Complete Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp Preview
Forget the thick humidity and clockwork afternoon thunderstorms of the Florida summer; Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans are ready to sweat it out as they watch their beloved pewter pirates hit the field for yet another training camp.
Despite the team failing to meet high expectations in 2014 and falling to a league-worst 2-14, hope still abounds at One Buc Place and throughout the Tampa Bay fanbase.
The biggest reason for that? The arrival of No. 1 overall draft pick Jameis Winston, who will take the reins as the new starting quarterback. But there are plenty of other reasons for Bucs fans to be ready to "siege the day" as they look forward to the 2015 season.
Bucs fans, here's everything you need to know as your team opens training camp.
Training-camp practices will take place at the team's facility at One Buccaneer Place, with a number of sessions open to the public.
Players will report to camp on Friday, with practices set to begin on Saturday and run through August 22.
Here are the dates and times for practices open to the public:
|Saturday, August 1||2:30-5:00 p.m.|
|Sunday, August 2||4:30-7:00 p.m.|
|Monday, August 3||2:30-5:00 p.m.|
|Tuesday, August 4||9:00-11:30 a.m.|
|Thursday, August 6||2:30-5:00 p.m.|
|Saturday, August 8||2:30-5:00 p.m.|
|Tuesday, August 11||2:30-5:00 p.m.|
|Wednesday, August 12||2:30-5:00 p.m.|
|Monday, August 17||2:00-4:30 p.m.|
|Tuesday, August 18||2:30-5:00 p.m.|
|Wednesday, August 19||2:30-5:00 p.m.|
Admission to these sessions is free. Discounted concessions will be available, in addition to merchandise tents. Per the team's official site, there will be plenty of perks and activities for younger fans.
For a list of prohibited items, as well as parking and gate-entrance information, check out this helpful guide at Buccaneers.com.
All Eyes on Winston
Having the No. 1 overall pick isn't the national attention any NFL team wants, but now the Bucs are focused on what their new franchise quarterback—top pick Jameis Winston—can do to turn around a team that hasn't won a playoff game since hoisting the Lombardi Trophy following the 2002 season.
Winston has been one of the most scrutinized prospects in recent memory thanks to a string of questionable decisions off the field, and though he's said and done all the right things since joining the Bucs, the microscope won't be going anywhere anytime soon.
Stability on Offense
Last year, Tampa Bay's offense had the rug yanked out from under it when new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford left the team just before the start of the regular season because of medical issues. He never returned before parting ways with the team for good.
Heading into 2015, the Bucs now have a proven NFL coordinator in Dirk Koetter who had plenty of success with both the Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars. His presence should make a huge difference in the unit's confidence and performance, and his vertical passing scheme should take full advantage of the playmakers on the roster.
Another O-Line Overhaul
Tampa Bay tried to rebuild its lackluster offensive line through free agency and trades last season, but it didn't go as planned. Both Logan Mankins and Evan Smith struggled despite their veteran experience, and Anthony Collins was a complete bust who got cut after just one season.
This year, the Bucs focused on building up front through the draft, spending two of their first three picks on offensive linemen. Much of the offense's success in 2015 will be determined by how quickly the rookies develop and how well the entire group can jell before the regular season begins.
Tampa 2, Year 2
In their first year back in the Tampa 2 defense, the Bucs struggled mightily through the first half of the year, particularly in defending the pass. Injuries didn't help, but it was clear the defense was taking plenty of lumps as it tried to digest and execute a new scheme.
With a year under their belt, the Bucs should be much improved on defense this year, as the players will feel more comfortable with their responsibilities.
Position Battles to Watch
Danny Lansanah was one of last year's training-camp standouts, and his in-season performance didn't disappoint either. Even so, he'll be pushed by rookie fourth-round pick Kwon Alexander, an undersized (6'1", 227 lbs) but explosive player who is a perfect fit on the outside in the Tampa 2.
No. 3 receiver
The Bucs signed Louis Murphy to a three-year extension this offseason, but he'll have to fight off fifth-round pick Kenny Bell, who has the size (6'1", 197 lbs), playmaking ability and toughness Tampa Bay wants out of its pass-catchers.
Leonard Johnson returns, but he struggled in the slot corner role last year. Isaiah Frey was an upgrade later in the season but did nothing earth-shattering. Free-agent acquisition Sterling Moore may be the favorite in this race, considering his success in this spot while playing in a similar scheme for the Dallas Cowboys.
Last year, the Bucs had plenty of name recognition at safety but little substance or depth. They hope the opposite is true this year, as a wide-open race between at least five candidates—Bradley McDougald, D.J. Swearinger, Major Wright, Chris Conte and Keith Tandy—could give the team a much deeper unit in 2015.
