Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2013 Training Camp Preview
A Look at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp
Coming off a 7-9 season in 2012, the Buccaneers are hoping to avoid another disappointing season amidst a NFC South division in fluctuation. While the Carolina Panthers continue teetering on the edge of competitiveness, the New Orleans Saints are trying to recuperate from the fallout of the “Bountygate” scandal. And then there’s the Atlanta Falcons, who are still sitting pretty atop the division.
If the Buccaneers hope to return to relevance in 2013, they’ll need a strong training camp to prove that they can bring all of their talented pieces together. They have a promising quarterback still waiting to live up to the hype, a young running back who took the NFL by storm his rookie season and a handful of potential-laden defenders waiting to help Tampa Bay field a top-tier defense. It’s a recipe for success, at least on the surface.
Before the recipe can be concocted, though, the Buccaneers must put their ingredients in order during training camp. Make sure they have the best quarterback under center. Make sure their offensive linemen are healthy and ready to roll. Make sure their secondary is vastly improved from the league-worst one they fielded last season.
All of this can be accomplished during training camp. The Buccaneers have a bright future, but need to bring it all together before the regular season. Here’s a look at what to watch for when July 17 rolls around.
While Josh Freeman will be the Day 1 starter, the Buccaneers will be keeping a close eye on the four-year starter. If he struggles early, rookie Mike Glennon could be forced into action as the Buccaneers prepare for a future without Freeman. Whether or not that happens, though, will depend on how the NC State product performs during training camp. Dan Orlovsky, a career backup, and second-year quarterback Adam Weber will battle for No.3 duties. While Orlovsky has starting experience, don’t count out Adams, who is a raw, promising passer with the long-term potential to develop into a quality backup.
Heading into his second season, Doug Martin will be facing high expectations to build off of his outstanding rookie performance in 2012. Assuming he stays healthy, there shouldn’t be anything stopping him from victimizing defenses all year long. The focus during training camp, instead, will be on finding his backup. Brian Leonard, Mike James and Michael Smith are all in the mix for the No. 2 job, but the rookie James appears to have the edge heading into camp. Leonard is a veteran and should provide some value, which means Smith, a 2012 seventh-round pick, could be on the roster bubble.
At this point, the Buccaneers only have one fullback on the roster, which means that Erik Lorig is out of the woods for now.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams are entrenched as the Buccaneers’ top two receivers. That leaves the third receiver job up for grabs. Offseason acquisition Kevin Ogletree appears to be the top candidate, but will need to prove during training camp that he’s more than a one-game wonder. Tiquan Underwood and Chris Owusu could also be in the mix. If Owusu can stay healthy, there’s a good chance the Stanford product could be headed for a breakout season.
With the departure of Dallas Clark, the Buccaneers are left with some question marks at tight end. Luke Stocker was a bit of a disappointment last year, but appears primed to take over as the starter in 2013. Tom Crabtree was signed from the Green Bay Packers to add some depth, but doesn’t offer much in terms of receiving ability other than the occasional highlight play. The rest of the depth chart will consist of unknown youngsters hoping to earn a roster spot.
For the most part, the Buccaneers offensive line appears to be intact heading into training camp. With Carl Nicks back to full health and trade-acquisition Gabe Carimi hoping to prove the Chicago Bears wrong, this offensive line should be impressive in 2013. The biggest question mark is who will start at right tackle, a battle that will come down to Carimi and Demar Dotson.
After a bumpy start to his NFL career, Da’Quan Bowers could finally be headed for a breakout year with the Buccaneers. Adrian Clayborn should also be a significant factor at the other defensive end spot, but needs to stay healthy. Gerald McCoy and Gary Gibson appear to have the defensive tackle spots locked down after the departures of Roy Miller and Michael Bennett. This defensive line was ferocious last season, but could suffer some as they attempt to move on from painful offseason losses. The addition of rookie Akeem Spence could help the Buccaneers’ depth problem.
The Buccaneers appear to be in good position this season at linebacker. With 2012 second-round stud Lavonte David back in the mix, Tampa Bay has plenty to be excited about with another year under his belt. Adam Hayward showed some potential last season, and will get every opportunity to start this season. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers need to see more from middle linebacker Mason Foster, who didn’t do too hot last season, struggling in just about every aspect of the position. If Foster can’t deliver, expect someone like Najee Goode to push him for the starting gig. Jonathan Casillas could also carve a role for himself on the outside during training camp.
The buzz around training camp will be about Darrelle Revis, the Buccaneers’ prized offseason acquisition. Coming off a serious knee injury, it’ll be critical for the All-Pro to prove that he’s back to full health. Tampa Bay will also be looking to see something special from 2013 second-rounder Johnthan Banks, who has all of the potential to be a starter in the NFL. With Eric Wright coming off a disappointing 2012 season and the Buccaneers hoping to improve on their league-worst pass defense, other players such as Anthony Gaitor and Leonard Johnson will also get the opportunity to impress during training camp.
Another big change was made this offseason when the Buccaneers nabbed DaShon Goldson, one of the top up-and-coming safeties in the NFL. Goldson is a ferocious, hard-hitting safety who should help the Buccaneers improve on their pitiful pass defense. He’ll team with Mark Barron, who’s coming off an impressive rookie campaign. Others like Cody Grimm, Ahmad Black and Keith Tandy will battle for the backup roles.
When it comes to special teams, everything is pretty straight forward for the Buccaneers. Barring an injury, Connor Barth will be the starting kicker and Michael Koenen will handle punting and kick off duties. While it’s still unclear who will be the main returners, Michael Smith, Matt Brown and Chris Owusu could all be in the mix during training camp.