The Tampa Bay Buccaneers began preparations on Friday for the 2017 NFL season before an enthusiastic crowd at One Bucs Place.
The Fans are excited football is back. The Players are excited to be back on the field. Expectations are sky high here in Tampa, as on paper this is the best Bucs team since 2010.
In the next 6 weeks we will learn who will be making FG’s for the Bucs. Will it be the incumbent Roberto Aguayo? Or will the free agent K Nick Folk take out Aguayo. This is the most intriguing battle of camp, and one that the national media will be focusing on. But there are some other battles that will be fought that will be just as important.
RB Doug Martin will miss the first three games of the season due to a suspension. This is an opportunity for the rookie Jeremy McNichols to make an impact and show the coaches he deserves a roster spot. Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims, along with Peyton Barber will also get plenty of looks.
At LB, the rookie from LSU Kendall Beckwith will battle Davonte Bond for the starting outside linebacker spot. Beckwith taken in the third round would have been a late first round pick had he not suffered a torn ACL last November. I believe this pick will prove to be a real steal for the Bucs once Beckwith gets completely healthy and can contribute.
At safety, Keith Tandy and Chris Conte are entrenched as the starters, but don’t count out the free agent acquisition from Dallas JJ Wilcox, and the 2nd round pick from Texas A@M Justin Evans. Evans plays the ball extremely well and is known as a hard hitter, something the Bucs sorely need in the secondary.
DL Jacquies Smith is on the PUP list after season ending ACL surgery in 2016. Smith also had some minor surgery on the knee and will be out for a few weeks. All indications are that he will be ready for the season, providing he does not suffer a setback.
There will not be a lot of surprises on the final roster. Coach Koetter said the depth at LB, WR, RB and DB along with the kicking battle will be some of the key battles to look at during training camp.
The Bucs have three areas that will need to improve if they are to be a playoff team in 2017.
–Jameis Winston must cut down on the turnovers. He has to quit forcing the ball, and not run with reckless abandon like he has in the past fumbling and turning the ball over.
–The defensive line has to get more pressure on the QB. Gerald McCoy as the leader on the DL must set the tone with his play and Noah Spence has to improve his game.
–The Bus must get more turnovers. The defense did a better job the second half of last season creating turnovers and that style of aggressive play must continue from game one this season. With the DL applying more pressure on the QB, the turnovers will come.
Two weeks from tonight in Jacksonville we’ll get our first look at this Bucs team and get a sense for just how good this team will be in 2017.