The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will wrap up their mandatory mini-camp, and with it their abbreviated offseason training program, on Thursday, roughly six weeks before the start of training camp. The last day of mini-camp falls 91 days before the Buccaneers' 2021 regular-season opener.
In other words, the start of Tampa Bay's title-defense is just around the corner. The Buccaneers and Cowboys will contest the annual Kickoff Game on Thursday, September 10, which will double as a celebration of Tampa Bay's win in Super Bowl LV.
This is actually the third time that the Bucs and Cowboys will start their respective seasons against each other. That also happened in 2001 (a 10-6 Tampa Bay win in Dallas) and 2009 (a 34-21 Dallas win in Tampa). So, if one eliminates division foes, is Dallas the team the Buccaneers have most often faced in Week One? Read on to find out as I present one fun fact from Tampa Bay's all-time series with each of its 14 opponents in 2021.
· Dallas (Week One): Tampa Bay's 16-0 win at home over the Cowboys in Week Eight of the 2003 season was the Buccaneers' fourth shutout victory in the span of 22 regular-season games in 2002-03. The Bucs posted four shutouts in the 26 seasons before that run and have just two more in the 17 seasons since.
· Atlanta (Weeks Two and 13): The Falcons come into the season with a 28-27 edge in the all-time series with the Bucs. If Tampa Bay wins the first meeting in Week Two it will be the 13th different time that the series has been tied up.
· L.A. Rams (Week Three): The Buccaneers have played the Rams on Monday Night Football on five occasions; they've played no other opponent on MNF more than three times. The Bucs lead that series, 3-2, but the overall scoring margin is just 133-121.
· New England (Week Four): The Buccaneers beat the Patriots in 2000 when Tom Brady was a rookie and Drew Bledsoe was still New England's starter. Brady got four chances to face the Bucs after that and won them all. If Tampa Bay wins this game, Brady will join Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Brett Favre as the only quarterbacks to beat all 32 teams in the league.
· Miami (Week Five): Not only do the Bucs hold a slim one-game lead (6-5) in the head-to-head matchup but the series has been very close on an individual-game basis, as well. Six of the 11 games have been decided by three or fewer points, and four of the games have been won by a score in the final minute of regulation.
· Philadelphia (Week Six): Since the 1970 merger that created conference championship games, only three teams have beaten an opponent in one season's NFC Championship Game and then beat them again in Week One of the following season. The Bucs did this to the Eagles in 2002 and 2003. (The others were the Giants over the 49ers in 1990-91 and the Saints over the Vikings in 2009-10.)
· Chicago (Week Seven): In four of the 11 seasons that the Buccaneers have qualified for the postseason they've finished the regular season with a win over the Bears (1982, 1997, 1999 and 2002).
· New Orleans (Weeks Eight and 15): The Buccaneers 48-40 win at New Orleans in 2018 is the highest-scoring Week One game in NFL history.
· Washington (Week 10): If we include the postseason, Tampa Bay and Washington have played to a 12-12 all-time tie so far. The Bucs have a slim lead in overall points scored, 459-434.
· N.Y. Giants (Week 11): The last four games between the Buccaneers and Giants have been decided by margins of two, three, one and two points. Each team has won twice, once each at home and on the road.
· Indianapolis (Week 12): The first overtime game in Bucs history was against the Colts, though they were based in Baltimore at the time. Tampa Bay won in Baltimore in sudden death, 29-26, in Week Two of the 1979 season.
· Buffalo (Week 14): Though the Buccaneers faced the Bills in their 1976 inaugural season, they did not play a single game in Buffalo until 2009, 33 years later.
· Carolina (Weeks 16 and 18): The Buccaneers' 12-9 decision in Charlotte in Week Eight of the 2002 season stands as just one of four times in team history that it has won a game without scoring a touchdown. All four have occurred during Buccaneer playoff seasons.
· N.Y. Jets (Week 17): The Bucs have not scored more than 17 points in any of their last eight games against the Jets, dating back through the 1990 campaign.
View the top photos from the Bucs first day of mandatory mini-camp.
Now on to your questions.
