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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Training Camp Goals: 2023 Buccaneers, Numbers 50-59

As we move on to the second half of the roster in our player-by-play rundown of potential camp objectives, we get to a group headlined by two team captains and also including some young pass-rushers seeking to make a mark


The most accomplished player ever to wear a jersey number in the 50s for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is quite obviously Derrick Brooks, who now has a bronze bust in Canton. Brooks was the 13th and final player in team history to wear #55; that number was retired by the franchise when Brooks went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014.

Brooks is the Buccaneers' all-time leader in tackles (2,198) and Pro Bowl selections (11). He ranks fifth in team history with 25 interceptions, the most for a non-defensive back. He was the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 2002, leading the Buccaneers to their first championship and punctuating the Super Bowl XXXVII win with a pick-six, his fifth touchdown of the year.

Brooks was a first-round draft pick in 1995 and he quickly established himself as a starter. By his third season he was clearly one of the team's leaders as a defensive surge fueled a long-awaited franchise turnaround. He began a run of 10 straight Pro Bowl seasons in 1997. It's doubtful that Brooks ever entered a training camp with the Buccaneers in fear of his spot on the roster, or even a starting job. And yet Brooks, like most of the greats, was a tireless worker always seeking to improve his game.

In a little over a week, 90 Buccaneers will begin another training camp at the AdventHealth Training Center. Some of them, like Brooks, will likely feel pretty secure about their places on the team, while others will be chasing their first NFL jobs. As we continue our player-by-player run through that 90-man roster in advance of training camp, we look at some in both categories in the group of men wearing jersey numbers in the 50-59 range. Here are some educated guesses as to the goals each of these players may take into camp next week.

#50 DL Vita Vea: Vea was voted as a captain by his teammates for the first time last season and now, going into his sixth season on team that is clearly in transition after the three-year Tom Brady era, he is one of the most established players on the team. Vea likely is headed into his sixth camp with the goal of becoming even more of a leader for a defense that wants to prove it still has the talent to be a top-10 unit in the NFL. In a specific sense, he will be looking to help rookie first-rounder Calijah Kancey fit into the defensive front and figure out how the two of them are going to use their complementary talents to create a formidable interior pass rush. Vea led the Buccaneers with a career-high 6.5 sacks last year, and while the Bucs would like to see an edge rusher or two blow past that total this year, Vea will be looking to up his sack numbers for the third year in a row.

#51 ILB J.J. Russell: Russell arrived as an undrafted free agent out of Memphis in 2022, so spending most of the season on the Bucs' practice squad, getting a late-season promotion and appearing in a total of six regular season games qualifies as a very successful rookie campaign. Russell had two tackles on special teams in those six games, so he showed he could make an impact in that part of the game, which is critical for a reserve inside linebacker. The Buccaneers drafted another inside linebacker in Pitt's SirVocea Dennis, brought back veteran Ulysees Gilbert and picked up undrafted rookie Jeremy Banks in May, so there will be plenty of competition for the fourth and possibly fifth spot on the ILB depth chart. Russell will seek to convince the coaches that they should devote a spot on the 53-man roster to a fifth ILB, most likely as a special teams contributor who could have potential as a defensive starter down the road.

#52 ILB K.J. Britt: The Bucs have had Lavonte David and Devin White as their two starting inside linebackers since 2019, and for the first three of those four seasons they were backed up by stalwart veteran Kevin Minter. Besides David and White, Minter was the only inside linebacker to make a start for the Buccaneers in that three-year span, filling in on the rare occasions when one of those first two was unavailable. In 2022, with Minter no longer on the roster, Britt inherited that primary reserve role behind both David and White, but for the first time in four years, both of those latter two were able to start every game. As such, Britt was only called upon for 45 defensive snaps on the season, leaving it as an unknown how well he would have handled a spot start. Britt, who was drafted out of Auburn in the fifth round in 2021, will head into his third Buccaneer training camp seeking to strengthen his hold on that primary reserve role and show that he can hold his own in coverage to go with his established skills as a downhill thumper. He'll have direct competition this year from another fifth-round draft pick in Dennis.

