This week the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense took a hit with an injury to Jason Pierre- Paul. Pierre- Paul was involved in devastating car wreck that fractured his neck. At first it was seen that JPP’s season was over, but it looks like he’s goign to forego surgery. How much time he will miss with this option isn’t known, but it’s safe to assume he’ll miss some time. Whatever time he’ll miss, the San Francisco 49ers first game of the season is at none other than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which removes JPP from the equation.
Pierre-Paul led the Buccaneers with 12.5 sacks in 2018. The first Buccaneer to get double digit sacks since 2005. That hurts. It also hurts that even with 12.5 sacks, the Buccaneers still had the second-worst defense in 2018. With Todd Bowles as their new defensive coordinator, those numbers are sure to improve, but it will take some time since the Buccaneers are switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4. As seen with the 49ers, those switches will take longer than a season.
Pierre- Paul is just another adjustment Tampa Bay will need to make. They fired head coach Dirk Koetter in the 2018 offseason and hired Bruce Arians who was thought to have retired after his stint with the Arizona Cardinals. Could Arians’ offense work for Jameis Winston? Only time will tell, but even if Arians can work his quarterback magic yet again, Winston has massive work to do. His 64.6 completion percentage isn’t bad, but 19 touchdowns to 14 interceptions is where things are concerning. Even with those numbers, the Buccaneers offense was not near as bad as the defense, ranked 12th overall. That’s not going to set anything on fire, but it’s decent. Keep in mind, this was done with an atrocious running game (29th — 1523 yards). The offensive stats also could be inflated since Ryan Fitzpatrick channeled that Fitzmagic to start the season and inflated Buccaneers offensive stats for a time. Well, before he realized he was Ryan Fitzpatrick and returned to reality.
The Buccaneers have a good coaching staff under them, but besides a few pieces at key positions, their roster will need some help.
Round 1: Devin White (ILB)
Round 2: Sean Bunting (CB)
Round 3: Jamel Dean (CB)
Round 3: Mike Edwards (S)
Round 4: Anthony Nelson (DE)
Round 5: Matt Gay (K)
Round 6:Scott Miller (WR)
Round 7:Terry Beckner Jr.(DT)
Notable free agent acquisitions
Bradley Pinion (P)
Shaquil Barrett (LB)
Deone Bucannon (LB)
Breshad Perriman (WR)
The Buccaneers lost Kwon Alexander to the 49ers in free agency, which may have had something to do with the Devin White pick in the draft. In return, they took punter Bradley Pinion from the Niners, which set in motion the Mitch Wishnowsky pick. Advantage: 49ers.
The White pick was really the only pick that made sense. Both Bunting and Dean seemed like reaches, especially when there were better players at the position available when Bunting went and Dean’s injury history was a bit concerning.
And then the Bucs took a kicker, because the last time they drafted a kicker, that worked oh, so well. Well, at least they waited until the fifth round rather than the second this time.
Beyond Pinion in free agency, the Browns also picked up Breshad Perriman in free agency. Perriman went to the Bucs after backing out of an agreement with the Cleveland Browns when the latter landed Odell Beckham Jr. in a trade with the New York Giants. Pairing Perriman with Mike Evans gives a nice receiver duo for Winston to work with. Buchanan and Barrett also can fight for a linebacker spot. A very defensive free agency and draft to make up for the 3-4 switch, but between the two offensive additions, Perriman should pay dividends.
Way too early gambling line
The 49ers have to travel to Tampa Bay for this, but thankfully they aren’t slapped with a 10:00 AM start time. Looking at the Buccaneers now, the loss of JPP hurts the defense, a defense that is already entering a transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4.
This is similar to the rebuild the 49ers had about two years ago. The Buccaneers will be learning a new defensive scheme, and trying to get Jameis Winston right—and learn a new offensive scheme by extension.
49ers fans know that Bruce Arians is the quarterback whisperer, and if he can’t fix Winston, no one can.
I’ve said Week 3 is will be a huge test for the 49ers, but Week 1 will offer something for ample optimism or disappointment, especially on the pass rushing front, which the 49ers should have fixed by now. On paper, the 49ers are the better team. Of course last time we thought the 49ers could beat Tampa Bay, they got embarrassed with what may be the worst performance of Nick Mullens’ career. To be fair, the 49ers were banged up beyond belief by the time that game rolled around, but one has to wonder if history can repeat itself.
Given all the Buccaneers’ issues, new coaching hires, and the loss of Jason Pierre- Paul, the 49ers should win here. If they can’t, it’s a bad way to start the season.