Statistical curiosity of 2010
The Bucs used 43 different starters, not exactly something you would associate with a team that won 10 games.
Best game of 2010
38-15 win vs. Seattle (Week 16). The Bucs went 4-0 vs. the NFC West this year, but it was this December win that showed them at their best – 439 yards of offense to 174 for the Seahawks in a game with no turnovers. The Bucs completely dominated the same Seattle team that would knock off the Saints in the playoffs two weeks later.
Worst game of 2010
31-6 loss vs. New Orleans (Week 6)
This one did a lot to temper early enthusiasm. After a 3-1 start built on wins over Cleveland, Carolina and Cincy (the 3 Cs of crappiness), the Bucs got completely manhandled by Drew Brees (three TD passes) and the boys. New Orleans led 24-0 in the third quarter before the Bucs finally scored a TD.
Ball security. The Bucs did a lot of things well in 2010. Their Offensive Hogs came in second overall behind mighty 14-2 New England, their secondary was excellent and they went from 30th overall in our Quality Stats in 2009 to 13th in 2010.
But the main reason they won 10 games is that they just didn't let go of the ball – especially Josh Freeman. Freeman finished with a remarkable 25-to-6 TD-to-INT ratio, the kind of numbers that would have been unfathomable for a young quarterback even 10 years ago. The fact that Freeman didn't even make the Pro Bowl after a year like that shows how far the passing games have come (and why the teams that don't have one are pretty much guaranteed to be unsuccessful).
The Bucs suffered more than two turnovers in a game just twice, and lost the turnover battle only three times.
Defensive Hogs. You'd think that drafting defensive tackles with their top two picks would have fixed this, but No. 3 overall selection Gerald McCoy missed the end of the season with injury and Brian Price was not a factor.
The Bucs suffered from some really poor play from their journeyman defensive ends, Tim Crowder and Stylez G. White, who finished with 7.5 sacks between them in a 4-3 defense that's supposed to feature a lot of pass rush from those positions. Kyle Moore, a 2009 fourth-round draft pick, started seven games with no sacks.
So, if the Bucs went 1-2 with DTs in 2010, don't be surprised if they go 1-2 with DEs in 2011.
General off-season strategy/overview
Having those triplets on offense means Bucs GM Mark Dominik has the luxury of building with veterans and rookies at easier positions to fill.
Dominik has a roster almost entirely under control, and more money in the bank than just about any other team in the league – if he wants someone, he can get him.
The Bucs will almost certainly be in the market for a pass rusher, and don't be surprised to see Ray Edwards (8 sacks with Minnesota in 2010) or Charles Johnson (11.5 sacks with Carolina) in pewter and gold this fall.
As for the other side of the line, with tackle Jeremy Trueblood and former standout Davin Joseph free agents, the Bucs will have to add pieces there as well. But the Bucs started eight different linemen and still graded well on our index (No. 2 on the OHI), so there's reason to believe any transitions there will be smooth.
Totally premature 2011 diagnosis
If we were the betting type, we'd lodge the house on the Bucs falling somewhere in the 6-9 win range this season. When teams make that surprise run from terrible to 10+ wins, a regression the next year is always a concern, and the Bucs fit the bill. But that doesn't mean the future's not bright, or that this is a lock – Tampa's got something going, and it's exciting.