Bull Rush: Could The Bucs Be Winners In 2010?

June 16th, 2010

JoeBucsFan.com analyst

Former Buccaneers defensive end Steve White (1996-2001) is a devoted student of the game. He’s even authored a coaching guide and coached defensive linemen at the University of South Florida. And after all those years breaking down film with former defensive line coach Rod Marinelli and the other architects and legends of the Bucs’ defense, White shares his knowledge with JoeBucsFan.com readers every week in his must-read Bull Rush column

Today, White takes a look at what must fall into place for the Bucs to crank out a winning season in 2010.

On paper I have already stated my over-under for Bucs wins this season is six. I have even gone so far as to state the games I think they are likely to win, and I’ve challenged those who believe they will win more than six to state the games they put in the win column.

But football isn’t played on paper, and for that reason I figured I might as well spell out how the Bucs can overcome expectations and put together at winning season.

Stop laughing.

Back in 1997, I bet there weren’t many people, whether Bucs fans or pundits, who picked us to have a winning season. That isn’t to say that this Buccaneers team is analogous to that one. It surely isn’t. But it IS to say that you never know until the whistle blows.

So here are the things that would have to happen for the Bucs to pull it off.

First and foremost, all of the starters will have to stay healthy and available. One of the underplayed keys to how bad the season went for the Bucs last year was how many injuries they suffered to key players, plus the effect it had on the defense to not have Tanard Jackson the first four games.

Think about it for a second.

T-Jax missed four games and still tied for the team lead in interceptions last year. Jeff Faine went down with an injury and our offensive line suddenly couldn’t block anybody. Jermaine Phillips goes down and Sabby is forced into a starting role which he may or may not have attained otherwise. Our nickel corner position was almost a revolving door. Our best wide receiver hands down, Antonio Bryant, missed three games. Our starting fullback goes down with an injury, which forces Earnest Graham into the lineup in a role in which he played well but was was unfamiliar with. We even lost our Pro Bowl return man, Clifton Smith, for part of the season.

When you are already dealing with the firing of both coordinators, a first time head coach, and a pretty tough schedule, and having very few veterans on the team, not having stability at every position for every game made things that much worse.

This year, it will be even more important to keep everyone healthy as, in my opinion, overall I think the team has more talent in the starting positions. But I don’t have a lot of confidence in a lot of our backups.

It’s Not All About The Rookies

The next thing that has to happen is some young players have to take the next step up in their play. And I don’t mean the rookies who will undoubtedly have their own growing pains. T-Jax, Aqib Talib, Geno Hayes, Barret Ruud, Jeremy Trueblood, Sammie Stroughter, Jeremy Zuttah are all players who have to play well for us to have even a shot at a winning season.

I would include Josh Freeman in that group, but as a second-year quarterback I won’t put that much on his shoulders. It has to be the guys around him who make things easier for him in order for us to win.

If Freeman has to go out and win every game for us, then we are in a world of trouble. Our defense has to keep other teams from scoring so much that our offense has to put up big points every game. And our offensive players around Freeman have to perform at a high enough level so he can be a part of the solution instead of THE SOLUTION.

We already have pretty good talent in other positions that I feel confident in. I think Ronde will play well enough for us to win as he always does. I think Stylez White is going to be a force rushing the passer. I think Faine, Donald Penn (if he signs) and Davin Joseph will anchor a much improved offensive line.

I continue to believe that Kellen Winslow is one of the best pass catching tight ends in all of football. But we will rise and fall with the development and improved play of those other guys this year.

Some Dungyball Would Help At Home

The third thing we have to do is once again is get back to game plans that, especially at home, play to our strength.

People used to always complain about how “boring” our offense was when Coach Dungy was here, but one thing they never seemed to understand was how having a “boring” offense and a dominating defense helped us be so strong on our home field.

There are few places in the NFL where you play from the first game to the last and will have steam rising off of the field.

