Tampa Bay Buccaneers: What We've Learned Through Week 2 of Training Camp
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are nearing the end of training camp, but they still have a lot of work to do.
The most glaring and distressful issue was the offensive line which could have easily been mistaken for some swinging saloon doors. Quarterback Josh McCown spent most of his time on the field either taking a hit or getting up from the hit he just took.
Head coach Lovie Smith doesn't seem fazed by the team's performance and instead brushed off the loss with a call for patience, as reported by The Tampa Tribune's Roy Cummings:
Don’t overreact is what I would say. You guys (in the media) don’t lead the charge to start overreacting. Let it play out a little bit through the preseason.
Smith seems to be pretty easygoing about camp thus far. Having a dominant defensive line, a surprising breakout wide receiver and a deep running back group probably helps.
Week 2 of training camp and the Bucs' first preseason game gave shape to Tampa Bay's strengths and weaknesses. It is still too early to tell which players are truly on the bubble or what sort of scheme the offense will run, but the general themes of the team are in place.
Here is what we've learned from Bucs training camp through Week 2.
The Offensive Line Is a Serious Problem
The Bucs offensive line proved one thing against the Jacksonville Jaguars: It's terrible.
It may have beaten the defensive line in a goal-line scrimmage this week, as reported by the Tampa Bay Times' Greg Auman, but that offensive line didn't show up on Saturday.
Guards Jamon Meredith and Oniel Cousins were sieves in pass protection and hit a wall run blocking. Left tackle Anthony Collins did little to justify the five-year, $30 million contract he signed with the Bucs this year.
If things looked bad when Carl Nicks retired last week, they look even worse now.
There is no cavalry on the way to save the day. While Bleacher Report's Jason Cole reports that the Bucs have interest in 49ers" target="_blank">San Francisco 49ers guard Alex Boone, the camp holdout may draw too high a price for the Bucs to acquire him.
The best Tampa Bay can hope for is that its current linemen can continue to develop and jell, particularly the younger guys. Rookie Kadeem Edwards didn't start until late in the game against Jacksonville. He may deserve more first-team reps this coming week and more playing time in the Bucs' next preseason game.
The Defensive Line Has Become a Monster
The Bucs can probably expect a lot of sacks in their future, but a good deal of them will be coming from their own defensive line.
For as bad as the offensive line was in Tampa Bay's first preseason game, the defensive line was inversely better. Led by All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, the Bucs' front four staked their claim to the Jaguars' backfield and made themselves comfortable.
In the first play of the game, McCoy penetrated the Jacksonville offensive line and snagged Jaguars running back Jordan Todman for a five-yard loss, as captured by the Buccaneers' Twitter profile:
Clearly McCoy hasn't missed a step since the end of last season, but he wasn't the only defensive lineman making plays.
Defensive end Steven Means collected the Bucs' first preseason sack. Converted DT Da'Quan Bowers made consecutive stops following Josh McCown's pick-six.
The Bucs will be counting on the defensive line to help carry the team if the offensive line doesn't improve. With the talent the Tampa Bay defensive linemen exhibited last week, that might not be too tall an order.
Tommy Streeter Deserves to Make the Final Roster
Every training camp has its breakout star. This year, it's wide receiver Tommy Streeter.
Bleacher Report's own Luke Easterling has been monitoring Bucs camp this year, and he likes what he sees in the third-year receiver:
Tommy Streeter continues to impress. Those last few WR spots will be hotly contested. #Bucs— Luke Easterling (@LukeEasterling) August 3, 2014
Though he's been impressive in camp, Streeter won't be satisfied simply as a "practice champion," as he told Sports Talk Florida's Jenna Laine last week.
Streeter's self-imposed challenge paid off for the Bucs in their first preseason game as he hauled in Tampa Bay's only touchdown of the game.
The most important aspect of Streeter's breakout camp is his consistency. Other than missing a day due to illness, per Buccaneers.com's Scott Smith, Streeter has been a model of reliability, according to The Tampa Tribune's Roy Cummings:
Whether it’s by out-running a cornerback on a go route or out-leaping a linebacker for a jump ball, Streeter has consistently given Bucs quarterbacks a target they didn’t expect to see.
The Bucs are well-stocked at wide receiver with veterans Vincent Jackson and Louis Murphy alongside rookies Mike Evans and Robert Herron. Nonetheless, the Bucs cannot ignore Streeter's performance in camp.
If Streeter can make it out of the preseason fully healthy, he needs to be on the Bucs roster.
The Depth Chart Means Nothing
Preseason depth charts are like modern movie trailers. They look really interesting, but they don't always tell you anything about the final product.
The Bucs' first unofficial depth chart was released last week, and there were some interesting choices in where some players fell.
On offense, probably the most puzzling player was Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who fell fourth on the tight end list. While the rookie tight end missed out on OTAs, the Bucs' first preseason game showcased Seferian-Jenkins' athleticism as he collected two catches for 29 yards.
Already last week's depth chart has been rendered obsolete. The Bucs rewarded Seferian-Jenkins' performance from Friday with first-team reps, per Buccaneers.com's Scott Smith.
Probably the clearest indication that their preseason depth charts are meaningless comes from the man ultimately putting the charts together, head coach Lovie Smith.
"Don't put too much into the depth chart," Smith told the media during a press conference last week, according to the Tampa Bay Times' Greg Auman and Matt Baker.
When the coach tells the media to ignore the depth charts, it's a pretty clear sign they don't hold much water.
The Bucs Are Stacked at Running Back
If anything, last week was merely a confirmation of something that's been apparent for months: The Bucs are brimming with quality running backs.
The return of Doug Martin was an automatic boost to the Bucs run game. The addition of the versatile Charles Sims only enhanced Tampa Bay's depth with Bobby Rainey and Mike James.
All four tailbacks saw action in last Friday's preseason game. Rainey gained the most on the ground, picking up 25 yards in six carries. Sims was a major force for the Bucs passing game, catching three passes for 32 yards.
With so much talent in the backfield, it may be tough for the Bucs to dole out carries on game day. Last week, Martin and Rainey ran with the first team, while Sims and James backed them up, according to Pewter Report:
RBs Doug Martin and Bobby Rainey have been splitting 1st reps today. Chales Sims and Mike James splitting second team work.— PewterReport.com (@PewterReport) August 6, 2014
Tampa Bay may just be counting its lucky stars for its wealth of talent at running back. Charles Sims went down at practice Tuesday with an ankle injury, according to the Tampa Bay Times' Greg Auman:
Lovie Smith said rookie RB Charles Sims left practice with an ankle injury. Didn't sound severe, but something to keep an eye on.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) August 12, 2014
Though the injury is apparently not serious, the Bucs don't want any of their players losing precious practice reps, especially rookies like Sims. Fortunately the depth of talent at running back should ensure the offense doesn't skip a beat if one of them isn't ready to go.