Any time a defense gives up 56 and 48 points in games during a season, that defense typically has some major issues. For the Bucs defense, I think they continued to improve over the course of the season in 2014.
The Bucs might have spent a majority of their draft picks on the offensive side of the ball during the last two drafts, but there is plenty of youth on defense as well. Actually, only one Bucs defender on the entire roster, Mike Jenkins, is 30 years old. 2015 could be a season where many of these young Buc defenders take big steps in reaching their potential.
Here is my early projection of the Bucs' defensive starters:
Right Defensive End: George Johnson
The Bucs traded a 5th round pick to ensure they could have Johnson on their roster. Johnson got the first 6 sacks of his career in 2014, but the Bucs will hope he can improve on that number in 2015.
Defensive Tackle: Gerald McCoy
McCoy is a disrupter in the middle of the defensive line. 2015 needs to be the year where McCoy becomes a 2nd half player and help to finally close out some wins for the Bucs.
Nose Tackle: Clinton McDonald
McDonald made quite the positive impact in 2014. He has plenty of experience and is ideal as a nose tackle in the Bucs defense.
Left Defensive End: Jacquies Smith
Smith exploded onto the scene in 2014. Smith played sparingly in the first half of the 2014 season before getting more playing time and totaling 6.5 sacks in the final 9 games of 2014. He played left end opposite of Michael Johnson, so I expect him to remain there in 2015.
Weakside Linebacker: Lavonte David
I believe 2015 is when Lavonte David finally gets national recognition as one of the best linebackers in the NFL. I also think 2015 is when David takes over as the true leader on his defense.
Middle Linebacker: Bruce Carter
Durability is the biggest concern with Carter, but if he can stay healthy, provides real athleticism and speed for the Bucs pass defense.
Strongside Linebacker: Kwon Alexander
I really like Danny Lansanah, but Kwon Alexander is more athletic, faster, and very aggressive as a linebacker. I think Lansanah's versatility and special teams play still makes him a valuable commodity for the Bucs.
Cornerback: Alterraun Verner
I anticipate Verner being much better in year two in the Tampa 2 defense. I still love his instincts and ability to play the ball in the air.
Cornerback: Johnthan Banks
I think Banks has continued to show improvement since being drafted by the Bucs. He has excellent size, but also possesses enough speed to run with receivers. I think 2015 could be a big year for Banks becoming a special corner for the Bucs.
Nickel Cornerback: Sterling Moore
Moore comes over from the Cowboys as a smaller and quicker corner that can play the slot.
Safety: Bradley McDougald
McDougald is another guy on the cusp of becoming special. The natural talent is there for McDougald to become a turnover machine in the Bucs secondary.
Safety: Chris Conte
Conte gets the nod right now because of his familiarity with Lovie Smith and the scheme. The pickup of DJ Swearinger is intriguing, but experience within the Tampa 2 should give Conte the edge.Subscribe to The Commish Online Podcast on iTunes!
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