TDs and 251 yards in a Week 9 shootout with Oakland
 and wound up hitting triple-digits five times in 16 games. His per-carry
 average was a shade better than 4.5 and his emergence made another former
 1,000-yard rookie, Blount, expendable via trade to New England.
 
 Behind him at tailback are seventh-year man Brian Leonard and rookie Mike
 James. Also among those present for the summertime are veteran Peyton Hillis,
 a former Madden cover boy whose career has stalled since he went for more than
 1,110 yards for Cleveland in 2010.
 
 Slotted as No. 1 at fullback is 265-pounder Erik Lorig, a seventh-round pick
 from 2010 who's hung around to appear in 40 games since his selection, though
 he has yet to get an in-game carry. He did catch 12 passes last season and
 scored once.
 
 GRADE: B
 
 WR: The Buccaneers struck acquisition gold with the arrival of former San
 Diego star Jackson last season. Now entering his ninth NFL year, he
 established
 a career-high with 72 catches, eclipsed 1,000 yards for the fourth time en
 route to a career-high 1,384 and led the NFL with a yards-per-catch clip of
 19.2 yards -- also his personal best. He scored eight times, including a 95-
 yarder, and gives Freeman a legitimate top end target through the air.
 
 Jackson's arrival coincided with the continued emergence of No. 2 man Mike
 Williams, who hauled in 63 passes and fell just four yards short of giving
 Tampa Bay a pair of 1,000-yard receivers. He also scored nine times and was
 good for a career-high 15.8 yards per reception.
 
 Ex-Dallas receiver Kevin Ogletree is new in the fold for 2013, and former
 Rutgers player Tiquan Underwood had 28 catches as a 15.2-yard average in
 limited time last season.
 
 GRADE: B
 
 TE: The exit of veteran Dallas Clark to Baltimore opens the starting
 assignment door for third-year man Luke Stocker, a 6-foot-5, 258-pounder who
 caught 12 passes as a rookie in 2011 and upped that number slightly in 2012,
 to 16, while scoring once and average a shade more than 10 yards per
 reception. Clark was an experience asset while in Tampa Bay, but his 47
 catches aren't exactly irreplaceable.
 
 Fourth-year man Tom Crabtree is second on the Buccaneers' depth chart after
 catching eight passes in 14 games with Green Bay last season.
 
 GRADE: C
 
 OL: Sixth-year man Carl Nicks gets another chance to fulfill the promise at
 left guard that the Bucs saw in him prior to 2012, when they signed him to a
 free-agent deal. The 349-pounder made it through just half the season before a
 toe injury shelved him. Now Nicks is sidelined again with a MRSA infected
 blister on his surgically repaired foot. While Schiano is optimistic the two-
 time Pro Bowl selection will be ready for the team's regular- season opener at
 the New York Jets on Sept., he offered no assurances.
 
 "(We'll) take it very seriously," said Schiano of the injury. "It's not
 something you mess around with, but it's not your common injury either. So the
 next question is 'How long will he be (out)?' I don't know that. We've got to
 let the medicine run its course and see if we can't get that thing
 straightened out."
 
 Former Rutgers man Jeremy Zuttah shifted left to fill Nicks' spot, but he'll
 return to his natural center spot for his sixth NFL season. The right guard is
 313-pounder Davin Joseph, who was also lost last year with a knee injury, but
 is set to return for his eighth season.
 
 Eighth-year man Donald Penn, a 340-pounder from Utah State, holds down the
 starting slot at the left tackle position ahead of youngster Mike Remmers;
 while 315-pounder Demar Dotson is the No. 1 man at right tackle ahead of Gabe
 Carimi, a first-round pick of the Chicago Bears in 2011.
 
 GRADE: C
 
 DL: Gerald McCoy is back for his fourth season as the starter at left tackle
 and he'll try to maintain a standard that made the Bucs one of the league's
 elite at stopping the run. Tampa Bay's foes managed just 82.5 yards per game
 on the ground -- the stingiest rate in the NFL. His interior linemate is
 seventh-year man Gary Gibson, a 312-pounder from Rutgers who'll fill the gap
 left by the exodus of Roy Miller.
 
 On the right and left ends, respectively, are Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan
 Bowers, who were first- and second-round picks in the 2011 draft. The 280-
 pound Clayborn had 7.5 sacks as a rookie, but has held to just three starts
 last season by an ACL tear. Bowers, a 288-pounder from Clemson, started 16
 games in 2011 but managed just 10 appearances -- with three sacks -- in 2012,
 thanks to an Achilles injury.
 
