What To Watch For: Buccaneers Rookies In Training Camp


It’s that time of year! The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are reporting to training camp. First in the door is this year’s group of rookies. And while I won’t go as far as to call this a rebuild, there is certainly a re-tooling going on with the Buccaneers.

This year’s group of rookies is as interesting as we’ve seen in some time. Many of these young players are expected to have an impact role on this team, including at least two starters. What are the expectations for this young class in training camp? I break them down.

Calijah Kancey

Kancey was the ACC defensive player of the year with Pittsburgh last season. He’s an undersized penetration style defensive tackle who lives to make plays in the backfield. Between his unreal, athletic ability, relentless motor and refined skill he should step into the league right away and make an impact.

I’m not expecting too much from Kancey in camp. Contact will be limited, which makes it hard for a trench player to really show off what they’re capable of. However, his excellent, athletic ability should flash from time to time.

The one question he needs to answer is regarding his lack of length. At 6 feet tall with short arms Kancey is certainly an outlier amongst NFL defensive tackles. He will lose the reach battle in every situation. Whether or not this will negatively impact his NFL career is yet to be seen.

We may get an idea of this in camp, but we won’t really know until live game action. I’m looking forward to the preseason games to see what he’s capable of against bigger, faster, stronger trench players. At this point, I don’t expect it to hinder him too much, although he will lose reps from time to time.

Cody Mauch 

It’s hard coming from a smaller school and jumping right into the big leagues. Even harder when you’re expected to step in right away and be a starter. That is the expectation for Cody Mauch this year.

The North Dakota State left tackle impressed at the senior bowl with his athletic ability and his tenacity as a blocker. Now with the Buccaneers, he will be moving inside, which should help him pass protection. However, he still has to refine his hand placement and learn a new position against more athletic competition.

This will be no small task. I will be watching Mauch with great interest to see if he can hold up against NFL power while learning a new position and refining his technique. This is something we should be able to see in training camp, and even more so in the preseason. 

We should know fairly quickly if Mauch is ready to start day one for the Buccaneers or not.

Yaya Diaby

You can never have too many athletic pass rushers. Yaya Diaby is expected to step in and immediately contribute as part of the Buccaneers pass rush rotation. His blend of athletic ability and physicality looks like it will translate well to the NFL quickly.

In fact, many believe he could challenge to be a starter on this defense. That thought process might be a little premature. However, if Diaby lives up to his potential, he could certainly be an impact player in the league.

The thing I’ll be watching in training camp is for him to refine his pass rush arsenal. While speed and power is great, hand usage could certainly be improved. Developing a few good pass rush moves is the next steps for Diaby and would go a long way in helping him find his footing in the league.

SirVocea Dennis

There is a pathway for SirVocea Dennis to be a starter this time next year. With Lavonte David getting older and the future of Devin White uncertain, the development of Dennis will be important this year. 

This is a well rounded talent at linebacker. He thrives at making plays in the backfield, and is a strong tackler. He also has the athletic ability to be a good player in coverage. For him it’s just a matter of showing he can do it at the NFL level consistently.

More than anything I just want to see Dennis get reps. Learning under Lavonte David and getting as much practice time as possible for him. The more I see of Dennis, the happier I’ll be this preseason.

Payne Durham

Payne Durham is a niche player. He fits a role in that role is catching the ball and blocking. Not running, not getting separation; just catching the ball when it’s thrown to him and punching the man lined up across from him in the mouth.

He will be a factor in short yardage situations. Ideally, he will help the team in the running game this year and be a red zone target. That’s really all we can expect from him over the course of his career but if he can do it effectively year one then that would be great.

We know his hands are good and he’s not a great athlete to gain separation, so we should see more of what he’s already done a college in the NFL. The one thing I don’t know he can do at the NFL level is block. He has the frame to do it, but he has to show he can do it in the bigger, faster, stronger league.

Josh Hayes

There is a great opportunity for Josh Hayes going into training camp. The starting nickel job is wide open and that is what they drafted him to do. Whether he’s able to win it or not is yet to be seen.

This should make for one of the more interesting camp battles this preseason. I have my doubts that he can secure this job, but he will get every chance to do so. Going up against the likes of Chris Godwin or Russell Gage in the slot will give the team an idea of what he can do.

Trey Palmer

Speed, speed, speed. Trey Palmer has the blazing speed that every team covets. It’s everything else that he has to prove in this league.

Palmer’s speed element is something that no other wide receiver on the roster brings, so seeing how the team utilizes it will be interesting to watch. Even more than that, I want to see if he can develop as a route runner and consistent catcher to become a long term piece. 

If he ends up just being a situational gadget player then that’s okay, but to emerge as a Mike Wallace type of role player would be even better.

Jose Ramirez

This was one of my favorite late round draft prospects. His bend around the edge and technique should translate well to the NFL. I believe Jose Ramirez can be a valuable rotational pass rusher this year.

However, there’s a big difference between showing this ability at Eastern Michigan and doing it in the NFL. I am interested to see how he looks against the likes of Tristian Wirfs in practice and established veterans in the preseason.

Christian Izien 

One of two I drafted free agents I expect to make the team, Christian Izien is one of the players I’m most interested in watching. Much like Hayes, Izien will have a great opportunity to win the starting nickle job. I believe he can and he will.

Izien is athletic, physical and highly intelligent. If he wasn’t 5’9 then I believe he would have been drafted early on day three. He has all the makings of a UDFA success story.

Sean Tucker

Sean Tucker was my fourth ranked running back in the 2023 NFL draft. If he hadn’t had a medical red flag at the combine then I believe he could have been drafted in the second round. In terms of talent, this might be the best running back on the Buccaneers’ roster.

When he is healthy, I am expecting some wow plays from Tucker this preseason. His has explosive speed and can take any play to the house at any moment. He might be at the bottom of the depth chart now, but I expect him to work his way up to the second running back behind Rachaad White by the start of the season.

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