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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Five key issues Bucs need to address

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 09:34 AM
TAMPA -

Get QB Josh Freeman on track

Freeman slipped badly in 2011. His touchdown production dropped from 25 to 16 and his interceptions rose from six to 22, second most in the league behind . A big part of the problem was overconfidence. Freeman admitted the success he had in 2010 fueled a belief he could make plays he never should have attempted. The Bucs paid dearly for it. An offseason of proper training and coaching will help Freeman, who remains the franchise's cornerstone player.

Find veteran leaders

The Bucs had the youngest team in the league season and far too many of their young players did not have a veteran mentor to turn to for advice when the going got tough. Even when a team is winning, young players need a guide in the locker room to show them how to properly prepare for practice and games. The Bucs didn't have that veteran leadership at key positions such as defensive line, linebacker, wide receiver and quarterback, which contributed to the season-ending tailspin.

Increase accountability

The Bucs were among the most penalized teams in the league this season, but it wasn't until the third quarter of a Dec. 6 game against the Carolina Panthers that former coach Raheem Morris finally chose to do something about it. Even then, Morris probably chose the wrong target, sending home DT Brian Price, who played hurt all season, after Price was penalized for unnecessary roughness. Whoever takes over this team has to instill more discipline and make players more accountable for their actions, both on the field and off.

Improve the secondary

Ronde Barber, 36, is not under contract for 2012 and Aqib Talib's future is uncertain because of a legal issue. Beyong those two, the Bucs do not have a starting caliber corner on the roster. The situation isn't all that different at safety. Tanard Jackson didn't play like the Jackson of old after returning from a one-year league suspension and Cody Grimm finished the past two seasons on injured reserve. Tampa Bay needs to be aggressive in both free agency and the draft.

Give Freeman more to work with

For Freeman to be the offensive leader, he needs more and better weapons around him. The Bucs lack speed at receiver and running back and quality depth at tight end, running back and the offensive line. Whether it's through free agency or the draft, Tampa Bay needs to add a legitimate No. 1 receiver, a third-down back to complement starter LeGarrette Blount, a versatile tight end and a true left guard. While they're at it, they could add a new outside linebacker or two, so the defense can do a better job of getting the ball back for Freeman.

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