The Tampa Bay Buccaneers report to training camp in a little more than a week. Players will finally be back on the field and the preseason will be right around the corner. At long last football will be back (sort of).
For an established team like the Bucs there aren’t a ton of questions to be answered. We know this team is one of the best in the NFL and most roster spots are already locked up. However, there are still a few story lines to keep an eye on.
Here are a few that I’ll be watching closely.
Left Guard Battle
One of the only starting jobs not established is at left guard. With Ali Marpet retiring unexpectedly in the offseason the Bucs were left without a clear plan moving forward. Luckily, the team had built some depth and added young talent to the interior offensive line in the last two drafts.
Luke Goedeke was drafted in the second round in 2022 and Robert Hainsey was drafted in the third round in 2021. Both are expected to compete for the starting job and have reasonably high expectations due to their draft positions. However, winning that job will be no easy task.
Aaron Stinnie is the veteran the young guys will have to beat out. Despite not being a starter last year, it feels as if he is the incumbent in this position. Much of that is due to him starting in the playoffs and the Super Bowl when Alex Cappa went down with injury.
In reality, it’s unclear who the favorite is to win this job. Stinnie has an early edge as the coaching staff already knows and trusts him, but it’s anyone’s job to win. Personally, I like Goedeke to eventually take this job going into the regular season.
The Buccaneers have already made the decision to cut punter Bradley Pinion and replace him with rookie Jake Camarda. This was no surprise after the team drafted Camarda in the fourth round of the most recent draft.
Now the rookie has to live up to his lofty draft position. When you draft a punter that early he has to step in right away and be excellent. Taking over kickoff and punt duties has to be a seamless transition. Any hint of struggles will be noteworthy, if not concerning.
With the kicker battle, it seems like an open competition between returning starter Ryan Succup and Jose Borregalas. Succup has been solid and consistent, although not spectacular during his time in Tampa Bay. Dethroning him won’t necessarily be an easy task, but don’t rule Borregalas out.
Sean Murphy-Bunting has had his share of ups and downs. Now in a contract year he is looking to really establish himself in the league. He will have to play his best football this year for a number of reasons.
Perhaps the biggest reason is the team brought in competition to potentially take this job. Logan Ryan is a safety who does much of his work as a nickel. He brings a lot of experience and in a win now year there’s no doubt the Buccaneers will go with the better option right now.
Whether that’s Murphy-Bunting or Ryan is yet to be seen. However, if Murphy-Bunting doesn’t win his job back then his long term future with the team is very much in doubt. I expect this to be the most competitive battle in camp.
Depth Pass Catchers
We all know the big names like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Cam Brate and even Russell Gage. However, it’s unclear how the depth behind these guys plays out.
At receiver it is a deep field of competition. Scotty Miller, Breshad Perriman, Tyler Johnson, Jaelon Darden and many more will look to cement themselves as part of this team. Unfortunately, most of the receivers in camp will eventually be cut, including some familiar names.
Every rep will be important for these guys, including what they can do on special teams. The Buccaneers will need to solidify their depth here after seeing their receiver room falling apart towards the end of last season.
For tight end, I’ll be watching the progress of rookies Cade Otton and Ko Kieft. Rookies typically adjust to the league slowly, but the Buccaneers may be counting on them for meaningful playing time this year. If one of these two can emerge in training camp then it would put the Bucs in a good spot.
If both, or even one, struggle as rookies then the team might look to add outside help.
The Buccaneers top pick in the 2022 draft will certainly have my attention. Logan Hall was the 33rd overall pick out of Houston and is expected to play a meaningful role as a pass rusher. How he’ll find his way onto the field is yet to be seen.
Hall brings great versatility. Many feel he’s a natural 5 technique, which is where veteran Will Gholston plays. He’s also someone who is projected to play 3 technique where he’ll compete for time with newcomer Akiem Hicks.
To see how Todd Bowles will use him as well as his overall development will make Hall a big attraction. I expect to be hearing his name called a lot during training camp and for Hall to be the single biggest individual player to watch.
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