 GRADE: C
 
 LB: The strength of the Tampa Bay linebacking corps comes in the form of
 second-year man Lavonte David, a second-round pick out of Nebraska who made a
 seamless transition while recording 112 tackles, defending five passes and
 registering a pair of sacks while starting all 16 games as a rookie. He's
 joined in the middle by Mason Foster, who made 80 tackles and had two sacks in
 2012; and on the other side by former seventh-round pick Dekoda Watson, who's
 made just three starts in 45 games since arriving from Florida State.
 
 Providing depth and perhaps pushing for starting roles are fifth-year man
 Jonathan Casillas, who had 17 tackles with New Orleans last season; and
 seventh-year veteran Adam Hayward, who's made 11 starts in six seasons with
 Tampa Bay.
 
 GRADE: C
 
 DB: The Bucs made the highest-profile acquisition of the offseason when they
 picked up perennial All-Pro cornerback Revis from the New York Jets.
 Revis missed all but the opener in 2012 with a knee injury, but, at age 28,
 he's expected to recover fully and was cleared to play in the spring. He'll
 get immediate tests in an NFC South Division that features twice-yearly
 exposure to top-flight wide receivers Julio Jones, Roddy White, Marques
 Colston and Steve Smith. His position mate on the other side of the
 field is rookie Banks, whom the Bucs plucked from Mississippi State in the
 second round of April's draft. Second-year man Leonard Johnson could give
 Banks a push after starting six times as a rookie himself in 2012 and
 intercepting three passes, including one for a touchdown.
 
 The free safety position got an offseason upgrade as well when Tampa Bay lured
 Goldson from San Francisco after he intercepted three passes, recovered two
 fumbles and made 53 tackles en route to a Pro Bowl selection with the Niners
 in 2012. The free safety is second-year man Mark Barron, who made 72 tackles
 and had one INT as a rookie. Also available at safety are second-year man
 Ahmad Black and fourth-year pro Cody Grimm.
 
 GRADE: A
 
 SPECIAL TEAMS: Tenth-year veteran Lawrence Tynes was the No. 1 candidate to
 hold down placekicking duties after a 2012 season with the New York Giants in
 which he was 33 of 39 overall on field goals -- missing four times inside of
 50 yards -- and converted all 46 extra-point tries. Tynes was scheduled to
 replace incumbent starter Connor Barth, who tore his Achilles in an offseason
 basketball game, but he is also suffering from a MRSA infection, leaving the
 door open for veteran Rian Lindell.
 
 Punter Michael Koenen averaged 45.3 yards in 76 kicks last season for the
 Buccaneers, his second with the team after six seasons in Atlanta. Also on
 hand is offseason arrival Chas Henry, who had only 16 punts last season with
 Philadelphia -- albeit for a 48.5-yard average -- after logging a 42.9-yard
 clip in 16 games with the Eagles as a rookie in 2011.
 
 Youngster Michael Smith gets the first chance to be the No. 1 kickoff returner
 after three tries for 55 yards last season, though Mike James and Underwood
 are in the hunt as well. On punts, it's the equally untested Eric Page listed
 alongside David Douglas and Branden Smith. Jeff Demps, who came over in the
 LeGarrette Blount trade, spent the offseason working on his track and field
 career, but could be an impact player on returns if he returns to football.
 
 GRADE: C
 
 COACHING: The most newsworthy moments of Schiano's initial season with
 the Buccaneers came when his defensive line roughed up Eli Manning on a kneel-
 down play in Week 2. He was chastised by veteran coach Tom Coughlin, but the
 attitude he instilled on a team recovering from the Morris debacle a year
 earlier was evident.
 
 The Bucs started with three losses in four games, but reeled off five
 of six from Week 6 through Week 11 to get to 6-4  before a series of close
 losses -- followed by a 41-0 blowout in New Orleans -- snuffed out any
 postseason flickers.
 
 Considering where he was upon arrival, however, the initial year has to be
 considered a success, and now that he's got a few more high-profile players --
 particularly Revis -- the expectations are a little higher for a .500 or
 better encore.
 
 GRADE: B
 
 THE SKINNY: In 2012, the NFC South Division was the Atlanta Falcons and
 everyone else. This season, the Buccaneers hope to be the one team -- amid
 competition from Carolina and New Orleans -- that emerges from the 7-9 flotsam
 to give the Falcons a run for their money.
 
 To do so, a good start is vital. Tampa Bay opens with a woeful New York Jets
 team and has home games with New Orleans and Arizona sandwiched around a trip
 to Foxborough to play the New England Patriots. If the record is 3-1 when the
 Week 5 bye arrives, Schiano will be on his way. If it's the reverse, chances
 are better that the leap toward respectability with once again land in
 mediocrity.
 
 
 
 
 
 08/25 11:32:05 ET