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2018 Giants opponents: Can the Tampa Bay Buccaneers get out of their own way?

Bucs seem to be their own worst enemy

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Training Camp Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Training camp is used for players to get ready for the upcoming season. We’re not going to leave you out of that — you’re getting prepared, too. As training camp rolls along, we’re going to preview the opponents on the 2018 New York Giants schedule. We’ll look at how 2017 played out and what 2018 might look like to get everyone ready for the season to come.

A Week 4 meeting with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was a turning point for the 2017 New York Giants. That game in Tampa gave the first real look at a lack of effort and big blown plays that would take over the rest of the regular season. The Buccaneers are a perennial breakout pick who continually have their own issues, some that will carry on into 2018.

When will they play?

Week 11 at home

2017 in review

Record: 5-11, fourth NFC South

Expected W-L (Pythagorean Expectation): 6.8-9.2

DVOA rankings: 23rd overall, 11th offense, 32nd defense, 29th special teams

2017 was a mixed bag for the Buccaneers, as has been the case in Tampa Bay for the past few seasons. In 2016, the defense was above average but the offense was lackluster. Last season, the opposite was true. The offense, which had tons of money invested in it, was borderline top-10, but the defense was the worst in the league. Because the Buccaneers seemingly only know how to go all-in, the team was aggressive in adding to the defensive side of the ball. But Tampa Bay will be in a hole early thanks to a three-game suspension for Jameis Winston and one of the league’s toughest schedules.

Offseason overview

Draft picks

1 (12) Vita Vea, DL, Washington

2 (38) Ronald Jones, RB, USC

2 (63) Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn

3 (94) Alex Cappa, OT, Humboldt State

4 (117) Jordan Whitehead, S, Pittsburgh

5 (144) Justin Watson, WR, Pennsylvania

6 (202) Jack Cichy, LB, Wisconsin

Key losses

Chris Baker, Robert Ayers, Doug Martin

Key additions

Jason Pierre-Paul, Vinny Curry, Beau Allen, Ryan Jensen

No defense was worse at getting pressure on the quarterback last season than the Buccaneers, per Sports Info Solutions. They were also bad at bringing the opposing quarterback down — last in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Sack Rate. Because of that, just about every major move Tampa Bay made was to sure up the defensive line and the pass rush.

The biggest move involved the Giants and a trade that sent Jason Pierre-Paul back to Tampa, where he went to school. Pierre-Paul frustrated some Giants fans with a lack of sack totals, but last season he finished 13th among all defenders in pass pressures (40). He easily becomes the most dangerous edge rusher for the Buccaneers in quite some time. Despite 2018 being Pierre-Paul’s ninth year in the NFL, he won’t turn 30 years old until January 1.

He’ll be joined on the edge by Vinny Curry, formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles. Curry was a big part of an effective Eagles rotation on the defensive line — he finished third on the team with 27.5 pressures — but with the addition of Michael Bennett, the return of Chris Long, the development of 2017 first-round pick Derek Barnett, and Brandon Graham entering a contract year, Curry found himself as the odd man out. Even though Curry started all 16 games for the Eagles last season, he played on 56 percent of the defensive snaps — a number he’ll probably eclipse in Tampa.

Curry isn’t the only defensive lineman from the Eagles who will be a Buccaneer in 2018. Beau Allen likely won’t have as big of an impact as Curry, but he’ll be a solid interior piece to rotate in with Geno Atkins and first-round pick Vita Vea, who suffered a leg injury in training camp. Allen was one of the league’s most effective run defenders — his 84 percent stop percentage was 18th among interior defenders per Football Outsiders — and he added nine pass pressures.

The Bucs weren’t limited to just making major moves on the defense. Looking to solidify the offensive line, Tampa Bay made Ryan Jensen the highest-paid center in the league, even though Jensen has only spent one year at the position. Jensen performed well in his transition with the Baltimore Ravens, but the Buccaneers handed out $22 million in guarantees to a still relatively unknown at the position.

Numbers to know

7.9: Jameis Winston averaged 7.9 yards per attempt last season, which tied with Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, and Matthew Stafford for fourth-best in the league. However, Winston dropped to 11th in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt (6.7), which factors in touchdowns, interceptions, and sacks.

24: A season after leading the league in tackles, Kwon Alexander was charted with 24 broken tackles in 2017 per Football Outsiders. That was the second most overall behind Cleveland’s Joe Schobert (26) and his 30.0 percent broken tackle rate was second-worst among those with at least 50 solo tackles behind Buffalo’s Lorenzo Alexander (33.9 percent).

11: Should Ryan Fitzpatrick be the starting quarterback in Week 1, it will be the 11th straight season he has started a game.

7.4: The Buccaneers were the worst defense in the league at defending passes without play-action (7.4 yards per play).

Opponent Q&A

Gil Arcia of Bucs Nation answered a few questions about the 2018 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Q: What’s the feeling around Jameis Winston and if this offense can meet expectations with him under center?

A: A lot of people seem to think Ryan Fitzpatrick can’t manage the offense. The team went 2-1 last year with him under center. The offense will be fine. The coaching staff made some changes this offseason to incorporate different looks and plays into the game plan to put the offense in position to improve. If the offense falters, it’s because the coaches let them down.

Q: With the additions of Jason Pierre-Paul and Vinny Curry, did the Bucs do enough to fix a pass rush that was last in defensive pressure rate per Sports Info Solutions last season?

A: You’d like to think they did. On paper, general manager Jason Licht hit it out of the ballpark. The acquisitions make the defensive line night and day better than they have had in recent memory. It should certainly free up defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and allow more lanes for the linebackers to blitz through.

Q: What is the most underrated aspect of this team heading into 2018?

A: The offensive line. I feel that that unit has not been given as much credit as it deserves. The acquisition of center Ryan Jensen and moving Ali Marpet back to guard essentially improves two position with one move.

Q: If you had to pick a regular season record, what would it be?

Despite the Winston suspension, I have to stick to what I’ve said because it’s only right; 11-5.

Previous opponent previews:

Cowboys, Eagles, Redskins, Jaguars, Texans, Saints, Panthers, Falcons, 49ers