The Tampa Bay Buccaneers start their mandatory mini-camp today, which will run through Thursday. The team starts with physicals today and will have five practices over the next three days. This is generally the most intense and relevant part of the offseason program, prior to training camp. So let’s take a look at a five things to watch this week.
What’s up with Austin Seferian-Jenkins?
All the talent in the world, and some bone-headed decisions off the field. It’s not clear how the Bucs view him at this point: do they see him as a number one tight end, as the only explosive and all-around tight end on the roster? Or is he more of a sub-package player, like he was at the end of last season? If blocking specialist Luke Stocker and underneath tight end Cameron Brate are taking snaps with the first team ahead of Seferian-Jenkins, that doesn't bode well for his role on the team this season.
Kick and punt returners
The Bucs haven't had a good punt or kick returner since 2010. Every offseason, they have to look for players who can at least hold on to the ball while fielding punts. And every season, they go through several options at both returner positions. This year promises to be more of the same: there’s no clear return man, either for punts or kickoffs. In fact, there’s not even a clear group of players who could fulfill those roles to choose from. We should have a clearer picture by the end of mini-camp, but this battle probably won’t be decided until the end of training camp.
So far, Alterraun Verner and Brent Grimes look like the starting cornerbacks, with Vernon Hargreaves coming onto the field as the third cornerback — whether he'll man the slot or stay on the outside remains to be seen. There’s also Johnthan Banks, who looked like an up-and-coming starting cornerback just two years ago, and free agent signing Josh Robinson, who hasn’t made much noise this offseason. Finally, second-year cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah had an intriguing if inconsistent rookie season. Will he earn a spot on the roster?
How is Jameis Winston handling his new responsibilities?
The Bucs are giving more and more responsibilities to Jameis Winston, a natural progression for young quarterbacks. Winston will have to handle more of the pre-snap duties, likely calling more protections, and will also have to adjust to more no-huddle plays. And with all of that, he’ll also have to rein in some of his aggressiveness — overly risky throws were a constant for Winston last offseason and early in the regular season. Winston is a naturally risky passer, much like Brett Favre, and that will probably always mean a few more turnovers than most top quarterbacks, but there needs to be some sense of restraint.
How’s Kenny Bell?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted Kenny Bell in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL draft, and placed on him injured reserve at the end of the offseason with what was likely a relatively short-term injury. Bell never got on the field as a rookie because of that, but he did hang around the coaching staff and focused on understanding the playbook, and even did some scouting work for the team. The question is: can he earn significant playing time this offseason? He has the speed and the size to do so and even develop into a starter down the line, but he’ll have to beat out several other players for playing time. Most notably, diminutive slot specialist Adam Humphries, and second-year undrafted free agent Donteea Dye. The Bucs have a lot of players with potential at receiver, though they don't have a lot of proven depth. Bell could take a few big steps toward securing a large role on offense.