Training camp is just around the corner as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers begin to prepare for the 2018 regular season. The rookies will report on July 23rd, while the veterans will report on July 25th. The first practice is scheduled for July 26th.
Every year, there are always surprises with certain teams, whether it be a player who outperformed expectations, or a player who underperformed. It’s almost certain Tampa Bay will have a few names on each side of the spectrum, and I am here to give my predictions on who may fall in these categories.
The first person I expect to exceed expectations is Vinny Curry. Curry is heading into his first season as a Buccaneer after spending the first six years of his career in Philadelphia. There are a few reasons why I think Curry will exceed expectations. The first being that he simply didn’t have a great opportunity to rush the passer the last few seasons because of the depth on the Eagles defensive line. According to Pro Football Focus, Curry ranked fifth among right defensive ends in total pressures with 45 and he did so in a lot less snaps than the players ahead of him. Curry did only have three sacks last season, but stats don’t always tell the full story and in this case they didn’t. In addition to his three sacks, Curry added 17 quarterback hits, which was a career high for him, per PFF.
The second reason I expect him to exceed expectations is because I really think that he will be able to exploit one-on-one matchups on the outside with Gerald McCoy and possibly even Jason Pierre-Paul constantly seeing double teams. When you take into account that Curry will be playing a lot more critical snaps then he did last season, it’s hard to imagine him not having an increase in all statistical categories. I think a fair expectation is somewhere between 6-8 sacks and 34-38 tackles. Both would be a huge increase from last season.
The second player who has a chance to exceed expectations in my opinion is Carlton Davis. Davis, to me, should be the starter opposite of Brent Grimes on the outside from day one. I think the Buccaneers know that Vernon Hargreaves III is better off in the slot, which really gives Davis the inside path during training camp to start on the outside. He is a big physical press corner who will succeed if the Buccaneers allow him to play his style.
Davis accumulated some impressive stats per PFF during his 2017 season at Auburn. One thing I really like about Davis is his position flexibility. He isn’t the type of corner to just play on one side of the field. During 2017, Davis took 164 snaps on the right side and 180 snaps on the left side. That type of versatility is key because it allows Tampa Bay to be much more creative with their schemes. Davis allowed a 25.0% contested catch rate, which was good for the third lowest amongst the 2018 draft class. PFF also graded Davis as the 8th best cornerback in the class and he only allowed a catch on 49.1% of the passes thrown this way. With the league becoming very pass heavy, Davis has a chance to shine from day one. I expect him to take full control of his opportunity and cement himself as the team’s future No. 1 cornerback.
You never want to think about possible disappointments, but it’s inevitable, especially with these Buccaneers. A player who could be a disappointment is Demar Dotson.
Dotson has been a Buccaneer for his whole career and has done a pretty solid job of stabilizing the right tackle position for many years, but injuries have started to take their toll. Dotson has not played a full season since 2014, which should concern Tampa Bay as they head into the season. Despite the injuries, when healthy, Dotson has been a very good right tackle and puts up impressive numbers. According to PFF, Dotson was the 8th best tackle last season with an overall grade of 14.1. That includes both left and right tackles. Of course, Dotson did miss several games, but 11 games is a pretty decent sample size. For those wondering, that overall grade has pass blocking, run blocking, screen blocking and penalties factored into it.
It would be great if Dotson can stay healthy, but I’m not betting on it and that’s why I think he will be a disappointment. His knees are shot and there are only so many more snaps the soon to be 33-year-old has left in him. I think we will see Caleb Benenoch and Alex Cappa starting on the right side of the offensive line come late November.
The second player who could disappoint is DeSean Jackson, again. Clearly last year was a let down and I feel like this year has the makings of another let down. There have been talks of the team moving Jackson into the slot and letting Chris Godwin start opposite of Evans, but nothing is set in stone as of now. Of course that will all be handled during training camp.
Jackson is still one of the fastest receivers in the league, so it isn’t his ability that has me concerned, it’s the coaching staffs ability to put him in the best possible position to succeed. Not only does Jackson need targets, but so does Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, Ronald Jones and Adam Humphries. It’s going to be tough to manage, but the most important thing will be allowing Jackson to work in space and eventually completing the deep ball. Time will tell on whether the coaching staff with solve this puzzle.