For a lot of teams, especially late in the season, the heat is a shock to their system. Then when we pound the ball at them play after play and our defense keeps getting off on third down, and it becomes a demoralizing affair. I used to literally see teams wilt in the fourth quarter in Raymond James Stadium after we had pounded them over and over all day.

I like the passing game as much as the next guy, but throwing the ball a lot in this kind of weather pretty much lets the other team off the hook. Especially when we have a pretty physical offensive line and a stable of physical running backs.

On defense, we have to continue to play as we did at the end of 2009, where we put pressure on the offense and made the opposing offenses adjust to us rather than allowing them to dictate the game.

We probably never will have a big hulking defense that will just stay in one place and pushes people around. Instead we are lean, quick and fast and we have to use slants and blitzes and different looks to keep the opposition off rhythm.

We HAVE to create more turnovers in order to put our own stamp on games. And we are going to have to win on first down a lot more to set up third-and-longs where we have the advantage. As much as people have focused on the defense being last in the league in run defense, and rightfully so, very few point out that we were No. 10 in passing defense and tied for ninth in interceptions, even though we gave up a bunch of big plays.

And finally, yes, we have to have our rookies play well. This, for me, is the most problematic aspect of the prescription for us winning. BUT, it could happen.

It’s scary to think that we have to rely on Arrelious Benn, Mike Williams, Gerald McCoy, Brian Price AND Myron Lewis to at least play decent football for us to have a winning season, but that’s where we are at. Now I’m not saying they have to come out the gate playing like Pro Bowlers, but what they can’t be is the weakest link. And they have to improve as the season goes on.

We won’t win if teams can single-block McCoy all year. We won’t win if Price can’t hold the point. We won’t win if Lewis isn’t an upgrade over Elbert Mack on the deep ball. We won’t win if Benn and Williams can’t get open AND catch the ball when its thrown to them.

Well, we can win a few games, but we won’t have have a winning season or anything close to it.

That’s a lot of pressure for a rookie class but it is what it is.

At this point, you might expect me to weigh in on some position battles that everybody is paying attention to like Cadillac Williams vs Derrick Ward or Sabby Piscitelli vs Sean Jones or even Jerramy Stevens vs John Gilmore. Well, honestly while I think those battles make for good debates they are kind of incidental to how far we go this year.

Whether Caddy or Ward start, I think our running game will go as the offensive line goes. Whether Sabby or Jones starts, I think that position won’t win or lose us many games this year, if everybody else plays well. Whether Stevens or Gilmore is our blocking TE, neither guy is that much of an intimidating force.

So the question is can all of the positive things I listed happen in 2010? I have to say I don’t know.

There is the potential that it can, but even with all the preparation in the world it’s also going to take some luck. For that reason, I’m sticking with my prediction of an over/under of six wins. But by the same token, I am hoping to be pleasantly surprised.

This post was inspired by our new columnist “The Optimist” so you have him to thank/blame for it.

40 Responses to “Bull Rush: Could The Bucs Be Winners In 2010?”

  1. Not a Rocket Surgeon Says:

    Steve – I always appreciate your no nonsense approach to our Bucs. As much as us fans bitch and moan about personnel/position battles, we rarely, if ever say things like the Sabby vs Jones not really being a big impact on games.

    Well put Sir, again.

  2. Canadian Bucs Fan Says:

    Last year was a really tough year, but I think there’s a lot of optimism looking forward. Something not mentioned in your article was the uncertainty of the coaching staff & head office. I’m eager to see how our players perform, but I believe our coaching staff has to prove itself (IMMEDIATELY!) in order to get the most out of this young group of players.

    Love your column, Steve. Keep us informed without the all the fluff (as you usually do).

  3. Dave Says:

    Good read.
    Basically you amke the case for my position of: Get off Raheem’s back. The team is rebuilding and is still another year away from being .500 or better and vying for a playoff spot.