The same committee returns from 2014, with Doug Martin and Charles Sims likely to fight over the lion's share of the touches. But don't forget about Bobby Rainey, who was the team's most effective runner last year, averaging 4.3 yards per carry.
News and Notes
Extension Coming for David?
After locking up one of their defensive cornerstones with a long-term extension last season, the Bucs must now turn their attention toward All-Pro linebacker Lavonte David, who is in the last year of his rookie deal.
The two sides are reportedly "making progress" on a new deal, per NFL Media's Rand Getlin, and David told Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times he has no interest in holding out in the absence of a lucrative extension:
There isn't any question, I'll be there. If I did hold out, a lot of guys would lose respect for me, and I would lose respect for myself. They know I love the game of football, and there's nothing that's going to keep me from playing. Football is what has gotten me through a lot of things in my life. I'm going to play any chance I get.
One of the best linebackers in the entire league, David has racked up 430 tackles, 10 sacks, six interceptions and 19 defensed passes over 46 starts since the Bucs traded up to grab the Nebraska product in the second round of the 2012 draft.
Expect this deal to get done sooner rather than later and for David to remain in pewter and red for a long time to come.
Still Making Moves
Even with camp just a day away, the Bucs made a few roster moves on Thursday, signing three defensive backs to the roster.
A pair of undrafted free agents—Jude Adjei-Barimah and Al-Hajj Shabazz—will both get their first crack at NFL practice action with the Bucs, while Kimario McFadden returns after spending three weeks on Tampa Bay's practice squad last year.
As Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com points out, these moves give the Bucs quite a handful of defensive backs heading into camp:
NFL coaches usually have a specific number of players at each position that they want to take to training camp to handle the huge amount of practice reps. Lovie Smith and the Buccaneers apparently thought the secondary needed minor reinforcements; after Wednesday's moves the team will bring nine 15 defensive backs into camp, including nine cornerbacks and six safeties.
Under-the-Radar Names to Keep an Eye on
WRs Rannell Hall and Donteea Dye
Tampa Bay added explosiveness and depth at receiver by drafting Nebraska's Kenny Bell and Utah's Kaelin Clay on Day 3. But that didn't stop the team from bringing in even more young talent at the position by adding a few undrafted free agents.
UCF's Rannell Hall turned heads with an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl, while Dye—from Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio—flashed some raw potential at rookie minicamp back in May.
They'll face an uphill battle to make the final roster, but at least one of them should be a lock for the practice squad.
FB Joey Iosefa
It's not often seventh-round picks go into their first training camp with the opportunity to land a starting spot, but the bruising Iosefa may do just that for the Bucs. The Hawaii product is versatile as both a runner and receiver and can fill the team's need for an effective short-yardage back, in addition to being a lead blocker.
Veteran Jorvorskie Lane returns, but he's coming off a season-ending broken leg. Don't be shocked if Iosefa not only wins a roster spot but beats out Lane for the starting fullback gig.
DTs Quayshawne Buckley and Caushaud Lyons
Two of the more intriguing defensive tackle prospects in this year's draft class both slipped through the cracks and landed in Tampa Bay as undrafted free agents.
Both from smaller college programs—Buckley from Idaho, Lyons from Tusculum—these two disruptive interior forces bring a solid combination of size, quickness, power and athleticism to the table. They'll be long shots to make the final roster—defensive tackle is easily the team's deepest position—but they should make a positive impression during camp.
DE Ryan Delaire
With prototypical size for a 4-3 end at 6'4", 264 pounds, the Towson product tallied 14.5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks in 2014. Knee surgery kept him from participating in any postseason all-star games, but the Bucs were among 23 NFL teams present for his private on-campus workout, per Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun.
Tampa Bay is lacking when it comes to proven pass-rushers, which should give Delaire an opportunity to make an impact in training camp and possibly earn a roster spot.
ASJ Steals the Show
A foot injury kept tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins out of predraft workouts last year, and he struggled to stay at 100 percent throughout his rookie year. This year, he's fully healthy with a complete offseason under his belt and should look dominant in Dirk Koetter's offense during training camp. Look for Jameis Winston to fall in love with his new security blanket.
Weather Plays a Factor
Florida is known for routine afternoon thunderstorms this time of year, which will impact Tampa Bay's practice plans on more than one occasion. An indoor facility would come in handy—and Winston sure would love one, per JoeBucsFan.com—but don't expect that to happen anytime soon.
Rookie OL Will Struggle
Both of Tampa Bay's second-round picks—tackle Donovan Smith and guard Ali Marpet—are talented players, but they're also fairly raw. Smith will take his lumps trying to earn the starting spot on Winston's blind side, while Marpet will be going up against the Bucs' deep group of defensive tackles.