Any seasoned NFL fan can tell you how important training camp is - there is no need in discussing that topic.
The first real look at the 2018 Bucs will begin when veterans report to training camp on July 25th. It’s anyone’s guess as to how camp will play out, with the main goal being the health of the players.
Let’s take a look at some topics that are bound to spring up during training camp.
Just missed the cut: The battle at RG.
1) Will Ronald Jones II take over as the No. 1 back?
Bucs Nation’s own James Yarcho and David Harrison discussed the expectations for Jones in his rookie year a couple of weeks ago on their Locked On Bucs podcast. Expectations are pretty high for the former USC Trojan, as they should be.
RoJo’s talent and game-breaking abilities give the Bucs a running back they really haven’t had since Warrick Dunn. In a crowded but not-so-talented backfield, he should be able to step up and take the starting spot by the end of training camp and the preseason.
His main competition will likely be Peyton Barber, who had a very good finish to the 2017 season. Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims have experience in the system, but that’s the only advantage they hold over Jones.
2) The improvement of the defensive line
Arguably the most important detail of the offseason, all eyes will be on the revamped defensive line. There is no where to go but up in 2018, but it remains to be seen if the Bucs can get there.
Jason Pierre-Paul, Vita Vea, Beau Allen, Vinny Curry, and Mitch Unrein were all brought in during the offseason to give All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy the most help he has had since he was drafted.
The wildcard here is a healthy and hulked-out Noah Spence. As we all know, he had a tremendous rookie year before landing on IR early in 2017. If he can bounce back, then there should be an immediate improvement to the pass rush.
3) Chris Godwin continues his upward trajectory
Buccaneers.com’s Scott Smith recently stated that Adam Humphries is well-entrenched as Tampa Bay’s slot receiver, which is justified considering he is coming off of a career year, but it runs incongruous with the recent reports and expectations for second-year receiver Chris Godwin.
Smith also mentioned that offensive coordinator Todd Monken stated Godwin “had earned the right” to start. You know football is back whenever inconsistent statements, analysis, and opinions are floating around!
The top of the depth chart seems pretty straightforward. Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson are obvious starters on Day One, although Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken said that second-year man Chris Godwin has “earned the right” to start, as well. - Scott Smith, buccaneers.com
Regardless of what happens with Godwin, it will be important to keep tabs on his development during camp. If he continues the pace he was on from last season then he will add another valuable weapon to the Bucs’ offense.
4) Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jameis Winston, and the first-team offense
We all know that Winston is suspended for three games, but he will be allowed to practice with the team during training camp. What does this mean for Fitzpatrick and the first-team offense?
Will there be an even share of reps? Will it lean more in the favor of Winston? Should Fitz get more reps at this point?
You can’t blame Dirk Koetter and co if they decide to give Fitz as much practice time as possible, but you also can’t blame them for wanting to give Winston as much as possible considering the fact he won’t be able to practice with the team while he’s suspended.
It’s quite the decision to make, but that’s why these guys get paid millions of dollars.
5) Can one of the rookie cornerbacks crack the starting rotation?
It wasn’t just Tampa Bay’s defensive line that held the defense back last season. A bad pass rush coupled with a bad secondary made life hell in 2017.
It became apparent that the Bucs would try and improve the secondary through the draft when the only move they made in free agency was the re-signing of Keith Tandy and Brent Grimes.
M.J. Stewart and Carlton Davis were both drafted in the second round back in April. Stewart’s versatility and Davis’ size will - amongst other factors - be key in whether or not both players see the field early on.
One of them should be able to at least get involved in the base and sub-package rotations. If that happens in camp, then expect the Bucs’ secondary to drastically improve.