#53 OLB Brandon Bouyer-Randle: Bouyer-Randle primarily played off-ball linebacker in his one season at UConn last fall, racking up 98 tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss and one sack. (He had previous stops at Michigan State and Texas Tech.) However, while he could eventually get a look at insider linebacker, the Buccaneers have started him out at outside linebacker thanks to his size-speed profile. He is listed at 6-2 and 242 pounds and he ran a 4.65 40-yard dash at his Pro Day. The camp goal for Bouyer-Randle, then, is obviously to get comfortable at that edge position on work on developing a set of pass-rushing moves. The Buccaneers are always looking for more talent at the edge rush position and in recent years given long looks to the likes of Cam Gill and Quinton Bell, searching for diamonds in the rough. While spots on the 53-man roster will be at a premium – the Bucs generally only use four OLBs in their rotation, and even the fourth man sees relatively little playing time – even a tenure on the practice squad would be a very good beginning for Bouyer-Randle's NFL career.

#54 ILB Lavonte David: Buccaneer fans rejoiced when David and the team were able to come together on another contract for the 2022 season, keeping alive the possibility that the franchise icon will spend his entire career in Tampa. The Bucs got that deal done despite a difficult salary cap situation, but David surely would have had other suitors around the NFL had he sought out a different contract after he put together yet another strong season in 2022, his 11th year in the league. David remains one of the league's best coverage linebackers; according to NFL Next Gen Stats he surrendered a -13.7 EPA (expected points added) when targeted as the nearest defender on pass plays in 2022, sixth best among all NFL linebackers. David knows he is now the 'grizzled veteran' on the Bucs' roster and he will surely come into camp intending to take his role as a long-time team captain very seriously. He will also be looking to prove that, in his 12th season, his level of play remains as high as ever.

#56 G/C Chris Murray: An undrafted rookie, Murray comes to the Buccaneers with a wealth of starting experience on the collegiate level. He started 24 games over two seasons at UCLA, three at center and the rest at right guard. He then transferred to Oklahoma and, after one season in which he was only partially eligible, started 25 more games at right guard for the Sooners. A relative lack of size for his position and uninspiring Pro Day numbers likely led to Murray slipping through the draft, but he blocks well on the move and is considered a good fit for the type of zone running schemes the Bucs are expected to implement under new OC Dave Canales. Murray will be looking to break into the Buccaneers' reserve ranks on the interior line amid a group that has some more experienced options with the likes of Aaron Stinnie, Robert Hainsey and Nick Leverett, presuming none of those three are in the starting lineup. Barring that, Murray could set his sights on a practice squad spot to start his professional journey, a role that has helped launch plenty of other well-established NFL careers.

#57 ILB Ulysees Gilbert: The Buccaneers didn't sign Gilbert until midseason last year, adding him to their practice squad in November, but they quickly used up all three of his game day elevation options. Gilbert made an immediate impact on special teams, racking up four kick-coverage stops in those three outings, including at least one in each game. In three years with the Steelers, he had another 21 special teams tackles in just 28 games. As noted earlier, reserve inside linebackers essentially must have some value on special teams in order to maintain a spot on the regular season roster. Gilbert has yet to start an NFL game or see any significant playing time on defense, and like all players he will be fighting for a more prominent role. However, he will likely be seeking to show in his first Buccaneers training camp that he can continue to produce at a very high level on special teams.

#58 OLB Markees Watts: Unlike Bouyer-Randle, Watts, another undrafted rookie, saw plenty of action as a pass-rusher in college. In his case, he played for a Charlotte program that just started playing in 2013 but is now in the Division I FBS American Athletic Conference. Charlotte has already produced a couple of good NFL pass-rushers in Alex Highsmith and Larry Ogunjobi. At 6-1 and 240 pounds, Watts lacks ideal size for the OLB position but is a smooth-moving athlete who 20.5 sacks in 44 games for the 49ers. He had 4.0 sacks last year to go with 41 tackles, one interception and two fumble recoveries, one returned for a touchdown. Like Bouyer-Randle, he will be looking to show he has some potential to grow as an edge rusher at the NFL level, and given his size and speed he could also be seeking to demonstrate he can be an asset as a cover man on special teams.

View photos of the Creamsicle uniform drop from the event at Lee Roy's.

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