The players are out watching the new G.I. Joe movie. And deservedly so, they just finished the first week in training camp, one that was more physical than the last few seasons due to Coach Morris' mandate on wearing pads and hitting. We've seen and heard alot about the Bucs in the last week, but what have we learned? With week one fully in the books, let's take a position by position stop around the team and recap the first week of the Tampa Bay Buccaneer's 2009 training camp.
Quarterback - We all know about the expectations, question marks, and relative inexperience at the quarterback position. But how is the battle shaping up? Josh Johnson, though not performing poorly, seems like a man destined for the practice squad, either here or with another team. Josh Freeman has had ups and downs. The young gun definitely has the arm strength, but as you'd expect, he's still green. A three interception day in camp is not what you want to see. At this point, I'd expect him to have a clipboard in hand come opening day. The last two are the vets, Byron Leftwich and Luke McCown. They'll be battling for the job all camp long. McCown has been fairly level while Leftwich started slow and has come on towards the end of the week. It'll be interesting to see who wins out. No one seems to separate themselves from the pack. I wonder if it's possible that Johnson could be kept on over Leftwich or McCown? Too soon to tell.
Running Back -Here we have the four headed monster. Earnest Graham has looked good, even ripping up equipment and ending a drill early when he pulled a cord off the goalposts. Derrick Ward is a bit hobbled right now, with his foot in a walking boot. Let's hope it's nothing serious. We need him this year. Clifton Smith is Mr. Everything right now, hitting special teams and running back. Cadillac is back at it on the field, looking good. His hands are still suspect, but he will be a valuable commodity during the year. No real movement on the depth chart here. Graham and Ward (assuming both are healthy) are the guys here.
Wide Receiver/Tight End - We know what we have in Antonio Bryant, and he hasn't let us down yet. Michael Clayton has come on strong in camp and looks like a number two receiver. The battle for the third spot continues and each day a new receiver has a strong day. Today was Cortez Hankton, but Brian Clark, Sammy Stroughter and even new addition Mario Urrutia have come on strong. Dexter Jackson started off strong but in recent days has started shying from contact again and dropping passes, not a good combo. Winslow and Stevens are known commodities and while Winslow was called out for his emotional outbursts, it's nothing we didn't know. As far as camp goes, no real surprises here as the top dogs are performing as such and there are some good battles going on for the lower spots
Offensive Line -Let's just hope everyone stays healthy. Jeff Faine is out with a groin injury and with Arron Sears still not in camp, we can't afford any more losses. The line is still adapting to the new zone scheme and for every great play and correct read, they have one that doesn't look so good. But that's to be expected in training camp.
Defensive Line -Big movers here. Gaines has been called out by the coach for a double digit sack year. Stylez G. White and Jimmy Wilkerson are having alright camps, but not spectacular. Chris Hovan hasn't had his name called much and I'd imagine he and Ryan Sims are incumbents in name only. The guys making some noise are newbies Kyle Moore and Roy Miller. Moore has been everywhere in the backfield drawing praise and Miller has been eating up the middle. I'd like to see Gaines get to the QB more and be more aggressive. This group, although the rookies are playing well, needs to step it up
Linebacker -Let's start with Barrett Ruud. I'm just happy he's in camp without that new contract. We need him to be a leader and he is doing just that. Jermaine Phillips can still hit you, but his reads have got to improve. He's learning on the job, and that will have some bumps in the road, but let's go Flip, you're a linebacker now. Geno Hayes may not be turning heads, but he's been alright. Consistent with only a few big plays. The big game changer thus far? Quincy Black. I hope his performance translates to the field. His performance in camp has been great and if he can make it count on Sundays then we have a pretty good player here.
Defensive Back -This group, well, it's been tough. Much like the OL, for every good play, there's a bad play. Ronde Barber has actually been fairly solid in the new scheme, something most Bucs fans didn't expect. Elbert Mack has been on fire, making play after play after play. Smart money is on him to be no worse than second string. The surprise? Aqib Talib and his poor play. He's been beaten, missed some tackles, just seems in a funk. Hope he can find his form quickly. The safety position has been quiet, with Tanard Jackson and Sabby Piscitelli making few plays, but also being somewhat solid in coverage. Will Allen looks to be in the mix as a rotating player.
Special Teams - Josh Bidwell is doing his thing. The kicking battle is close. Though Mike Nugent has missed more kicks, I'd say he's in the lead just based on Matt Bryant sitting out with a leg injury. Bryant has to get back into camp and make some kicks to show he's the man in Tampa. Several players have been returning kicks and punts. Clifton has been back there, Sammy Stroughter, Elbert Mack, even Cadillac. Alot of faces back there, but it's gonna be Clifton's job to lose.
So there you have it, a quick run around camp position by position. As far as dominating story lines, here you go
- Padding up: Players in full pads and live hitting in most drills. Not usual for Bucs camp
- No rest for the weary: The cool down tent is gone, get used to the heat
- McCown running with the ones: He's had first crack most days with the first team, followed by Leftwich
- Cadillac is back: Hasn't missed a practice, good to have you back
- Injuries: The lack of injuries is a great thing, though a few players have been dinged up
- All players in camp: Outside of Sears, every player has been in camp, another good sign
Practice starts back up tomorrow morning and is followed with an afternoon session. Hope the players enjoyed the night off, it's a full day tomorrow.