With Buccaneers’ training camp now within arm’s reach, players and coaches will be prepping their minds this weekend to get back to a daily grind. New coaches are eager to build rapport with players. Players are excited to finally be able to hit again while they dissect the playbook.
With camp comes that intense Tampa Bay heat and teammates for a short span of time will become natural competitors. For the Buccaneers, all eyes will be on the new additions to the team. Especially some highly-praised rookies.
More specifically, there are five training camp battles that may very well set the course for the starters come Week 1 when Kwon Alexander visits Tampa Bay for his debut game as a San Francisco 49er.
Training Camp Battles To Watch
1. Anthony Nelson and Noah Spence
The battle for starting edge rusher opposite of Carl Nassib will be one of the more closely monitored ones throughout training camp. Starting edge rusher, Jason Pierre-Paul, will possibly be lost for the majority of the year which now puts added pressure on the younger pass rushers to step up.
Noah Spence may very well be on his last strike for the Buccaneers this year, so it will be expected that he will be playing for more than a roster spot. On the other hand, Anthony Nelson looks the part of a young Nassib in the making. He’s versatile and constantly gets after the quarterback, which he showed at Iowa.
2. Earl Watford and Alex Cappa
This isn’t speculation, but fact: Right guard will without a doubt be the most-watched training camp battle over the next two weeks. Easily the Achilles heel of the roster, right guard was brushed over as a need in both free agency and the draft.
As it stands now, 29-year-old Watford (who is now on his sixth team) is the projected week one starter. His backup, second-year guard Alex Cappa, has had a poor camp, to say the least. The outcome here looks rather bleak anyway you put it. If Watford beats out Cappa, then Cappa probably isn’t cut out for this team. If Cappa is named the starter, I’m genuinely scared for Tampa Bay’s running backs. Keep a close eye on this one.
3. Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting
Going into training camp, Vernon Hargreaves and Carlton Davis will be the starting cornerbacks… for now. Sean Murphy-Bunting took over minicamp and OTAs earlier this year, displaying his ball-hawking skills with a highlight reel of interceptions. The second-round pick has a lot of expectations this season, joining a Tampa Bay secondary that was mediocre at best last year.
Now, Davis didn’t have too bad a minicamp showing himself, but overall Murphy-Bunting put his name on the map while Davis just solidified his current position. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out.
4. Matt Gay and Cairo Santos
This position battle is interesting only because it will be a major talking point in Jason Licht’s contract renewals coming up after the 2019 season. Licht had his hand in drafting (yet again) another kicker in the NFL draft. Albeit, a fifth-round pick this time, the Matt Gay selection will be talked about all throughout the season.
It seems like a no-brainer that the kicker you just spent a draft pick on will be your day 1 starter, but crazier things have happened in Tampa Bay. If Santos were to miraculously nudge out Gay to retain his kicker position, it would not look pretty for a certain general manager next year.
5. Scotty Miller and Justin Watson
This position battle will be friendly at best. Competing for the fourth spot on the wide receiver depth chart, Scotty Miller and Justin Watson both look to make lasting impressions early and often during training camp.
Watson is the second-year, big-bodied speedster out of the University of Pennsylvania who was buried behind a stacked depth chart last year, but has plenty of potential.
Miller, the sixth-round rookie from Bowling Green, plays a game similar to the recently departed receiver, DeSean Jackson. He consistently used his speed and soft hands during OTAs to expose cornerbacks down the field. So this will be an exciting battle to watch. And it all starts today.