The Tampa Bay Buccaneers start training camp tomorrow, with rookies and veterans already in the building and talking to the press—and HBO camera’s tracking their every movement for Hard Knocks.
After a 9-7 finish last year, the Bucs hope that they’re finally ready to actually get to the playoffs after ten years of nothing. They have to get through training camp first, though, see the position battles play out and hope they stay as healthy as possible—injuries are somewhat unavoidable in the NFL, but avoiding catastrophic ones isn’t much of a stretch.
So with training camp just about to start, let’s go through some of the most important things you need to know to follow it properly. Specifically: the top position battles, and the dates and times of each practice that is open to the public.
Buccaneers 2017 top five position battles
The Bucs don’t have a ton of position battles this year, but there are a few worth looking out for. Ironically, the toughest battle is one between two kickers—not exactly something to look forward to.
Kicker: Nick Folk vs. Roberto Aguayo
Will Roberto Aguayo be able to recover from last year’s fiasco and redeem himself as a second-round draft pick, or is it game over?
Slot receiver: Adam Humphries vs. Cameron Brate vs. Chris Godwin
The Bucs aren’t going to take Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson off the field much, and O.J. Howard should be the team’s main in-line tight end. But in the slot there’s plenty of competition—Humphries is the most natural fit, but Brate did very well as a receiving tight end last year in a similar role, and Godwin’s a third-round pick who made a splash in offseason workouts.
Running back: Doug Martin vs. Jacquizz Rodgers vs. Charles Sims
This is going to be one of the key questions for the Bucs’ offense: will Doug Martin be able to get back to form? If he can, he should have no problem handling Rodgers—in which case the main battle will be between Rodgers and Sims for the position of receiving back. If Martin can’t recover, this position gets even messier.
Safety: Four-way free-for-all
No one knows who will start at safety this year. Chris Conte has the most experience but has too many ‘oops’ moments. Keith Tandy did very well in limited time last year, but is that enough to earn a starting job? The Bucs brought in J.J. Wilcox but he hasn’t been healthy so far, and is mostly a box safety. Finally, the team has high hopes for explosive second-rounder Justin Evans, but he was very raw in college and has to recover from an injury that kept him out all offseason, too.
Third cornerback: Who even knows?
The Bucs will start Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves on the outside, but who will win the third spot? And will they separate the slot cornerback from the first backup on the outside? Plenty of choices here: Josh Robinson has the experience, Jude Adjei-Barimah youth and a few promising performances, Javien Elliott tantalizing talent, Ryan Smith some added status as a 2016 fourth-round pick, and Robert McClain has experience and a track record under defensive coordinator Mike Smith. Your guess is as good as mine.
The Bucs appear to have come out of the offseason fairly unscathed. The only player who will start training on the Physically Unable To Perform list is defensive end Jacquies Smith, who’s recovering from a torn ACL he suffered at the start of the 2016 season.
Other than that, the Bucs have had some injuries this offseason, but all of those players appear to be healthy enough to participate in practice. That includes safeies Justin Evans and J.J. Wilcox, guard J.R. Sweezy, and defensive ends Noah Spence and Robert Ayers.
Buccaneers 2017 training camp schedule
Training camp runs from July 28 through August 26, when the Bucs play the Cleveland Browns in the third game of the preseason. They’re scheduled to have 13 open practices, and an additional 10 practices that are either closed, or open to members only.
Buccaneers 2017 practices
Friday, July 28, 8:45-10:30 a.m.
Saturday, July 29, 8:45-10:30 a.m.
Sunday, July 30, 8:45-10:40 a.m.
Monday, July 31 - Closed practice, military appreciation day
Tuesday, August 1 - Closed practice
Wednesday, August 2, 8:45-10:50 a.m.
Thursday, August 3 - Open to members only
Friday, August 4, 8:45-10:50 a.m.
Saturday, August 5, 8:45-10:50 a.m.
Sunday, August 6, Closed practice
Monday, August 7, 8:45-10:50 a.m.
Tuesday, August 9, Open to members only
Wednesday, August 9, 8:45-10:50 a.m.
Thursday, August 10, Closed practice
Friday, August 11, Preseason game 1 @ Bengals, 7:30 p.m.
August 12-16, Closed practices
Thursday, August 17, Preseason game 2 @ Jaguars, 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, August 19, 9:45-11:50 a.m.
Sunday, August 20, 8:45-10:50 a.m.
Monday, August 21, Closed practice
Tuesday, August 22, 8:45-10:50 a.m.
Wednesday, August 23, 8:45-10:50 a.m.
Thursday, August 24, 8:45-10:50 a.m.
Friday, August 25, Closed practice
Saturday, August 26, Preseason game 3 vs. Browns, 7:30 p.m.
Week 1: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Cincinnati Bengals, Friday, August 11, 7:30 p.m.
Week 2: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Jacksonville Jaguars (ESPN, 8 p.m.), Thursday, Aug. 17
Week 3: Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Saturday, August 26, 7:30 p.m.
Week 4: Washington at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Thursday, August 31, 7:30 p.m