Cadillac Williams rushed for 823 yards, most since his ’05 rookie season.
They say things happen for a reason and there could be some validity to that way of thinking. Take LeBron James, for example, and his decision to go to Miami.
His arrival gives Florida sports fans reason to believe a professional championship could be on the way sooner than later. The Rays offer similar hope while the Marlins and the NHL Lightning are considered long shots for a title in the near future.
Then you have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team that is undergoing a youth movement and could be years away from contending.
Young is the operative word in Tampa. Head coach Raheem Morris is 33. General Manager Mark Dominik is 38. The Bucs' starting quarterback, Josh Freeman, is 22. They’ve drafted young and even the free agents they’ve signed are young.
The Buccaneers were 3-13 straight up and 6-10 NFL football against the spread. They lost their first seven games of the season and never recovered. Tampa Bay went 1-5 in the NFC South, beating the Saints for their lone division victory, and 1-3 against the AFC. The Buccaneers were 10-6 to the ‘under,’ with their last seven games playing to the low side.
Bucs on Offense
Freeman, the former Kansas State star, had a rough first year on the job throwing nearly twice as many interceptions (18) as he did touchdowns (10). His yardage total of 1,855 was the lowest in the league for QB’s with at least nine starts.
He does pose a threat as a runner though and had 161 yards on the ground, an average of 5.4 yards per carry.
The other quarterbacks on the roster are equally green. Josh Johnson started four games as a rookie and the Bucs also have Jevan Snead and Rudy Carpenter on the roster.
Tampa Bay spent two of their draft picks on receivers, taking Illinois' Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams of Syracuse. Williams has big talent but has missed all of one NFL football season and part of another because of off-field issues. Both players are expected to start with Sammie Stroughter, who is in only his second year, coming off the bench. Stroughter, the former Oregon State star, had 31 catches and two touchdowns in 2009.
The Cadillac is ready to roll
Running back Carnell “Cadillac” Williams has battled knee injuries throughout his career but he’s coming off the first 16-game season of his career. He contributed 1,040 total yards and seven touchdowns for an NFL football offense that ranked near the bottom in every major statistical category and averaged just 15 points per game.
Derrick Ward and Clifton Smith will also see playing time.
Bucs on Defense
The Buccaneers were the worst team in the league against the run in 2009, surrendering 158 yards per game. To address that weakness they drafted wisely and brought in Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy with the third overall selection.
Tampa Bay also selected UCLA DT Bryan Price in the second round and he’ll join McCoy as starters on the youngest NFL football defensive line in the NFL. The Bucs picked up a real sleeper in Florida State linebacker Dekoda Watson who fell all the way to the seventh round.
Bucs at the Betting Window
Odds aren’t good for a Bucs Super Bowl sighting. The closest the Buccaneers will get to the NFL title game will be watching on television like the rest of us.
Tampa Bay and St. Louis have the longest NFL odds on the board (100/1) to win SB XLV. The Bucs are listed at 60/1 to capture the NFC title and plus 1500 to unseat the Saints as NFC South champs.
Tampa Bay will benefit this season from low expectations. They were 3-13 in 2009 and most people would consider a five- or six-win season to be a success.