Can Koetter Build On His Lead?

September 2nd, 2016


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This column is dedicated to the 10,000 hardy souls who braved the rain and the lousy football.

The Glazers should track down each and every one of you and provide free concessions the rest of the season because Wednesday night’s matchup against the Redskins was one for the ages.

The Dark Ages.

What do we know about the Bucs as we head into the season opener at the Georgia Dome against the very beatable Falcons? We know the pass rush looks significantly better, we know Vernon Hargreaves can play and we know Mike Evans is poised for a big year.

But those are not the most important takeaways from August. The most crucial development is the long list of healthy bodies.

Tampa Bay figures to be at full strength when the games start to count — and that’s quite an achievement. Just ask the Cowboys and the Vikings what it’s like to see your starting quarterback go down before Week 1.

Jameis Winston, who didn’t miss a single snap in 2015, is raring to go as the Bucs groove to their version of Movin’ On Up in the NFC South.

Enjoying An Early Lead

Enjoying An Early Lead

“Consistent Lineups”

Inside the division, Atlanta rookie safety Keanu Neal won’t suit up opening day against the Bucs because of a knee injury. Replacement Dashon Goldson should be good for two personal-foul penalties that afternoon.

The Saints are reeling from a broken fibula suffered by defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, a first-round pick who won’t be back until midseason.

In Charlotte, the defending NFC champs are hoping tight end Greg Olsen’s back spasms don’t limit the effectiveness of Cam Newton’s favorite target.

Ali Marpet, sidelined with a walking boot on his right foot in the late stages of training camp, should be ready for the season opener, Dirk Koetter says.

Free agent addition J.R. Sweezy, who was supposed to compete for the left guard spot vacated by Logan Mankins, hasn’t practiced because of lingering back issues. Veteran wide receiver Louis Murphy is still recovering from 2015 knee surgery.

We’re talking about an offensive lineman who may or may not have beaten out Kevin Pamphile, and a third or fourth receiver.

In the NFL, that’s the textbook definition of extraordinarily good health.

“For the most part, we’re in good shape and there’s teams that have it a lot worse than we do, that’s for sure,” says Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter. “I think we’ll be pretty darn close to full strength for Atlanta — and that’s very important.”

All those vibrant bodies give Koetter and his overhauled staff a fighting chance to end Tampa Bay’s eight-year playoff drought.

“I hope this team goes from 6-10 to 16-0, myself, but I think the most important thing in any team that has a turnaround one way or another is still injuries,” Koetter says. “When you’ve got 53 guys, every team is fighting health once Week 1 starts. And for the most part, teams that do well in this league stay pretty healthy, they stay with consistent lineups. There’s a few exceptions to that, but I think health is the most important thing.”

The Lessons Of Spurrier, Marinelli

Don’t fret about the dismal showing against the Redskins. That game probably should have been canceled due to lack of interest. Even the eternally effervescent Chris Myers couldn’t pump any life into that telecast.

There’s always a temptation to read too much into the preseason. In 2008, Detroit fans got excited by the team’s 4-0 exhibition slate. Reality quickly set in for Rod Marinelli’s crew as the Lions finished off the only 0-16 season in NFL history.

In 2002, a year Buc fans will never forget, the Redskins waltzed into Raymond James Stadium during Week 3 of the preseason and dropped a 40-10 beatdown on the home team as rookie head coach Steve Spurrier poured it on.

Tampa Bay turned the ball over seven times that enchanted evening and Washington finished 4-1 in the preseason. Four months later, the Spurrier Gang was 7-9 and the Bucs were on their way to an NFL championship.

While other clubs scramble to fill major holes because of injury, the Bucs will seek to add quality depth when the final wave of cuts are made.

That’s a critical difference.

Koetter and GM Jason Licht know how fortunate the organization has been since camp opened. This team is basically at full go as the Bucs approach the season opener, so Koetter finds himself already ahead of the game.

Let’s see if he can build on that lead.

4 Responses to “Can Koetter Build On His Lead?”

  1. Stpetebucsfan Says:

    Let’s face it…luck always has a role to play in all athletic contests and injuries are as big a wild card as anything.

    I like the way Koetter thinks. He’s genuine. He and Licht concede the Bucs have been incredibly fortunate in camp and they admit that’s an advantage so no excuses going in.

    But he’s not afraid to point out in advance that the wrong injuries at the wrong time could scuttle the Buc’s efforts as well.

    If this team stays healthy I still say 10-0. But as this piece points is a very big IF!

  2. Stpetebucsfan Says:

    LOL…Freudian typo…10-0 is obviously 10-6. I guess I hate the L’s too much to even type them,

  3. Cobraboy Says:

    The “secret” to football success on any level are talent, coaching, health and luck.

  4. niko Says:

    As predicted today in my game by game article on Bucstop, I have the Bucs going 10-6l