The Tampa Bay Buccaneers rank among the most disappointing NFL teams thus far in 2017.
The Bucs appeared to enter the season with improved talent on defense, and a balanced offense that could explode after adding DeSean Jackson, O.J. Howard and a rejuvenated Doug Martin returning from suspension. Instead, Tampa stumbled to a 2-5 start partly because the defense is injured and can't stop a nosebleed, and because the offense is inconsistent, turns the ball over and can't hit on enough explosive plays.
Quarterback Jameis Winston said the Bucs' problem on offense is the lack of identity.
"I think this team has to find its common ground and our team, we're still learning what that is," Winston said Thursday, via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. "Last year, there was a point in the season where we found our identity. We're still trying to develop our identity and use it to get better. Because every team has its own identity and we've got to find it.
"Anytime you have new pieces to the puzzle, you're always seeing how you can work it. I'm ready for us to go ahead and find our identity. ... It's a completely new team every year."
Winston has been the pendulum of the Bucs' offensive inconsistencies. When the third-year pro is on, Tampa weapons can exploit every level of a defense. Too often, however, Winston has been a turnover machine, with six interceptions and two fumbles lost (on eight total fumbles). Each game Winston makes at least one play that leaves you feverishly scratching your head in frustration. He also hasn't been able to find the mark on his deep ball, consistently missing Jackson on shots down the field through seven games.
Doug Martin continues to look spry, and when he's gashing defenses the Bucs' offense becomes much more stable. But behind an up-and-down O-line, too often Martin has been stuffed for no gains and negative-yard runs that put the offense behind schedule.
When the Bucs struggled on offense last year, coach Dirk Koetter leaned on the ground game -- famously running Jacquizz Rodgers 30 times versus the Panthers in a win. In Sunday's tilt versus the New Orleans Saints, Tampa could attempt to go run-heavy and keep Drew Brees on the sideline.
Winston better find that identity he's looking for soon as the Bucs' season sits on the precipice of collapsing into chaos.