  4. Lakeland Bob Says:

    If we get some solid plays out of our rookies and Josh cuts down on the picks I think we can be competitive in our division.This divsion is notorious for worst to first turnarounds.I know I sound like a kool-aid drinker and the odds are slim as hell of it happening.But other than the Saints,our division is not very strong.Caralina sucks and I don’t think they will be able to run the ball down our throats with our new D-line.

  5. JimBuc Says:

    Great stuff as usual. Steve, can you give us your thoughts on our run defense this season? Does the strength/quickness/stamina of three young guys (Price, McCoy and Miller) make a big difference in run stuffing? Maybe some of the gains they offer in strength/quickness/stamina are offset by their inexperience?

  6. Capt.Tim Says:

    Nice post again, Mr. White
    Id love to see the Bucs around 500! But for me, this year is all about PROGRESS. Want to see the team improving and starting to gel. I’ll be happy with a six win season this year, if we are thinking playoff contender next year.

  7. lightningbuc Says:


    Good article. But, at the risk of you lambasting me (it wouldn’t be the first time), I do disagree with you on one point. If Piscitelli sees the field in a role other than special teams, I think offenses will be able to exploit him. In my opinion, not only does he lack the talent, but seems to not have a good grasp of his responsibilities in the defensive schemes.

  8. RahDomDaBest Says:

    I’m a little curious why Gruden didn’t get the same opportunity to completely rebuild this team through dismantling, getting a pass for 3-13, 6-10 and 8-8/9-7 in year 3.

    The few years following the Suber Bowl win, the Bucs didn’t want to implode the team completely. So Gruden and Allen went along with adding players to the core. Yet Gruden got hammered for not rebuilding the team… but he did go 4-12 and the very next season win a division, twice. Can Raheem do this?

    It shouldn’t be expected, as i agree with that.

    But, it would have been nice to have the owners come out, claim that they want to completely re-build the team from scratch, and give Gruden a pass for 3-13, 6-10 and maybe an 8-8/9-7 year three in the rebuilding process.

    How would have Gruden have been perceived if he were the one who had to cut Brooks and Co?

    Why George Bush get destroyed by the media for Hurricane Katrina, but Barrack Obama is getting a pass from all news outlets BUT 1 (Fox News) over the BP Oil Spill/Containment efforts?

    When can the elephant in the room be removed once in for all?

  9. sgw94 Says:


    It will take a total defensive effort for us to improve against the run. I think we should definitely be better but it won’t be due just to our new defensive tackles but because everyone else steps up as well, including the coaching staff. The question isn’t if we will be better but by how much and that will go a long way in deciding how good our season is or isn’t.

  10. RustyRhino Says:


    Great Perspective and incite, You said more Dungyball, “when we have a pretty physical offensive line and a stable of physical running backs.”.

    From your side of what you know and have prepared for, do you see it as just that? Physical Offensive Line?? any reason you’d like to share as to why either way? Our stable of Physical running backs?? What you look for in describing Physical Running backs? hitting the tackler harder than he hits you? running over as opposed to around tackles,sometimes??

    Thanks for the column you put out and your blog is great as well.
    Makes me have incite as to what player see of whats on the field and how it is going.

    I too am hoping to be pleasantly surprised.

  11. sgw94 Says:


    Notice that I said it won’t matter if everyone else plays well around him/them. Im assuming that Sean Jones will push Sabby and if the best man wins the job then whomever it is shouldn’t be so bad that teams can consistently exploit them. Obviously I have said before that I don’t think Sabby is a viable strong safety for us but my thing is whether its him or Jones if our defensive line and linebackers and the rest of the secondary stand up then their contributions either positive or negative won’t make the difference in wins and losses in my opinion. They will make the difference in some good plays or bad plays but not the ultimate outcomes.

  12. sgw94 Says:


    A physical back to me is a guy who can run through arm tackles. Doesn’t matter how big or small they are, they don’t go down easy. And they run downhill rather than towards the sidelines. Id say that applies to most of our backs.

