The 2018 season was yet another year where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers failed to reach the playoffs. Although, the 2019 season could be different with the hiring of Bruce Arians as head coach.
To put things into perspective, the Buccaneers haven’t played in a playoff game since 2007. That was Jon Gruden was sporting the visor with the Buccaneers logo as the head coach and Jeff Garcia was the starting quarterback.
Since then, the Buccanneers have struggled to keep their heads above water—having just two seasons with a record above .500. In 2018, Tampa Bay finished last in the NFC South with a record of 5-11.
The 2019 season could have a different outcome with a new face calling the shots. This time around, Arians will be tasked with righting the ship in Tampa Bay.
The veteran head coach is hoping for the same turnaround that he manifested with the Arizona Cardinals from 2013-2017. Arians was able to turn a 5-11 Cardinals team in 2012 into a 10-6 team in 2013.
A lot will need to happen for the Buccaneers to have their first taste of the postseason since 2007.
Here are three things that will need to happen for the Buccaneers to make the playoffs in 2019.
3. The Turnovers Have to Go Down
Common sense says that giving the ball to the other team a lot could contribute to a team receiving more losses. That was definitely the case for the Buccaneers in 2019.
Over the course of the season, Tampa Bay played musical chairs at the quarterback position between Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston. Both of them showed flashes of brilliance but they both also had moments of despair.
The two quarterbacks combined to throw 26 interceptions which were the most in the NFL. In addition, the Buccaneers had 35 turnovers as a team—which was also the worst in the NFL.
You can’t expect to win games when you are constantly handing the ball over to the opposing team.
Fitzpatrick is no longer on the roster so Winston will need to limit the turnovers in 2019 if he hopes to lead Tampa Bay to the playoffs.
2. The Defense Has to Play Better, Especially the Secondary
Since 2016, the Buccaneers have ranked in the bottom half of the league in defense. Furthermore, just two seasons ago they were ranked dead last in the NFL in terms of defense.
Despite the whole defense struggling the past few years, the defense’s Achilles heel has been their pass defense. The secondary has been absolutely dreadful—to put things nicely—since 2016.
In the last three seasons, Tampa Bay has found themselves being ranked as the 22nd or worse pass defense in the NFL. Proving to be incapable of stopping an opposing team’s aerial attack can be kryptonite in today’s league.
Most teams are throwing it 35 or more times a game and if your secondary struggles, the whole defense struggles. The good news is is that Todd Bowles was brought in by Arians to help fix the defense.
As some may remember, Bowles was able to turn the Cardinals defense to the sixth-best defense in the NFL under Arians in 2013.
Although, this time around, he won’t have guys like Patrick Peterson or Tyrann Mathieu to help him.
1. Jameis Winston Has to be Great
In the NFC South, the quarterback play is top-notch compared to some of the other divisions. Drew Brees, Cam Newton, and Matt Ryan are the three other quarterbacks besides Winston.
Winston is heading into his fifth season in the NFL and this will need to be his best one to date. The Buccaneers decided to pick up his fifth-year option for the 2019 season—netting him $20.9 million.
Arians and company are handing the keys to the offense to Winston once again but he will need to have a great outing in 2019. If he disappoints again, Winston could very well be on his way out of Tampa Bay in 2020.
At the end of last season, Winston seemed to find a little bit of a groove under center. In his last six starts, Winston totaled 1,811 yards, 13 touchdowns, and four interceptions.
The fifth-year quarterback will need to carry that momentum into the 2019 season in hopes to reach the postseason for the first time.
A playoff run by Winston could land him a nice payday after the season concludes.