It’s that time of year again, Bucs fans, the wait is finally over! In just a few short hours, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be taking the field for their first training camp practice.
There have been a lot of significant moves made to the roster since the last time the Bucs officially took the field, and although I encourage you to pay attention to each new addition, competition and progress among all the players, here are my three key “re-up” categories that will have most impact on how far team will go.
Carl Nicks, OG – The two-time Pro Bowler is coming off a toe injury that ended his first year with Tampa Bay much earlier than Bucs fans wanted to see. Buccaneers beat writer for the Tampa Tribune, Roy Cummings, tweeted Wednesday that Nicks showed up to camp with his toe “heavily bandaged”.
@RCummingsTBO: Bucs LG Carl Nicks showed up for camp this morning with his left toe still heavily bandaged. He missed most of 2012 with that toe injury.
Despite this less-than-encouraging observations, Cummings went on to say he hasn’t heard anything from inside the organization to hint Nicks won’t be ready to suit up Thursday morning.
If Nicks can get back to his Pro-Bowl self — especially with Davin Joseph and Donald Penn healthy as well — Tampa’s running game has a chance to be atop the stat books this season.
Davin Joseph, OG – Fans may have not liked seeing Nicks get injured, but they didn’t even get to see Joseph before he went down. The Pro-Bowl guard tore his patellar tendon in the preseason of 2012, but his attitude going in 2013 could not be better.
“I plan on earning my starting spot back out of respect for what I can do today, not of what I’ve done.”
– Davin Joseph
I don’t know about you guys, but that kind of attitude from a seven-year vet and two-time Pro Bowler makes me think we can go undefeated and win the Super Bowl. Too much? Alright, I’ll try and tone it down.
In reality, the organization couldn’t have more faith in Joseph; if his body hold up, he’ll return to form, there’s no doubt about it.
Darrelle Revis, CB – The biggest question mark for Tampa Bay going into the 2013 season outside of the quarterback position is the health status and availability of newcomer Darrelle Revis. Three days ago, NFL writer, Will Brinson, wrote that team doctors have cleared Revis to participate in training camp on day one. The target for Revis’ return has always been to be active on day one of training camp, and keep progressing to be on the field Week 1 versus his former team, the New York Jets.
Tampa had a historically bad season in 2012 in terms of pass defense — ranked dead last in the league. However, acquiring the best CB in football will certainly even out the defense from 2012’s first in run defense and last in pass defense.
Josh Freeman, QB – Ah, the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Josh Freeman is the first and most important player in the rebound category. Now some of you might be saying: “Rebound? He threw for over 4,000 yards last season.” Where that is true, he also allowed his team to start the year off 1-3 and end the year 1-5 over their last six games. Let us also not forget the dreaded 2011. After starting the year off 3-1, the captain lead his team to lose 10 out of their last 11 games, finishing the year 4-12.
Where Freeman’s statistics aren’t terrible — though I could remind you he completed less than 55 percent of his passes during his 4,000-yard 2012 campaign — he needs to rebound as a captain.
Great captains don’t let teams slip like that. Great captains take control when the rest of the crew is down-and-out. Great captains have bad years, learn from their mistakes and rise to their skills.
Freeman has matured as an all-around player, but in clutch moments, he’s shown signs of heroism and signs of cluelessness. Inconsistency will be his downfall as a franchise quarterback in Tampa Bay, let’s just hope Josh believes in himself as much as his superiors do.
Mark Barron, FS – Allow him to reintroduce himself…
In his first game at Raymond James, Barron delivered one of the most punishing hits 13-year pro Steve Smith has ever taken.
In his second game at Raymond James, Barron showed RG3 that he won’t be showing star quarterbacks any mercy if they stand in his way.
(If you can’t tell already, I love that Barron is on the team)
Mark Barron is in the rebound category because he started off his pro career like this: lighting up opposing players and making his number known on every play. The rest of his season was not as pretty. Though Barron continued to tackle soundly, he seemed lost in coverage and was a liability when left by himself.
Barron has the capability to rebound — if you could even call it that, it was a his rookie year — but what most fans are looking for is progress. The unpredictable nature of Ronde Barber couldn’t have helped Barron’s learning curve in terms of positioning, but I think Goldson will be a wonderful complement to the, now very intimidating, Bucs secondary.
Dashon Goldson, SS – Goldson was Tampa’s prized possession from the 2013 free agency period. They were able to instantly replace the legendary Ronde Barber with a player in the prime of his career. Goldson is coming off back-to-back Pro Bowls and should be a great model player for Barron as well as a force in the backfield and in deep coverage. Watch for the chemistry to develop between these two in training camp and into the preseason.
Mike Williams, WR – Williams is coming off a brand new six-year $40.25 million dollar deal that was signed today (the day before training camp). The two sides had been negotiating for quite some time and it seems like they both got what they wanted; Williams got the money he asked for, and the Bucs didn’t have to pay a top 20 WR top 20 WR money.
Normally, when you see deal done right before training camp it’s to assure the player won’t hold out on team activities; this was never the case with Williams. He has always been motivated and this just shows that the Bucs continue to mold their culture of football around taking care of their own guys.
The Bucs are dealing all the cards in Freeman’s favor: happy WR core, Pro-Bowl O-lineman and a young dynamic RB. Watch for Freeman and Williams to build upon their chemistry.
Peyton Hillis, RB – On Tuesday, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reported that the Bucs stuck a one-year deal with former Cheifs RB Peyton Hillis. Hillis rushed for over 1,000 yards in 2010, but has been quite disappointing since then. However, Hillis is still only 27 years old and provides a strong goal-line and short-yardage presence in the RB rotation. Look for how often Hillis is used in training camp and what type of role Schiano gives him; he could be in on some key moments during the preseason and even into the regular season.