They are definitely the only three mandatory days, though the Buccaneers have enjoyed nearly 100% participation from their players since the program began on April 7. The overall number of participants when up in May after the draft, and the work on the field steadily became more comprehensive as the team moved through the three phases of training allowed by the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Like most NFL teams, the Buccaneers chose to place their one mandatory mini-camp at the very end of the offseason program. While pads and intentional contact are still forbidden, the team can put in a total of seven-and-a-half hours on the field and it can run full-team offense-vs.-defense drills. It’s the perfect opportunity to see how well the team has prepared itself for the upcoming training camp, and to get some idea what the depth chart will look like when the team reconvenes in July.
As Head Coach Lovie Smith has said on multiple occasions, there is only so much his staff can evaluate when the players are in shorts and avoiding contact. There will be no final decisions made on starting jobs or roster spots this week. Still, we can gather some evidence pertaining to the following issues that must be resolved before the start of the season.
1. How will the cornerbacks sort out?
Around the time the Bucs signed
What complicates that simple storyline is that the Bucs are treating the nickel back spot as a different position, at least in terms of how they coach it on the practice field. Senior Assistant Larry Marmie is tasked with coaching that position, and he takes a small handful of the corners off to the side for separate drills. Last year, Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frazier said that veteran
So does that indicate that Moore is the leading candidate to play the nickel back role during the season, or is the odd man out between Banks and Jenkins likely to get that job? Perhaps that will be clear when the defense takes the field for practice next week.
Furthermore, who fills out the rest of the depth chart? The Bucs have had to plumb all of their cornerback depth in recent seasons due to injuries, so this isn’t a frivolous question. If unproven players like
Cornerbacks Coach Gill Byrd (with football) has plenty of young and veteran talent on hand to work with in this week's mini-camp
2. Who will plug the gaps in the offensive front?
The Buccaneers’ offensive line features a strong and underrated performer at right tackle in
So the Buccaneers have to figure out who is starting at right and left guard.
3. How quickly can the quarterbacks excel in Jeff Tedford’s offense?
Josh McCown is expected to start at quarterback this season, and Mike Glennon has been pegged by Smith as the team’s quarterback of the future. Glennon, of course, will continue to compete in an effort to try to win the starting job back this year, and that outcome isn’t completely out of the question.
One of the two, then, will be leading the Buccaneers’ new offense, which has been taking shape this offseason but has purposely been described only vaguely to the public. There has been talk of more up-tempo possessions, but no real confirmation or explanation of what that might mean. So we may have to wait a bit longer to see how Tedford’s group will attack the opposition, but we can tell now if McCown and Glennon are picking the offense up and delivering the ball on target.
So far, so good.
“They’re very, very efficient right now,” said Tedford. “If you had to look at our passing percentage over the last however many weeks we’ve been here, we’re in the 80th percentile of passing, albeit against things in these phases right now [where] you can’t get up and bump-and-run and things like that. But they’re very accurate throwing the ball, they understand, they’re on rhythm. They’re doing a really good job, not only physically but mentally understanding and then providing leadership for the rest of the offense.”
Three more days of efficient work from McCown and Glennon will certainly raise the coaches’ confidence level heading into training camp.
4. Who will join the Lavonte David Trio on stage?
Lavonte David will start at weakside linebacker for the Buccaneers. With the potential injury caveat that applies to every position, there isn’t a safer depth chart bet in Tampa this side of
Those starting jobs are much less obvious, although the field of candidates is pretty small. Of course,
The Bucs will give him that. They also like the versatility he showed during four seasons with the New England Patriots, so it’s not out of the question that he could be considered for the starting SAM spot, as well. Perhaps Foster will be in that mix, too, if Fletcher proves to be the best option in the middle. The third candidate to play on the strongside is
It’s possible that Foster, Fletcher and Casillas will find themselves in a three-way competition for two jobs. Where they are employed this week in mini-camp could indicate whether that is the case or not.
5. Will the offense have any use for a fullback?
Erik Lorig, the team’s primary fullback the last two seasons, jumped to New Orleans in free agency and the Bucs made no effort to replace him. Actually, that’s not completely true – on April 1 they made a couple speculative moves, signing Josh Baker and
Both Lane and Pryor were more than fullbacks on their college teams; Lane, in fact, was pretty distinctive as a 280-pound featured back at Texas A&M. Both could probably give the Buccaneers the occasional short-yardage or goal-line run, but does the team really need that option. They may have more tailbacks on hand than they know what to do with, and
And it’s not clear how often the Buccaneers’ offense will ask for that particular service. Smith has said there is a place for a fullback in his offense, but quality players at that position seem to be increasingly difficult to find and as such their role has been diminished across the league. Lane and Pryor will seek to prove that it is worth keeping at least one of them around, and this week’s mini-camp might offer some evidence as to whether the Buccaneers agree.