  13. JimBuc Says:

    RahDom — may be one of the funniest posters on this site. You said:

    “I’m a little curious why Gruden didn’t get the same opportunity to completely rebuild this team through dismantling, getting a pass for 3-13, 6-10 and 8-8/9-7 in year 3.”

    Too finny. Gruden got (deserved) passes for 4 win and 5 win seasons and had 7 years to get the players he wanted and yet he never even tried — that is the key point “tried” — to get a franchise QB, unless you call 6th round picks legitimate franchise QBs. In his last interview in ’08 he suggested that he wanted Garcia back for ’09. Once Booger flopped, he never even tried (again, “tried”) to get a game changing DT, unless you count Sims as one? Probably not. Dom changed both of those things in the first two offseasons. Who knows if it will work out, but he tried.

  14. bucfanjeff Says:

    Any given Sunday.
    Play fast, play hard, and play through the whistle.

  15. oar Says:

    Mr. White, Another fine read. Thanks again! And Im hoping too!

  16. oar Says:

    Gruden not having 2 first round picks and 2 second round picks didn’t help with that (non)rebuilding. For not building through the draft, he did seem to build/draft a nice O-line though. Bummer and sad about Sears too.

  17. JimBuc Says:

    oar — that is a very good point. He got a team to take to the SB, but at a price.

  18. thomas Says:

    Fair “optimistic” analysis steve. There is no doubt that you are able to provide very informative analysis.

    Of course, no team goes injury free. Also, rooks rarely make a team noticeably better on the d-line very early. I can’t think of a rookie – pro-bowl d-tackle – even Sapp struggled his first year and a half.

    dungy ball on offense with the 32nd ranked run defense could add up to real ugly, like um 3-13 ugly.

  19. jarrett Says:

    oar and jimbuc do not forget about the two first round picks we traded for keyshawn the two years before gruden. That makes 4 first rounders and 2 second rounders that would be in the prime of their careers . Gruden had nothing to do with those trades. With gruden as head coach i at least thought we had a chance to win every game we played

  20. RahDomDaBest Says:

    Wait, how did Jon Gruden highjack Steve’s blog?

  21. thomas Says:

    excellent points jarrett. i completely agree.

  22. RastaMon Says:

    for me it is how they scrap out the wins this fall….and who stands out playing by example…many identities vacant on the roster…it will be fun to watch

  23. Eric Says:

    I can’t fathom a winning season, just too many inexperienced players in key positions and a head coach and staff who are not qualified and not ready for prime time.

    The most immediate and telling failing, IMO, will be in the bucs passing game where they are relying on a combination of has beens, two rookies, and a decent slot receiver in sammie(plus K-2). Just no way to match that up in this division.

    Did not have to be this way.

    Anything over 4 wins will be a minor miracle.

  24. JimBuc Says:

    Jarrett — I agree too

  25. admin Says:

    Joe here,

    Eric – Joe’s going to take the bait. If you’re calling four wins, then you’re essentially saying the Bucs will be worse than the 3-6 pace they finished with last year. Just not seeing any reason to expect they’d be worse than that pace. The only significant “loss” is Antonio Bryant. And Joe believes that’s definitely a loss. But the improved defense should at least make up for Bryant. No?

  26. JimBuc Says:

    If the Bucs had traded for Marshall Eric would be in for ten wins

  27. Eric Says:


    Unlike others i was underwhelmed with the insignificant victories at the end of last season.

    Greenbay was a good win, ill give em that. But the other two were at clean up time. The Saints were coasting, the Hawks had quit. Look how those teams played down the stretch against other teams to close out the regular season.

    Also, the bucs went through the year pretty much inury free. Not usually the case two years in a row.

    The new defensive players may help considerably down the road, but recent history would not support big improvement with rookie(s) at DT. Even Mr. Sapp struggled as a rook. Some recent big name first round dissapointments at that position. And, who do we have coaching em up? Have u seen the bucs staff?

