It’s June. OTAs and minicamp are over. But even though it’s the “dead period” of the offseason, one could make an argument that it’s never too early to look ahead to the Bucs’ upcoming training camp.
And even if it’s a losing argument, guess what? We are going to look ahead, anyway.
Per the usual, the post will go in ascending order.
10. Keeping history intact
This is arguably the most important storyline for the Bucs during training camp, but it’s also the most obvious, so that’s why it’s at the bottom of the list. Regardless, the only thing that will derail a shot at going for two in 2021 is injuries. The Bucs have to come out of camp healthy.
9. Where does Robert Hainsey end up on the depth chart?
Bruce Arians has been adamant about Hainsey’s ability to play all five positions on the Bucs offensive line, but where he plays during training camp will give us a big hint as to how he will be utilized. If he’s practicing mostly at center, it could mean he’s being groomed as Ryan Jensen‘s eventual replacement.
8. How will the new COVID-19 protocols affect camp?
We’re still here, unfortunately. I mean, that’s to be expected when facing a global pandemic. At least there’s been progress since last year, but the Coronavirus is still affecting the NFL’s structure.
The new COVID protocols were released Wednesday and it’s essentially the same rules as last year for those who don’t want to get vaccinated. Said players won’t be separated on the field, but they will essentially be isolated in every other regard. Will these guys be a half-step behind due to not being able to get together after practice or be there in-person for meetings? Will anyone break the visitor protocol?
We’re not out of the woods just yet. Like Arians said, if the players want normal, then they should get vaccinated. Here’s to hoping everything goes as smoothly as possible.
7. Devin White‘s next step
Tampa Bay’s defense took a big step forward in 2020, but if it wants to continue to grow then White needs to continue to develop. Especially in pass coverage. If he can do that then this defense will be an elite unit in 2021. It all starts in camp.
6. Who wins the kick returner job?
This is a big one. It’ll likely come down to Jaydon Mickens and Jaelon Darden as to who returns kicks for the Bucs in 2021. Mickens did a decent job last year but Darden is sure to give him a run in camp.
5. The potential return of O.J. Howard and Jordan Whitehead
Arians continues to say that Howard looks great and is “real close” to returning. He also has said numerous times that Whitehead will be ready for camp. But even though Arians’ statements have been encouraging and are likely accurate, it’s a different animal to actually see the guys out on the practice field participating.
4. Joe Tryon‘s role in the defense
One of the big topics of conversation surrounding the Bucs and Tryon is his versatility and how Todd Bowles will use him in this defense. We will get a good idea of this during training camp. Personally, I’d love to see Tryon line up all over the defense, but it’s not a bad idea to take it slow with the rookie so he can set up a foundation. Especially since the defense has all of its starters back for another run.
3. The battle of the backup quarterbacks
Kyle Trask, Blaine Gabbert, and Ryan Griffin will battle it out for the No. 2 and No. 3 spots behind Tom Brady. The only advantage Gabbert and Griffin have is that they’ve been in this system for multiple years. But based off what the Bucs offensive coaches are saying, it won’t be a tall task for Trask to catch up.
“My first impression was that he picked it up pretty darn quickly [and] that he’s a very accurate guy with the football,” quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen said a couple weeks ago. “The thing that’s jumped out is he’s still a rookie and we’ve thrown a lot at him. He’s swimming right now. There’s no shortcut on this thing. But he’s gotten a lot of great reps.
This should make for an interesting competition during training camp.
2. Tom Brady‘s knee
Brady had offseason knee surgery in order to get ready for 2021. Everything is going fine, but as expected, the Bucs are taking it slow with their soon-to-be 44-year-old quarterback.
“He looked fine. I had to pull him out a couple [times],” Arians said when asked about Brady’s participation during mandatory minicamp. “That first period, I said, ‘OK, you can have four [reps].’ And he kept begging to go back in. But the only thing I didn’t want him in was the blitz period, where some guys might get around him too quick.”
Brady should be good to go by the time camp rolls around, but it’s certainly something to monitor heading into camp.
1. Ronald Jones II vs. Leonard Fournette for the starting running back spot
This is easily the biggest storyline in camp. That’s because it’s really the only starting position on the entire team that will be determined in late July/August, but also because it’s two pretty big names fighting it out.
Both players were solid, but not spectacular in 2020. Jones was a finger injury and a COVID-19 absence away from reaching 1,000 yards on the ground during the regular season, but Fournette was a major factor during the playoffs. Whomever can separate themselves in the passing game and pass pro will win the job, but it just so happens to be that both of those aforementioned qualities are both players’ weak points.
But at the end of the day, it’s good to have competition, especially at a position like running back. Expect this battle to go all 12 rounds.
What are your top storylines heading into Bucs training camp? Let us know via the comment section below!