Tampa Bay Buccaneers

5 Pleasant Surprises from the 2016 Season

A few surprises we were glad to see during the 2016 season.

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  1. Role-playing rookies.**
    A year ago, the Buccaneers landed four starters with their first four picks in the NFL Draft: Jameis Winston, Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet and Kwon Alexander. This year's class was able to produce immediately as well. The team's No. 1 pick, Vernon Hargreaves, was a starter from Day 1 and played 97.6 percent of the Bucs' defensive snaps, according to Football Outsiders. Lavonte David was the only other Tampa Bay defender to play a higher percentage of snaps. The Bucs got 5.5 sacks and three starts out of their second-round pick, along with securing their starting kicker in the same round. The Bucs got five starts out of defensive lineman Davonte Lambert and got 55 carries out of running back Peyton Barber, along with a touchdown reception from tight end Alan Cross. Lambert, Barber and Cross were all undrafted.

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  1. The Bucs' punt team.**
    Bryan Anger was one of the NFL's most productive punters in his first year with the Buccaneers, downing 37 punts inside opponents' 20-yard line, the third-most in the league. He was selected as an alternate to the Pro Bowl and was the NFC's Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance in Week 17. As the season came to a close, the Bucs inked Anger to a five-year extension. Complementing Anger was the standout play of his punt coverage team, primarily Josh Robinson and rookie Ryan Smith.

3. Undrafted pass-catchers.
The Buccaneers were without Vincent Jackson for more than half the season, and fellow receiver Adam Humphries, along with tight end Cameron Brate, stepped in to fill the void. Both players were undrafted, with Humphries earning a spot on Tampa Bay's roster as a tryout player. Brate finished tied for the league-lead in touchdowns for a tight end with eight, while Humphries caught 55 passes for 622 yards, the third-most of any Buccaneer behind Brate and Mike Evans. Russell Shepard, the Bucs' fourth-leading receiver, also entered the NFL as an undrafted player. Of the 17 touchdown passes caught by players not named Evans, 14 of those were caught by undrafted players.

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  1. Jacquizz Rodgers on the ground.**
    The Buccaneers found themselves without their starting running back, Doug Martin, along with their No. 2 back, Charles Sims, early in the season. With injuries piling up, the team signed Rodgers as a free agent and he was able to produce immediately, rattling off 100-yard games in Weeks 5 and 7. He finished the season with two scores and as the Buccaneers' leading rusher. Rodgers averaged 4.3 yards per carry in 2016.

5. A new leading tackler.
For the past four seasons, Lavonte David had led the Buccaneers in tackles, but Kwon Alexander took the title this year. Alexander had 145 tackles, 108 of which were solo, leading the league in solo tackles. Alexander added an interception returned for a touchdown, three sacks and a forced fumble to his resume in 2016 as well. For his efforts, he was selected as an alternate to the Pro Bowl. While David's numbers weren't as high as they had been in the past, he was also tabbed as an alternate to the Pro Bowl – giving the Bucs four defensive Pro Bowlers, along with Gerald McCoy and Brent Grimes. David picked up five sacks, four forced fumbles and an interception while finishing with 87 tackles.

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