As training camp nears a full week since it has started and the regular season inches that much closer, the BucsBlitz.com staff has debated and chosen who each writer feels will be the most important Buccaneer on offense and defense.
Kyle Marks (@Kyle_On_Scout)
OFFENSE: This season for me is rookie tackle Donovan Smith. While it’s Jameis Winston that will be touching the ball each snap, it’s Smith’s protection that will make the biggest difference in whether or not this team can move the ball and sustain drives on offense. Whether Smith is playing on the left or right side is irrelevant at this point seeing as either way, he’s facing an outside pass rusher and must hold up and help anchor a porous offensive line that was shredded in 2014. On top of protecting Famous Jameis, Smith is going to have to help create holes for Doug Martin, Charles Sims and company and like the pass game, the run attack will struggle if the protection up front isn’t there. Setting high expectations on a rookie is a recipe for disaster more often than not. The fact that Smith will be starting in all likelihood adds to how important it is for him to have success.
DEFENSE: It’s simple: Henry Melton. Last season, fans were left waiting for a late game splash play from the defensive line -- something that simply didn’t happen. When it’s the fourth quarter of the game and Gerald McCoy is gassed out, Melton will be called upon to rise up and make those plays. The catch to that? He can and will succeed. Melton is going to provide something that this team has lacked in recent years, depth and the ability to finish a play. Sure, Melton will play a reserve amount of snaps but the reality is that those snaps will not be going to waste this year.
Gil Arcia (@GilArciaTBC)
OFFENSE: I have to go with running back Charles Sims. I understand the offensive line is extremely important in protecting rookie quarterback Jameis Winston and crucial in getting the running game going, but Sims can -- like Winston -- can make the line look better. Last season, Sims did what he could with what he had to work with. His running abilities are the best in the group and if you haven’t seen my breakdown on him, I encourage you to do so. The staff likes his potential in the open field and the breakdown I just mentioned shows why that is the case. If he gets going early and often, teams will have to account for him more which will help Winston breathe a little.
DEFENSE: The quarterback of the defense, middle linebacker Bruce Carter. The veteran linebacker is coming into a defense he is already familiar with and the type of linebacker this Buccaneers defense needs. While I felt Mason Foster should have stuck around, the acquisition of Carter will prove to be key. His knowledge of knowing where players on the defense are supposed to be and controlling the middle will be pivotal in the Bucs success on defense this season. If the defense turns things around this year it won’t be because of the Gerald McCoys or the Lavonte Davids, it’ll be because of Carter’s control.
Justin Pawlowski (@CommishOnline)
OFFENSE: I feel bad for picking the obvious here, but the Bucs offense will only go as far as Jameis Winston takes them. Sure, the Bucs need to run the ball and protect the quarterback, but ultimately, it takes the clutch passes by your quarterback to keep drives alive and put points on the scoreboard. Jameis Winston is the future of the Bucs, but if they have any chance in 2015, they need Jameis Winston to accelerate his growth process.
DEFENSE: The Bucs have not had a double-digit sack producer on defense since Simeon Rice. That trend must come to its conclusion. Last year, we saw the emergence of Jacquies Smith out of nowhere, Our own Gil Arcia wrote a spectacular piece on Smith's success last season. In 2014, Smith exploded for 6 sacks in the 2nd half of the season. If Smith can put together an entire season that is on par with his 2nd half from last season, Smith will be the one to break the trend. He'll also be the one that takes the Buccaneers defense into the top 10 ranking in 2015.