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PR Roundtable: Which Bucs Assistant Has The Toughest Job In 2024?

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By: Scott Reynolds

A new Pewter Report Roundtable debuts every Tuesday during the Buccaneers offseason and regular season. Each week, the Pewter Reporters tackle another tough question. This week’s prompt: Which Bucs assistant coach has the toughest job in 2024?

Scott Reynolds: Kevin Ross Must Help Bucs CBs Get More INTs

Bucs CBs coach Kevin Ross – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The Bucs expected starting cornerback tandem of Jamel Dean and Zyon McCollum totaled exactly zero interceptions last year. As a whole, Tampa Bay’s defense produced just 13 picks in 2023 and the players that produced seven of those INTs – cornerback Carlton Davis III (two), linebacker Devin White (two), defensive back Dee Delaney (two) and outside linebacker Shaq Barrett (one) – are gone. The Bucs secondary only accounted for 10 interceptions last year, and that’s simply not good enough for Todd Bowles’ unit.

Despite having mostly a veteran group, cornerbacks coach Kevin Ross has some heavy lifting to do this year. For the first time in his five-year Bucs career, Dean didn’t record a single pick last season. McCollum notched 15 career INTs at Sam Houston State, but has yet to record his first in two years in Tampa Bay. Newcomer Bryce Hall, whom Ross considers to be “a legit starter,” has just two career interceptions in 26 starts with the Jets. So what does Dean, who has the most experience, need to do better in 2024 to lead the way?

“Catch the ball!” Ross said emphatically this offseason.. “If he catches the ball he’s All-Pro, he’s a Pro Bowler. All he has to do is catch the ball, and we’ve been emphasizing that in that room. And it really starts with me. I have to increase more ball drills with those guys. I’ve been requesting these guys catch 50 balls a day during [the offseason]. We’ve got to catch the ball. We could’ve led the league in takeaways had we caught the ball the way we needed to.”

Ross is right. The Bucs need at least six interceptions between the starting three cornerbacks. That’s what the Gravediggers secondary had in 2020 with Davis (four), Dean (one) and Sean Murphy-Bunting (one). Glad to see this is a point of emphasis. Now it’s up to Ross to get his cornerbacks to produce the picks.

Matt Matera: Thomas McGaughey Has New NFL Rules And New Players To Know

Bucs special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey

Bucs special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Not only is Thomas McGaughey coming to the Bucs for the first time having to quickly meet and learn about his new players, but he also has to coach them up with a new set of kickoff rules this year that even he is not terribly familiar with. The NFL is adjusting their kickoff rule to what the the XFL was using and it should be a big difference in the return game, making it more important.

Players on opposing teams will line up down the field at the return team’s 40-yard line, with the return team itself at the 30-yard, just 10 yards away from each other. There is a “landing zone” in which the kicker can kick the ball to and force a return, with the ball going in the end zone as a traditional touchback. Coverage units and blockers cannot start moving and making contact until the ball hits the ground or is caught by the returner.

So McGaughey first has to figure out who is going to be the returner for the Bucs in this important area of the game. Rookie running back Bucky Irving should be a good candidate, as there is more reading of the blocks with this new scheme, which sets up perfectly for a player with running back skills. Jalen McMillan or Trey Palmer might be used as well for their speed and athleticism. Deven Thompkins had the responsibility last year as the Bucs’ primary return specialist and will be in the conversation.

After that, McGaughey has to determine which personnel will be the best for blocking on returns and tackling on coverage units. How does he see this unit compared to how it was ran in previous seasons? There is a lot of self-scouting that McGaughey has to do. At least he knows he’s got a good thing with punter Jake Camarda and kicker Chase McLaughlin going.

Bailey Adams: Kevin Carberry Has A Lot On His To-Do List

Bucs OL coach Kevin Carberry

Bucs OL coach Kevin Carberry – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

New Bucs offensive line coach Kevin Carberry has the toughest job this season due in part to the fact that he may have the most items on his to-do list. One of those tasks on his list is perhaps one of the team’s two biggest question marks heading into 2024, and that’s figuring out the interior of the offensive line.

This year’s first-round pick, Graham Barton, and last year’s second-round pick, Cody Mauch, will figure into the picture one way or another. But Carberry and the rest of the Bucs coaches have to figure out that last spot.

