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Sunday, Sep 24, 2017
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Bucs' dismal season leaves questions unanswered

TAMPA - At some point during every interview, candidates for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' vacant head coach's job turn the tables on the Glazer brothers and general manager Mark Dominik and start asking questions. They inquire about the team's commitment to winning, stance on free agency and key players. Tampa Bay learned plenty about its young team this past season, but a 4-12 mark also left several questions unanswered. Here are a few: We don't know if RB LeGarrette Blount has the goods to be an every-down back. He can be a force on first and second downs, but never got the chance to prove himself as a third-down receiver or pass protector.
We don't know if DT Gerald McCoy can be the trigger pin of the defensive line. He was its most impactful player when he was healthy, but he finished a second straight season on injured reserve. We don't know how good WR Mike Williams can be. He was a dynamic playmaker as a rookie in 2010, but lacked competitiveness and often seemed lost, especially in the red zone, during 2011. We don't know how good TE Luke Stocker is. He struggled to stay healthy, as well, but even when he did play, was largely ignored as a pass catcher. We don't know if the depth along the offensive line is good enough to overcome key injuries. The backups here seldom got a chance to play and didn't impress anyone when they did. We don't know if S Cody Grimm can stand up to the pounding in the NFL. Grimm tore an ACL in September and finished both of his pro seasons on injured reserve. The Bucs know Grimm is one of their smartest and most instinctive players. Whether he can consistently play at a high level remains uncertain. We don't know if Josh Freeman is a franchise quarterback. He sure looked like one during the 2010 season, but his decision making became a liability in 2011. We don't know if WR Arrelious Benn can be a major contributor. Benn spent the early weeks of 2011 recovering from off-season knee surgery, but didn't stand out as a playmaker. We don't know what the future holds for CB Aqib Talib. He'll stand trial in March for his involvement in a shooting incident in Texas in March, and faces a possible jail sentence or league suspension. We don't know if RB Kregg Lumpkin can be an effective third-down back. The needle is pointing to no, but he only had 72 touches this season, which is not enough to make a sound judgment. We don't know why the Bucs seem to love OLB Quincy Black. Few players look better in a uniform, but Black was missing in action on most Sundays this season. Maybe leaving him at WLB or SLB will tell us more. We don't know if WR Ed Gant can be the deep threat the Bucs need to open up their short and intermediate passing game. Gant never got a chance to show his stuff, which is a shame. We don't know if S Tanard Jackson can regain the form he showed before missing a year to a league-mandated suspension. Jackson looked great early, but faded fast and never regained his stride. We don't know just how good DT Brian Price can be. Price says he played at about 60-percent efficiency after off-season pelvic surgery. It'd be nice to see what he can do at 80 or 90 percent. We don't know how the dismissal of former coach Raheem Morris will impact veteran CB Ronde Barber. At 36, he can still play and the Bucs need him, but Barber may have had enough.

rcummings@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7979

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