It’s hard to believe the Buccaneers are 10 practices into training camp already. Doesn’t it feel like Bruce Arians was just announced as the new head coach yesterday?
Quarterbacks are the “star” of the game. Fans are hopeful that the Buccaneers will improve upon their 5-11 record from last season, and it all starts (and ends) with the signal-caller.
Photo credit: businessobserverfl.com
Winston seems like he’s starting to get more comfortable under the new offense, and his recent performance at practice displays this. Tuesday at camp was no different. He’s commanding his throws to open targets, scrambling when pressured, and getting out of bounds when there’s nothing open. This might sound simple, and even more simple when it’s against your own team in camp. However, practicing the timing of connecting with receivers, vision downfield, and footwork mechanics are critical.
Bucs Nation will get its first look at how practice has been treating Winston this week. It’s not easy to predict what Arians has planned, but it’s expected that he’ll step in for one drive at the most in Pittsburgh on Friday.
There’s no denying that Lavonte David is an integral part of the Bucs defense. The loss of David heading into the preseason is huge, but not insurmountable. And the timing of his surgery may just work out. If all goes as planned with rehab and recovery, he should be back on the field to start the regular season. In the meantime, there is depth at the linebacker position, most notably newcomer Buccaneer Deone Bucannon. After all, his last name has “Buc” and “cannon” in it… it was destiny that Arians snatched him from the claws of the Cardinals to play for his team in Tampa Bay.
A strong safety by nature, he was selected with the 27th overall pick in the 2014 draft. In 2016, he started playing exclusively at the linebacker position.
In Arizona, Bucannon played in 70 of 80 games (starting 56). His stats included two interceptions (one for a 39-yard touchdown), 12 passes-defended, seven forced fumbles. In the tackle category, he’s been even more impressive with solo tackles of 311, 93 assists, 27 tackles for loss and 14 quarterback hits. Bucs Nation knows the team always needs more of that kind of defensive presence. He’s no Lavonte David, but there’s no reason why he can’t live up to be. Trust that Arians had enough faith in the versatile player to bring Bucannon aboard.
From what is known of the first depth chart of the preseason, Bucannon will be lining up as starter at David’s usual spot. But he and Kevin Minter, who also played under Arians and Todd Bowles in Arizona, have both been getting plenty of reps at training camp.
Running Back Battle
While the running back battle might not be as daunting as the wide receiver battle, it is still interesting. Though he started out of the gate slow, Ronald Jones has really stepped it up in practice. He’s shown a lot of speed, cutback ability, and ball-catching focus. It’s unlikely that he’ll supplant Peyton Barber, but he’s certainly showing in camp that he can if called upon. I see Andre Ellington easily holding onto the third spot and not letting go. He has the smarts, quickness and ball-handling skills to get the job done.
There is one more practice Thursday before the Bucs head to Pittsburgh for the exhibition opener. It’s only preseason, but what fun it will be to watch.