Is it Sua Opeta or Ben Bredeson for an Opeta/Bredeson-Barton-Mauch interior? Or is sticking with Robert Hainsey at center and moving Barton to left guard the best way forward for this year? Could sixth-round pick Elijah Klein start at right guard and kick Mauch to the left side? Carberry will have a big say in all of this, and much of the offseason will be spent determining the best answer.

Finding the best starting offensive line possible with the group of guys in the room is at the top of the list for Carberry, but he’ll also be tasked with overseeing improvement from Mauch, who had his share of ups and downs as a rookie. Carberry will also need to make sure right tackle Luke Goedeke at least maintains his level of play and doesn’t regress. Helping the third-year pro cut down on penalties is another top priority.

There’s also the simple fact that Carberry has to develop two rookies in Barton and Klein, with Barton switching to a new position. And the former Rams offensive line coach has to do all of this while being new to this job in Tampa Bay. Carberry does have a Pro Bowler at left tackle to help put his mind at ease, and at least has experience from both college and the NFL to draw from. But this offseason will be crucial for the Bucs’ new O-line coach.

Josh Queipo: Thad Lewis Now Has To Elevate A Well-Paid Baker Mayfield

Bucs QBs coach Thad Lewis

Bucs QBs coach Thad Lewis – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Baker Mayfield accomplished the goal he set out to achieve last year. Working on a journeyman quarterback contract he played well-enough to earn some long-term security and $40 million guaranteed. The expectations that come with that kind of financial investment will be far greater than those placed on a high-upside player that the Bucs took a flyer on.

Mayfield ranked Top 10 in passing yards and touchdowns last year while generally grading out as a Top 15 quarterback overall. That was in a season that saw several starters miss large swaths of the season due to injury. Aaron Rodgers, Joe Burrow, Daniel Jones, Kirk Cousins, Justin Herbert and Anthony Richardson all missed significant time.

Lewis will need to help Mayfield in three key areas to help build upon that strong 2023 and help elevate Mayfield into a true top-10 quarterback even when all of those other passers return to form this year. These areas will include working with Mayfield to regain the deep-ball success that highlighted Mayfield’s early-career. The Bucs quarterback was dead last in adjusted completion percentage among qualified starters last year.

Lewis has also spoken about how he is already focusing on getting Mayfield to stop taking unnecessary hits. “We try to tell him, ‘Hey, if it’s going to cost us, or cost yourself, you need to let it go,” Lewis said at a recent press conference.

Mayfield was visibly hobbled late in the season due to various injuries he suffered from taking extra contact. If Lewis can help Mayfield be smarter about when to not take hits it could boost the offense by shear virtue of a healthier quarterback. With a large contract assigned to a player at the most important position on the field, Lewis will be under a microscope to see if he can get even more out of Mayfield in his second year with the Bucs.

Adam Slivon: Bryan McClendon Is In Charge Of Developing Young WR Room

Bucs WR Coach Bryan McClendon - Photo by: USA Today

Bucs WR Coach Bryan McClendon – Photo by: USA Today

After coaching in the college ranks since 2007, Bryan McClendon has made the big leap to the NFL after being hired by the Bucs this offseason. Much like he has done at various college programs over the years, McClendon is now tasked with developing even more young wide receivers. While Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are long-established stars and one of the best duos in the league, he will be looking to bring along a third wideout in offensive coordinator Liam Coen’s offense to take some pressure off each of them.

There is even more added pressure in doing so as Godwin enters a contract year, and with him being moved back into the slot, it creates a hole at the other outside receiver position that will need to be filled by someone who can make a big impact. Third-round pick Jalen McMillan and second-year receiver Trey Palmer are the next two guys up, and it will be important that McClendon brings the most out of them to help solidify the future of the receiver corps.

It is important that someone in the room steps up and that each of them can contribute in various ways, and that extends to guys like Rakim Jarrett and Deven Thompkins. If each of the young receivers can continue their growth track under McClendon, it will only elevate the offense to greater heights than last year. He has the tough job of growing a young position filled with promising players who need to become more well-rounded and take leaps so that quarterback Baker Mayfield can replicate the success he experienced last season. While the Mike and Chris Show has long done good numbers, a third co-star will only boost the offensive ratings.

The post PR Roundtable: Which Bucs Assistant Has The Toughest Job In 2024? appeared first on Pewter Report.

Originally posted on Pewter Report