Not to put too much stock in the cumulative rankings from Pro Football Focus but, through three games in the 2014 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers don't have a single player in the happy plus-1.0-or-higher green color. And of the 20 players on their list, only five of them are not in red.
It hasn't been a good start for Lovie Smith's new team.
Still, like every team in the NFL, at least a few players are notable for their current talent or high-level potential. Rookie wide receiver Mike Evans made analysts drool with his combination of explosive film and an excellent workout at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. He was the seventh overall pick for a reason. The Steelers saw another first-round receiver last week in Carolina' Kelvin Benjamin. After his eight-catch, 115 yard performance, they probably don't want to see him again.
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Another very large receiver, Vincent Jackson, is playing with a broken wrist, which is putting in jeopardy his three-year streak of 1,000 yard seasons, including 1,224 yards on 78 catches last year and a ridiculous 17.3 yards per catch career average.
Doug Martin is a sleek, speedy back when healthy, but he's currently hurt too, like most of the Buccaneers team. Martin would be an excellent complement to Le'Backfield ("Le'Dougfield?"). He missed Weeks 2 and 3 after suffering a knee injury in Week 1. He's expected to play Sunday vs. Pittsburgh and could pose the most dangerous threat for this wounded Tampa Bay team.
There were plenty of calls in Steeler Nation for then-free agent Alterraun Verner in March, hoping the solid-to-outstanding cornerback would pay a visit to cornerback-depleted Pittsburgh. But it wasn't to be, as Verner, one of the top targets in the 2014 free-agency market, headed to Tampa.
Don't forget about ex-Steelers Crezdon Butler and Adrian Robinson, either. Wait, you can forget them. Butler barely plays and Robinson was just released from the team's practice squad, continuing his Bruce Davis-like run through the practice squads of half the league and destined for a stint in the CFL.
Let's get down to brass tacks. This actually might be the easiest decision we'll make in this series this year.
This Buccaneers team is potentially outstanding on defense. They are spearheaded by defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who is currently playing with a broken hand suffered in Week 2. McCoy is arguably one of the top-5 defensive players in the game and the returning first-team All Pro is still getting it done despite his injury.
McCoy is a well-balanced and dominant defensive disrupter who, even with a broken hand, wins the majority of 1-on-1s he faces, and he'll require a combo block on every play, whether pass or run. The middle of the field that was plowed so cleanly by perhaps the best performance from the Steelers offensive line in a decade in Week 3 will be far more congested on Sunday at Heinz Field. The only hope is if he doesn't play, which seems unlikely, but not as unlikely as him switching locker rooms before the game.
But that would be nice. Gimme McCoy, please.
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