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Rams-Buccaneers: Preview Q&A With Bucs Nation

Getting the inside info from Sander Philipse of Bucs Nation, the SB Nation community for Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston
Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Jon Gruden’s last season as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was 2008. With a 9-7 record, Gruden left Tampa having provided four winning seasons out of seven with a Super Bowl ring via Super Bowl XXXVII.

In the seven seasons since, Tampa plowed through three head coaches in Raheem Morris, Greg Schiano and Lovie Smith. Just one winning season, 2010’s 10-win output, followed. The 2007 season remains their last postseason action. A 36-76 record, good for a .321 winning clip.

Now with Head Coach Dirk Koetter steering the ship with second-year franchise QB Jameis Winston growing into his nascent stardom, I linked up with Sander Philipse of Bucs Nation, the SB Nation community for fans of Tampa Bay.

Last year, you guys took a quarterback #1 overall in the NFL Draft. This year, we did. That's about where the similarities end.

Has playing Jameis Winston from Day 1 been a good decision IYO? Obviously, the timing here is a bit, um, unfair let's say. Winston's coming off of a four-interception game that's going to impart some bias here I'd guess. But have you seen growth in his game since Week 1 in 2015? Is he on the track you guys need him to be?

I'd certainly say it was a good decision. Starting Winston from day one allowed him to learn quickly, and adjust to the speed of the NFL. He's coming off a bad game, sure, but all quarterbacks have those at times, and he's still young. There's been fairly consistent progression since he started, and he's looked significantly more accurate this season.

I also tend to think that players learn best by playing. There's only so much you can do in practices and preseason. The regular season is always faster, and will always present a learning curve to players.

How big is the Doug Martin injury both in general and for Sunday? What do you guys need to do to soften the blow until he gets back?

Doug Martin's definitely not playing on Sunday, or the next few weeks, so that's pretty big. In general, the Bucs want to build their offense around the running game, and they don't have a runner who can consistently grind out yards the way Martin does. They do have an explosive, change of pace back in Charles Sims, but he's not a consistent runner. Having signed Jacquizz Rodgers helps a little, but won't be a panacea either. Especially because the Bucs' run blocking can be a bit iffy, and Martin does an outstanding job of squeezing through holes in the blocking and defense, something they'll miss on Sunday.

You guys stocked up on defensive talent in the draft. The results from two weeks have been suboptimal. What's going on with the defense? I know it's just Mike Smith's first year as DC, but are you concerned about that side of the ball?

I think any time you give up 64 points in two games and don't take the ball away once, you're going to be concerned. Those are a lot of points -- though they're also the result of six turnovers by the offense, which doesn't exactly help matters. I'm not too concerned with the defense in the long run, but there are certainly deficiencies, especially at safety and along the defensive line. The latter looked good in preseason and in game one, but Robert Ayers' injury definitely hurts both the pass rush and the run defense.

What's one thing you've learned about the 2016 Buccaneers that you didn't expect? What's something you were anticipating that hasn't come to fruition?

I learned that Vernon Hargreaves is already an impressive cornerback, which is something I didn't expect. Rookie cornerbacks tend to struggle, and Hargreaves has some size limitations that make life in the NFL more difficult for him. But by and large, he's held up very well in coverage and hasn't been targeted much, either.

As for something that I expected but didn't happen, I'd say the pass rush has been a little disappointing, in general. I didn't necessarily expect an explosive pass rush, but certainly more than we've seen so far. But Jacquies Smith tore an ACL, Robert Ayers now has an injury as well, and Noah Spence isn't ready to be an impact player yet. Such is life.

Big picture. You guys have struggled to settle in since Jon Gruden left. One winning season from the Raheem Morris, Greg Schiano and Lovie Smith eras. It's Year 1 for HC Dirk Koetter, Year 2 for Winston. Are you comfortable with the trajectory of the team? What has to happen this year to make/keep you confident in the Bucs' current path? Is it exceeding the 6 wins from 2015? Is it seeing Winston develop into whatever you want to call it: top tier, elite, franchise QB, etc.?

I tend not to look at win totals -- so much can go right or wrong in a season that they don't necessarily say much about the team's trajectory. I'd say I just want to see consistent progression across the board, but particularly out of Jameis Winston. Quarterbacks are, after all, the most important part of any NFL team. I can understand a lackluster defense because the personnel is somewhat limited, yet again, but if Mike Smith can't at least start taking the ball away, I'd be very concerned about the future on that side of the ball.

Met dank aan mijn vriend Sander voor de tijd.