ESPN’s Barnwell Predicts Improvement for Buccaneers in 2019

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The Bucs garnered national attention with their offseason moves this year, the biggest of which was hiring Head Coach Bruce Arians to help usher the team in a new direction. Now, in advance of the 2019 regular season, and with a promising start to training camp, the Bucs are again catching the interest of the national media.

This time, it’s ESPN’s Bill Barnwell who lists the Bucs as one of his top five teams most likely to improve in 2019. Tampa Bay is coming off back-to-back 5-11 seasons but Barnwell believes that this coming season won’t make a third.

The first reason he points to is the amount of one-score games the Buccaneers played in and Coach Arians’ track record in such situations. Where the average outcome of those one-score games is about 50/50, Arians wins those contests more than 68 percent of the time. Considering the Bucs went 3-7 in such contests last year, if that winning percentage were applied to the same situation, those numbers would nearly flip.

“Tampa's 2018 season, at least by point differential, wasn't all that much different from its 2017 season,” Barnwell writes in the article. “The 2017 Bucs went 5-11 while getting outscored by 47 points, which usually projects to about 6.8 wins. They narrowly missed making it onto my list of most likely teams to improve a year ago, in part because of the uncertainty surrounding Jameis Winston when I was putting together the column. The 2018 Bucs went 5-11 while getting outscored by 68 points, which is a 6.5-win pace. In 2017, they went 3-7 in one-score games, which is unlikely to recur, but not impossible: The 2018 Bucs went 3-6 in those same games.

Enter Bruce Arians. Tampa's new coach spent 12 games as the interim coach in Indianapolis while Chuck Pagano was being treated for leukemia before leading the Cardinals from 2013-2017. Over that five-year span, Arians was an impressive 58-33-1. What's even more notable for the purposes of this column is that the grizzled veteran coach went 28-12-1 in games decided by seven points or fewer, winning more than 68% of the time in a situation in which we would typically expect coaches to go 50-50.”

View some of the top photos from Buccaneers Training Camp practice at the AdventHealth Training Center.

Barnwell also proceeded to call out potential improvements to the kicking game and defense as further reasons for optimism heading into this season. Though the Buccaneers had most passing yards of any team in 2018, Barnwell also called out areas the offense, and quarterback Jameis Winston, could further improve under Arians, too.

“To go this far without mentioning the offense is strange given that the Bucs clearly hired Arians to get the most out of Winston (or his possible replacement), but the offense hasn't been the problem in Tampa,” Barnwell says in the article. “Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick turned the ball over too frequently in 2018, which helped drive Tampa to the league's second-worst turnover margin, but the Bucs ranked 12th in offensive DVOA after an 11th-place mark in 2017. Arians' success with a written-off Carson Palmer in Arizona suggests he can make hay with Winston if the embattled former first overall pick can stay on the field, but Tampa's chances of improving in 2019 have less to do with the offense and more to do with what happens when their offense is on the sidelines.”

You can read the full article here.

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