    Lastly, AB was a big threat offensively even in a down year.

    Mix all that together, add in Raheem the Dream, and you see Eric’s negative mind at work!

    Of course i cold be totally wrong.

  28. BigMacAttack Says:

    Steve, can I get your opinion on the Old Style 5 man defensive fronts teams use to play with. I was a kid when I went to Oiler Games and they ran that D with a Nose Guard, 2 tackles and 2 DE’s. I do remember them being pretty good against the run. I don’t remember if it was 2 LB’s with 2 safetys or 3 and 1. I just wonder If the Bucs put 2 DE’s, Price, Miller, and McCoy in together in the opponent’s Red Zone. I’m Curious because so often 4 man fronts (especially us) get over powered by O lines with TE’s in double teams, except when they mix it up and run the pass rush games you preach so often. Thx

  29. admin Says:

    Joe here,

    Eric – Not sure being impressed by the wins is relevant. Every team that actually wins will have Ws that leave you queasy. But didn’t the Saints need the game to lock up their seed? It’s not like they rested starters.
    Hard to call the Bucs injury free, but certainly depth-free, which comes back to Team Glazer cutting corners. …Faine missed significant time. Bryant was out. Jermaine Phillips left us with Sabby The Goat. Jackson missed four games. I think they beat the Falcons in Atlanta (during that 3-6 stretch) if Talib isn’t gone with a hamstring. Clifton Smith missed time.

    Don’t expect squat from the rookies, either. Just can’t see a reason why they’re not good enough to enter Week 17 in New Orleans with 5 wins.

    All that said, it’s pathetic that “hope” sits at a 6 win season.

  30. BamBamBuc Says:


    I guess you didn’t actually read the article regarding the injuries last year. Tanard wasn’t an injury, but missing the first 4 games really hurt. Phillips was hurt, Faine – hurt, Sears – out, Peanut, even Stroughter late… and yes, AB missed 3 games and played others hurt. I’m not even gonna say that was all, I know there were a few others, but not as significant as those.

    Also, you can’t just look at the wins and say I wasn’t impressed. Look at some of the losses and you’d have to say they were pretty competitive. The D gave up at least one game in the 4th qtr, and an improved D this year could win those 2 games. Also, some of the early losses could have a lot to do with Lefty at QB, or JJ jumping in to the starting role (and probably not well prepared since he got few reps in preseason with the battle between Lefty and McCown and Freeman getting the rest).

    There were obvious games that we just flat lost. The Giants, Pats and the other Saints game come to mind. Other than that, there were definitely games that could have been won with better D and/or with a few tweaks on offense that were made the end of last year and going into this year.

    Keep being negative. It’s ok. I’m pulling for 6+ wins, and think we actually have a real shot at 8-8 or better if things fall into place like Steve White pointed out.

  31. gotbbucs Says:

    Very good stuff there Steve, always value the opinions of guys that have been there and done that. The one thing I do kind of disagree with you on is your opinion that the winner of the Strong Safety position isn’t a big deal.
    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that our run defense went down the drain at the same time that Jermaine Phillips got injured two years ago. Our 8th man in the box went down and the four remaining games that season turned into a free-for-all for every team to run on us at will. Who was it that stepped in for Phillips those last four games? Sabby Piscitelli. The same thing happened last year. We need a guy that isn’t affraid to get in there and get his nose dirty in the box, somebody who can line up a ball carrier and make the tackle. This is why I think if Sean Jones doesn’t win that competition we could hurting again this year.
    Of course having two DT’s that aren’t playing the game on roller skates may help too.

  32. Eric Says:

    I could be mistaken, but I could have sworn I read right here on Joebucsfan.com that the bucs were one of the least injured teams in the league last year.

    Naturally, nobody in this league is injury free, a poor choice of words on my part.

    In any event, ive seen that ending the season with a couple of wins act before.

    Still aint impressed.

