7 Things We've Learned About the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Minicamp
It's summer break and we're still learning new things.
Who would have guessed?
Minicamp has been fascinating, to say the least.
It has definitely provoked some questions.
Can new head coach Greg Schiano bring the Bucs back to the playoffs?
What impact will the rookies have?
How will the roster have changed from 2011?
Will Kellen Winslow ever learn?
We don't have all the answers—yet.
But here are seven things we have learned.
The Buccaneer Way Is Real and Here to Stay
Although this is not exclusive to minicamp, I believe this topic deserves a mention.
It would not have been crazy for people to have originally had doubts about Greg Schiano's idea of the "Buccaneer Way."
How easy would it be for a coach to profess a dogma of "trust, belief and accountability" without actually following through?
It would be very easy.
But Schiano meant every word he said.
When some waste(s) of sperm and eggs stole $10,000 worth of football equipment from local youth teams, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers stepped up and donated $11,000 to replace the stole goods. Without the donation, there may have been no football at all for the kids this season.
Before that, Schiano signed Eric LeGrand, his former Rutgers pupil who was paralyzed back in 2010. It was not an act of charity; the contract was valueless. LeGrand embodies everything that a "Buccaneer Man" should be. He has a charity for other victims of spinal cord injuries and will receive an award for his perseverance on July 11.
The Buccaneer Way is here to stay.
Eric Wright Has a Mysterious Health Issue
Eric Wright has a mystery health issue. It caused him to miss some of the OTAs:
The reason Wright has been unable to attend all of the OTAs (organized team activities) is due to an undisclosed health issue. Wright is on medicine that has affected his energy level and limited his participation, but he is showing improvement and participated in Tuesday’s mini-camp practice. (Pewter Report)
You can't blame Wright for missing practice if he has a health problem, even if the Bucs signed him to a $35.5 million, five-year contract.
Greg Schiano had this to say about the cornerback's condition:
Without getting into real particulars, it was a non-football related health thing that he was able to ... and he was very good at communicating where he was and how he was dealing with and the thing that excites me is he did quite a bit yesterday and again today, he’s getting better. He did well. He made some plays out there today. I’m excited, that’s encouraging (Pewter Report)
As long as Wright is healthy for 2012, there is no reason to worried.
But should he find himself unable to perform, the Bucs don't have a lot of depth at cornerback. Ronde Barber might have to move back from free safety, or EJ Biggers will have to step up big(gers) time. And if Aqib Talib can't get out of his legal trouble, that will be really, really bad.
Donald Penn Can Catch Punts
For an offensive tackle, Donald Penn is one impressive hombre.
Not many guys who weigh 300-plus pounds can do what he does.
The entire team gathered around the veteran lineman shouting encouragement halfway through the final day of Tampa Bay’s three-day mandatory mini-camp. Penn was ready as the JUGGS machine shot the football through the bright sunshine. Calmly, Penn stepped under the descending football as it fell into his arms. The practice field erupted with cheers and high fives, as if the Buccaneers had just clinched a playoff berth. (Pewter Report)
Preston Parker and Sammie Stroughter better watch their backs.
There's a new punt returner in town, and his name is Donald Penn.
Preston Parker Has a Very, Very Good Shot of Making the Starting Roster
The title says it all.
Throughout minicamp and the voluntary OTAs, positive reports of Preston Parker's abilities have been floating around the internet. Both Josh Freeman and Schiano have lauded his skills.
Schiano even said that he sees "him doing things that are really going to be helpful."
The slot receiver was an effective weapon for Freeman last season, catching 40 passes for 554 yards. His average of 7.7 yards after catch was second among all wide receivers in 2011. For a slot receiver, the most critical statistic probably is YAC, as the man in the slot is expected to catch the ball while remaining relatively close to the quarterback. He can also return punts, like Donald Penn, but he does not weigh 300 pounds.
Could Parker start?
Being the 3rd-Overall Pick Doesn't Gurantee That You Know How to Tackle
Maybe Gerald McCoy was being hyperbolic.
The third-overall pick in the 2010 draft recently said that he didn't know how to tackle before Greg Schiano came to town.
As per the The Tampa Tribune, we get this delicious nugget from McCoy:
We do a tackling circuit before every practice, and I've never done anything like that before. I realize now that, before, I was just playing football. Now, I'm really learning how to tackle and I think it's going to help me a lot.
In retrospect, this really isn't that surprising. McCoy never has lived up to the expectations the franchise had for him. He has missed 13 games in his two seasons, and even when he's been on the field, his play has been uninspiring. McCoy has four career sacks and 39 tackles, not very awe-inspiring figures.
If the defensive tackle can stay healthy, the Bucs could see a drastic improvement in the quality of their defensive line. Last year, they had the worst rush defense in the NFL, which was a major factor in the 4-12 record.
Let's hope that this new and improved Gerald McCoy can stay healthy.
We Actually Do Know Who Will Start at Linebacker
No one's saying that linebacker is a strength for the Bucs, but we have an idea of what the linebacker squad will look like. The devil you know...
At weakside, Lavonte David, the second-round draft pick, has already started taking snaps with the first team defense. This makes sense, as the one knock against David's draft stock was that he was too short. Really, draftniks? Hadn't you all ever heard of London Fletcher? David should have a long, fruitful career as a Buc.
Mason Foster was the subject of many rumors during the offseason, all about whether Schiano would move him to the outside. During 2011, the then-rookie struggled to read the offense before the snap, and many presumed he would be more comfortable on the outside. Foster has only played MIKE linebacker during minicamp and OTAs, so it is most likely that he will not be moving anytime soon.
Quincy Black has retained his spot at strong-side backer. In 2011, Black perhaps played the best ball of any Buccaneer linebacker, so him keeping his spot was not surprising.
The linebacker corp isn't necessarily pretty, but it's filled with young talent.
And young talent generally has the capacity to improve during the course of a season.
Kellen Winslow Is a Real [Insert Obscenity of Your Choice ]
Like we didn't know this already.
Kellen Winslow recently went off on Greg Schiano, complaining of how Schiano yelled "Toes on the line! Toes on the line!"
Apparently "you can't laugh. You can't joke around."
So Kellen Winslow "had to roll, man."
Excuse me, Kellen, but do you want to win football games?
Or do you want to joke around with your pals?
You're getting paid a lot of money to play football for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so you should really be doing what your coach tells you to do.
Especially if he's telling you to put your toes on the line.
It's Schiano's job to make the Bucs into the best team they can possibly be, so he'll do everything and anything it takes to make them great. Schiano is a rigid, tough coach, who will make sure that his players are doing everything as they can to improve, whether be showing them how to tackle or telling them to put their toes on the line.
I have no sympathy for Winslow, and hopefully, no one else does either.
I also find it funny that a self-professed "soldier" didn't mesh well with the "militaristic" (as per the source article's title) Schiano.