A reminder that you can send questions to me anytime you want on Twitter (@ScottSBucs) and they're easier to find if you include the hashtag #SSMailbagBucs. We are also now soliciting questions each week on our Instagram page; look for that story on Wednesdays. As always, if you want to get a longer question into the mailbag and would prefer to email your question, you can do so to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since Cameron Kinley won't be playing for us now, how does it affect the CB depth chart?
- @jayyrxbxl (via Instagram)
Without some very deep speculation, I can't see how it affects the Buccaneers' cornerback depth chart at all.
Let's start from the beginning for anyone who is not familiar with Cameron Kinley and his attempt at making it in the NFL. After playing his college football at Navy, Kinley was not drafted but he did sign with the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent in May. He took part in the team's rookie mini-camp and was one of the obvious standouts, even picking off a pass and breaking up several others.
Kinley is also a very strong student and was the president of the senior class at the Academy. He recently delivered a speech at the Academy's graduation ceremony and had the honor of introducing commencement speaker Kamala Harris, the vice president of the United States. It was reasons such as this that prompted Bucs Head Coach Bruce Arians to say:
"Well, he's obviously very, very important to the Navy. It's kind of a Catch-22. I know he wants to attempt to be a professional football player but he obviously means a ton to the Navy. So I'll leave that up to them. I would love to have him because I thought he showed promising signs when he was here."
The Navy made it clear how important Kinley was by denying his request to delay his mandatory five years of service in the military following graduation in order to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL. Such delays of one's commission are not uncommon; several other military academy graduates are getting a chance to delay their commissions after joining NFL teams. However, Kinley is not currently being given a chance to appeal the decision.
So, until and unless something changes, Kinley will not be going to training camp with the Buccaneers this summer. That's unfortunate but we shouldn't overstate the impact of his absence. Tampa Bay had eight cornerbacks on the roster before signing Kinley on May 13, then added a ninth two days later by signing former Kansas City Chief Antonio Hamilton. Given the fact that eight of those nine cornerbacks have seen regular-season NFL action and the ninth, Chris Wilcox, was a sixth-round draft pick, it seems clear that Kinley would have started his journey as the 10th man on the depth chart.
That's no knock on him, of course. That's where undrafted rookies generally start, but if they perform well enough they will move up the ladder. Oklahoma's Parnell Motley did exactly that last year, making the active roster to start the season after coming on as an undrafted free agent. What I'm saying, however, is that Kinley would have disrupted the depth chart if he made it, not if he was removed from the competition.
The Bucs will almost surely keep either five or six cornerbacks during the regular season, and more likely five. They ran with five throughout the 2020 season, with Ross Cockrell eventually replacing Motley but otherwise no changes being made. Carlton Davis, Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean were the three starters (including the nickel back spot) and Cockrell was the able veteran filling in whenever one of those three was hurt. The fifth corner was Ryan Smith, who served as a special teams ace but didn't play on defense. When things got a little too thin, the Bucs elevated Herb Miller from the practice squad for depth.
And, as you may have heard, the Bucs were able to keep the band together, re-signing virtually every free agent of note from the Super Bowl roster. Davis, Murphy-Bunting, Dean and Cockrell are still around, which looks like a pretty clear top four. There will be intense competition for the fifth spot between Miller, Wilcox and such recently-added veterans as Antonio Hamilton, Nate Brooks and Dee Delaney. Hamilton, in particular, has a lot of NFL experience and would almost certainly help on special teams.
Even if the Buccaneers choose to keep six cornerbacks, this is still a lot of competition. I would be thrilled if the Navy changed its mind and Kinley was allowed to report to camp. His would be a fun story to watch and maybe he would do exactly what Motley did last year. But his absence doesn't really disrupt the depth chart.
I was wondering if you guys are still working on the "In The Current". We got to see a preview months ago but haven't heard anything ever since. I always love the behind the scenes episodes and see them being created by a number of teams around the NFL. Anything coming up for the Bucs?
- JC (via email to email@example.com)
Have I got some good news for you, JC! Not only is "In The Current" coming back, but you don't have long to wait at all and you're going to be getting the best yet from this acclaimed series. (It's here where I say that I personally have no hand in producing "In The Current" and am just a huge fan like the rest of you.)
