By Eric Schmidt

Twas the night before Christmas and all through Ray Jay, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers find themselves in yet another late season slump. Though not as bad as the 10-game losing streak that cost Raheem Morris his job last season, the Buccaneers have looked pretty awful in the last five weeks. With just one regular season game remaining and just hours before Christmas morning, what sorts of things could the Buccaneers front office be hoping to find under the tree at One Buc Place in the morning to use next season.

Consistent Quarterback Play-

For a span of four weeks from week eight through 11, the Buccaneers offense was on fire, scoring a franchise record 139 points. The play of quarterback Josh Freeman was impressive. Members of the Tampa media were calling for an immediate contract extension. Now, those same members are calling for Freeman’s head. In the first 13 weeks, Freeman threw just eight interceptions. He has thrown eight in the last two weeks. On one interception yesterday, his receiver fell down but the other three were on him. His picks led to 21 St. Louis points. His play is maddeningly inconsistent. In mid-season, Freeman looked as if he was ready to elevate his game to the next level. At the end of the season, you have to question whether or not he is going to be the franchise quarterback many expected. Freeman has just five touchdowns and nine interceptions in his last four games.

A Healthy Offensive Line-

The Buccaneers offensive line has been a piecemeal work in progress all season. Rookie running back Doug Martin has accounted for over 1,600 total yards but imagine what he could have done with Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph in the mix.

A Defensive Pass Rush-

The Buccaneers are ranked 30th in the NFL in total team sacks with 25 on the season. Only Oakland and Jacksonville have fewer sacks on the season. Michael Bennett leads the team with 9. The jury is still out on Da’Quan Bowers. The team played without Adrian Clayborn this season. The Buccaneers are in need of a pass rushing specialist. Another Simeon Rice or Lee Roy Selmon. With six games a year against Cam Newton, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, Tampa needs to get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

A Pair of Cornerbacks-

At one point yesterday, the Buccaneers corners were Anthony Gaitor and Danny Gorrer. Hardly a pair headed to the Pro Bowl. Eric Wright is likely gone in the offseason and Aqib Talib has been shipped out of town to the Patriots. Opposing teams have moved the ball through the air at will against the Buccaneers this season. Eli Manning lights the Bucs up for 510 yards. Rookie Nick Foles in his third career start throws for 381 yards. The Tampa defense has been a dichotomy of the league’s best run defense and the league’s worst pass defense. The 2013 schedule has the Buccaneers facing Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and Tom Brady as some of the opposing quarterbacks, corner help is a priority.

A Safety-

This will likely be Ronde Barber’s last season. He is currently third on the Buccaneers in tackles, snagged four interceptions and scored a touchdown. The Buccaneers need to find a replacement to pair with Mark Barron next season. Thanks for the memories Ronde, next stop, Canton.

Fans-

The Buccaneers need to find a way to get fans back to their seats in Raymond James Stadium. Just two games this season were sellouts. I understand the regional economy is poor and HD televisions are causing more fans to stay home and watch football from the confines of their home, but it shouldn’t be too much to ask to sell out 8 games a year.

 

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