Preparations begin in earnest this week as the Bucs try to build on the success they had the last half of 2016 and hopefully can propel themselves to be a playoff team in 2017.
Monday the OTA’s begin. It will start with 2 weeks of conditioning drills. Then the coaches will join the team for the second round of OTA’s. At no time during this period are the teams allowed to line up offense vs. defense. Also no helmets are allowed to be worn. The league is hoping this cuts down on the amount of injuries in camp and throughout the season. The OTA’s will wrap up with the mandatory mini-camp in June.
The Bucs are also prepping for the NFL draft which will take place in 2 weeks. I would like to see them take a RB with their 19th pick in the first round. Dalvin Cook from Florida State, Leonard Fournette from LSU, and Christian Mccaffrey from Stanford are the top 3 on the board.
Fournette is the highest rated of the 3 backs as he brings a combination of speed, and toughness to the position. He is the biggest of the backs weighing in at 245 pounds . A Bo Jackson type runner. Dalvin Cook is my choice for the Bucs. I think he is a better fit for the offense. I like his pass catching ability and his ability to turn the corner quickly. NFL scouts compare him to Edgerrin James.
If the Bucs do not draft a RB that high, a DB would be my next choice and I like Jabrill Peppers from Michigan. Scouts are questioning his instincts and lack of production, but Michigan seemed to move him around every down he was on the field. Under Mike Smith, I think Peppers could really blossom just being focused on learning and playing one position.
The Bucs announced their pre-season schedule this week. Due to the renovations at Raymond James Stadium, the Bucs will open up the pre-season in Cincinnati and Jacksonville, before coming home to play Cleveland and Washington. The Bucs will again try to schedule scrimmages with 2 of those teams just like last year. My guess is they will work out in Jacksonville against the Jags, and then try to get the Browns to come to Tampa for some work before their pre-season game.
The NFL regular season schedule should be announced in the next 10 days. It is usually announced a week or so before the draft. Home opponents this year are the Saints, Falcons, Panthers, Patriots, Giants, Jets, Bears, and Lions. The Bucs will be on the road to play the Saints, Falcons, Panthers, Vikings, Packers, Dolphins, Bills and Cardinals. Dates and times will be coming shortly.
In a housekeeping issue, the Bucs re-structured the contract of G JR Sweezy. The contract had some amendments added that protects the Bucs financially from a serious injury to Sweezy, and also guarantees Sweezy some additional cash should he stay healthy.
And finally, the Bucs will have competition this year for K Roberto Aguayo. Nick Folk will be in camp. Folk last kicked for the Jets in 2016 converting on 27/31 FG attempts. Last year Aguayo converted just 71% of his FG attempts and your life will be short-lived as a kicker in the NFL if that is the best you can do.