The first episode of the new installment in "In The Current" will drop next Wednesday, June 16, at 8:00 p.m. You'll be able to find it on Buccaneers.com, on the Buccaneers app, on YouTube and on Facebook. This will be the first of six (SIX!) new episodes, all fitting together to chronicle the Buccaneers incredible and unprecedented Super Bowl championship season.
The six episodes will all be published at the same time on the same platforms each Wednesday through June and July. The final episode, which highlights Super Bowl LV itself, will air on July 21, just a few days before the Buccaneers open training camp for their title-defense season.
I've been lucky enough to see some clips from these six episodes and let's just say, goosebumps. I guess I could watch them all ahead of time if I wanted to, but I'd rather see it unfold a week at a time like everyone else. Starting just six days from now!
Are there any injuries we should be concerned about heading into the regular season? Any of the injuries from last season that would keep players out of week one?
- @peter_stahl1 (via Instagram)
Speaking of good news, Bruce Arians tossed around a handful of it on Tuesday after the first mini-camp practice. All 89 players on the roster (it was 90 before the Kinley news) were in attendance and only six of those 89 were unable to take the field to start the week. Arians ended up giving updates on five of them, the exception being wide receiver John Franklin, who has not yet returned from the ACL injury he suffered in camp last year.
The other five are rookie wide receiver Jaelon Darden, tight end O.J. Howard, defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, wide receiver Antonio Brown and safety Jordan Whitehead. Of those five, Whitehead has the most recovery time left after having offseason shoulder surgery. You can read Arians' comments on those players here.
Basically, most of them were some variation of "close" in Arians' estimation. And to get directly to your question, no there are no current issues that would keep any Buccaneer players out of action in Week One of the 2021 season. In fact, they should all be ready for the start of training camp. Arians said so directly on Tuesday:
"None of those guys will have any problem for training camp."
Now, we've all followed the NFL long enough to know that the best laid plans don't always come to fruition. There could be set-backs or new injuries, or slower-than-expected recoveries. There will almost surely be a couple injuries sustained in training camp, just hopefully none of the long-term variety. Anything can happen between now and September 9, but at the moment things look good for Tampa Bay on the injury front.
Are there any defensive or offensive team records we could easily break this season?
- @1nehungrybarber (via Instagram)
I guess it depends on what you mean by "easily." For instance, I could easily see Tom Brady breaking his own single-season Buccaneer record of 40 touchdown passes from last year. He's got the same crew of pass-catchers around him, he's going into the season with a full grasp of the offseason this time and, if anything, passing numbers around the league keep going up every year. However, I don't think it's in any way "easy" to throw 41 touchdown passes in a season so I'm not sure that qualifies.
I see the team's single-season scoring record the same way. Ryan Succop broke that mark last year with 136 points as he was a very accurate kicker for a very good offensive team. And he wasn't even one of the top five scorers in the NFL! If the Buccaneers are as good or better on offense in 2021 and Succop continues to be very accurate, he's almost certainly going to finish within range of the record. It probably will depend on how well the Bucs do in the red zone and therefore how many field goals he gets to try.
Most of the Buccaneers' single-season rushing and receiving records are probably out of reach this year simply because of how thoroughly the ball will be spread around. Ronald Jones and/or Leonard Fournette could have a great season but probably won't get enough carries to get to 1,544 rushing yards. With Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski and others sharing the targets, I doubt any of them will get to 106 catches or 1,524 yards, either.
On defense, the big three single-season record are tackles, sacks and interceptions, and the bar is set very high on all three. Hardy Nickerson's 214 tackles in 1993 haven't been approached in a long time, and Ronde Barber's 10 interceptions in 2001 are a bit anachronistic. Shaq Barrett did just recently break the team's sack record, with 19.5 in 2019, but in doing so he may have put it out of reach.
Just last week in the S.S. Mailbag intro I wrote about some 2021 players who are on the verge of either unseating some all-time Bucs on career record charts or at least moving up a variety of lists. Most notably, Mike Evans enters 2021 with 62 career touchdowns and needs 10 to surpass Mike Alstott, who had 71, for the most in franchise history. Evans had 13 scores last year, so he has to at least seem like a reasonable bet to catch Alstott in 2021.