Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Biggest Preseason Disappointments so Far
Just like most other NFL teams, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are full of hope this preseason, looking to bounce back from a league-worst 2-14 record in 2014.
But training camp and preseason are rarely without their disappointments, from costly injuries to players who have failed to live up to their expectations.
The Bucs are already dealing with multiple injuries that could have a sizable impact on their 2015 season, while some of their new signings aren't yet making the kind of impression the team hoped to see in their first action with the team.
Let's take a look at Tampa Bay's biggest disappointments so far this preseason.
LB Bruce Carter
Tampa Bay let Mason Foster walk in free agency this offseason, hoping to find a middle linebacker with the athleticism and range to be a better fit in the Tampa 2 scheme.
Many believed the Bucs found that player in free agent Bruce Carter, who signed a four-year deal with Tampa Bay worth over $20 million. But after just one preseason game, it looks like the playmaker in the middle the Bucs have coveted might turn out to be rookie fourth-round pick Kwon Alexander.
There's nothing wrong with having a player with Carter's experience to improve their depth at linebacker, but the Bucs paid the former Dallas Cowboy starter money to get beat out by a rookie mid-rounder. It does benefit the Bucs that all of Carter's guaranteed money is off the books after this year, which can essentially turn his contract into a one-year deal.
S Chris Conte
When the Bucs signed veteran Chris Conte in free agency, they hoped they were adding some quality depth with a player who had plenty of experience in the Tampa 2.
But so far, the only expectation Conte has lived up to is his inability to stay healthy, having missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury. Conte has struggled with concussions over the past two seasons, and his inability to stay on the practice field has cost him valuable reps and a chance to challenge for any playing time.
Bradley McDougald and Major Wright are currently locked in as the starters at safety, but waiver-wire pickup D.J. Swearinger has made the most of Conte's absence with a strong training camp so far. Tampa Bay's depth at safety looks to be improved over last year's, but so far it's been in spite of Conte, not because of him.
RB Charles Sims
Heading into the 2015 season, second-year pro Charles Sims was expected to challenge Doug Martin to the lion's share of the touches in Tampa Bay's backfield.
But while a slimmed-down Martin has been impressing throughout training camp, Sims has failed to establish himself as a true challenger, with head coach Lovie Smith already making it clear Martin is the team's "lead back."
Sims' biggest advantage over Martin should be in the passing game, but he's even struggled with dropped passes as a receiver out of the backfield in training camp. If Martin continues to impress, Sims could end up fighting with Bobby Rainey for the scraps, rather than pushing Martin for the starting role.
OL Garrett Gilkey
It's hard to classify Garrett Gilkey as a disappointment after the dismal campaign he had in 2014.
But the team brought him back for another season and seemed willing to give him first crack at winning the starting right guard job, as well as letting him back up Evan Smith at center again.
But Gilkey has continued his string of poor performances, failing to lock down the guard spot and struggling to even get off acceptable snaps while playing center. Head coach Lovie Smith has already voiced his disdain for Gilkey's poor snaps.
Gilkey's been given every opportunity to take advantage of a shallow depth chart in Tampa Bay, but he just isn't getting the job done. The team seems to still have confidence he can turn things around, but don't expect their patience to last much longer if he keeps up his current level of play.
The Bucs were already struggling to build quality depth across their entire roster, but a couple of injuries could cost key players some significant time this season.
The biggest loss for the Bucs so far has been starting right tackle Demar Dotson, who went down with a left knee injury just before halftime of the team's preseason-opening loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Dotson's timetable for a return is still unclear, but the Bucs signed veteran free agent Gosder Cherilus to a two-year deal to take his place for the time being.
Tampa Bay's offensive line was already among their weakest unit, and losing the most effective member of that group for any length of time will be a huge blow the to the entire offense.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Bucs will be without a key member of their defensive line rotation for the foreseeable future. Defensive tackle Akeem Spence had back surgery back in July, and he will likely be out of commission until October.
The Bucs were able to grab veteran run-stuffer Tony McDaniel after he was a cap casualty of the Seattle Seahawks, which should help alleviate the loss of Spence in the interim. Still, Spence's return will be welcome, as Tampa Bay relies heavily on their interior linemen to make up for their lack of production from their edge-rushers.