Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2010 Team Needs

As part of our 2010 NFL Draft coverage, I will be breaking down positional needs for all 32 teams, starting in reverse alphabetical order. Next up is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Check out other team needs by clicking here.

1. Defensive Line
The Bucs have needs at every position outside of quarterback, but they’re in good shape with 10 selections in this year’s draft. Their top priority will likely be their defensive line, which has become a weakness under the new regime of Raheem Morris and Mark Dominik. If either Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh or Oklahoma’s Gerald McCoy fall to them at No. 3, it’s hard envisioning a scenario where Tampa would pass on upgrading the interior of their defensive line. If both tackles are gone at that spot, then they may address their need at safety with Tennessee’s Eric Berry or hope to trade down and snag one of the defensive ends (Jason Pierre-Paul, Brandon Graham, Corey Wootten or George Selvie) that would be available later in the first round. But no matter how things shake out for them at No. 3, the Bus will attempt to upgrade their defensive line on draft day.

Outside Linebacker
Upgrading the strongside linebacker position is one of the Bucs’ top priorities this offseason and now that Geno Hayes (who had a breakout season last year) will be sidelined for 3-4 months after undergoing surgery in late January to repair a torn labrum, weakside may need to be addressed as well. Tampa signed Angelo Crowell to a one-year contract last offseason, but the deal blew up in Dominik’s (who overpaid) face after the oft-injured linebacker missed the entire 2009 season when he tore one of his biceps in August. It’s doubtful the Bucs bring him back seeing as how he can’t stay on the field and was plummeting past Quincy Black and Adam Hayward on the depth chart before being placed on IR. Black is adequate, but the Bucs need more playmakers on the defensive side of the ball and could use one of their early round selections to beef up the strongside position.

3. Safety
Tanard Jackson is entrenched as the starter at free safety, but the strong safety position definitely needs to be addressed this offseason. Sabby Piscitelli proved that he’s a liability in coverage and quite frankly, he wasn’t that great against the run either (which was supposed to be his forte). Bringing back 31-year-old, injury-prone Jermaine Phillips isn’t the answer, so taking a player like Berry at No. 3 makes sense. The question is, will Tampa take Suh or McCoy if either of them fell at that spot? Good safeties are hard to find in the draft, but Suh and McCoy are two prospects that have the potential to anchor a line for years to come. Either way, the safety position opposite Jackson must be addressed.

Cornerback, receiver, running back, guard and offensive tackle are needs for the Bucs this offseason as well.

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Bills linebackers healthy, show plenty of promise in ’08

In the weeks leading up to the kickoff the 2008 NFL Season, I’ll take a look at position groups that could potentially lift teams to new heights, or bury them and their postseason hopes. Today I break down the Buffalo Bills and their promising linebacker corps.

When the Buffalo Bills drafted Paul Posluszny in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft, they had hoped they found their middle linebacker of the future. After averaging over 8.5 tackles in his first three games as a rookie, Posluszny was making the Bills’ hopes turn into reality.

But in late September, Posluszny went down with a broken forearm and missed the rest of the 2007 season. Fellow ‘backer Angelo Crowell suffered a similar fate last year, tearing a triceps muscle in the final game of the season.

With both Posluszny and Crowell on the mend, as well as adding productive free agent Kawika Mitchell formerly of the defending Super Bowl champion Giants, the Bills’ linebacker corps appears to be the strength of their defense heading into 2008.

Even though he only played in three games as a rookie, many believe that Posluszny is on the cusp of a breakout season. He’s not the most athletic linebacker in the league, but he’s physical at the point of attack and plays with a mean streak.

The same can be said for Crowell, who is perhaps the most underrated linebacker in the AFC. Even though his main responsibilities are to stop the run, Crowell has also shown a knack for getting pressure on the quarterback and has shown above-average skills in pass coverage. In 2007, Crowell led Buffalo in tackles with 126 total stops.

Even though Mitchell might be a more natural fit at strong-side linebacker given his size (6’1”, 253 pounds), he should fit Buffalo’s defensive scheme well. Mitchell is fast, athletic and can be a sideline-to-sideline player.

While there is plenty to like about the Bills’ linebacker corps heading into 2008, obviously both Posluszny and Crowell have to stay healthy. Given that neither suffered an injury that would take a long recovery time (i.e. a knee injury), both should bounce back in ’08. While the Bills’ young offense will be a focal point in whether or not this team can make the playoffs this year, the defense is slowly starting to come together. And at the core of the unit is a talented trio at linebacker.

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