  33. T in Orlando Says:

    I think 6 or 7 wins is likely, however, I feel of the non-division games there are 7 winnable games (games you can point to and either say that team is not clearly better than the Bucs or Teams that have big QB questions (see Arizona and Pittsburgh (when we play Pitt anyway)). Admittedly EVERY team we play is looking at that game as winnable, so I would in no way guarantee those games.

    I won’t say which division games are winnable, because I think they all are winnable, however, I don’t think we could sweep the Saints or Falcons (but possibly the Panthers). So in a best case scenario, I could see the Bucs going 11-5 w/ Losses to the Saints, Falcons, Niners, Bengals and Ravens.

    If you look at each other game one by one (Panthers (twice), Saints, Falcons, Rams, Lions, Redskins, Arizona (led by Leinart), and Pittsburgh (led by Leftwich)) it’s not such a stretch to beleive the Bucs will win those games, just difficult to believe they’ll win them all. But like the players say, one game at a time.

  34. JimBuc Says:

    We win at least two games without the Bates experiment. Maybe another without the Jags debacle. Better players this year and easier schedule plus a full offseason.

  35. Patrick Says:

    What a joke. 6 wins is acceptable?? I’ll be calling for “Raheem’s moving van” if that happens!

    There’s actually 9 or 10 games on the schedule that the Bucs are CAPABLE of winning. CAPABLE. I’m not saying they will win all of them.

    I actually wouldn’t be shocked if the Bucs managed to sneak into the playoffs with a 9-7 or 10-6 record. We have a lot of talent on the roster. During the Gruden years, everytime we had a bad season, we were in the playoffs the next year. Do you guys remember how bad the 2006 4-12 team was?? Pretty bad. It was worse than the 09 team actually. The offense couldn’t score at all and statistically they were actually ranked much lower than the 09 offense. Then to the surprise of everyone we were in the playoffs the next year.

    My prediction is we’ll get a win against the Saints, since it seems like we do every year. In the division, I think we can win 3 division games. One against the falcons and one against the panthers. I think the Rams, Steelers, Seahawks, and Browns are sure wins. The 49ers and Lions are possible wins.

    We’ll probably get an upset win or two like we did last year against the Packers and Saints. Idk I have to check out the schedule again.

  36. admin Says:

    Joe here,

    JimBuc wrote: “We win at least two games without the Bates experiment. Maybe another without the Jags debacle. Better players this year and easier schedule plus a full offseason.”

    That’s very nice, JimBuc, but the same people who made those outrageous decisions are still in charge and have decided we don’t need good depth. What’s next?

  37. Eric Says:

    The Steelers are a sure win????????????????

    With their defense?

    They can beat the bucs with Joe at QB.


    So are you saying Rah turned a 6-10 team into a 3-13 team? Why so negative?

  38. jarrett Says:

    Patrick those are some games i think we can win, hardly a sure thing. All those teams you mentioned are looking at their schedule and looking at us as a sure win. 6 is the number no more could be less. I love the bucs, i love the last two drafts, we just need so much more at this point. We really need to keep on nailing every draft ,because i dont see us ever being players in free agency again. Dont give me that lockout crap either because we havent been spending money for 5 years, the lockout is a convenient excuse for the inconvenient truth which is the glazers have no liquid money to spend. They may have assets but no money.

  39. RahDomDaBest Says:

    I am excited to see what the defensive line does… to see what the WRs do… to see what the 3rd CB does… to see Freeman’s progression… and to see the other QBs play… all in the pre-season. You know you are a fan if you get excited about the pre-season just to watch what kind of depth you might have or try to guess who will make the team.

    I also want to see how our defense plays with a better defensive line… of course they are young…

    As far as how we will perform overall as a team and how many games we win in the season… I have little to no expectations from this coaching staff.

    The players, I am excited to see them develop though… if they can stop going 3 and out and play a little defense.

  40. JimBuc Says:

    Joe — that depends on who you think made the decisions.