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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Training Camp Goals: 2024 Buccaneers, Numbers 0-9

From last year's sack leader in Tampa to a receiver who was the first player ever signed by an NFL team out of his college program, we start our 'Camp Goals' rundown with the players in jersey numbers 0-9


Each summer, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers begin training camp with twin goals in mind. One is to determine the best 53-man roster to carve out of a group of (in this year's case) 91 camp participants. The other is to get those chosen men ready to execute an offensive and defensive playbook by the regular-season opener.

Those are group goals, but there are also 91 individuals whose minds and bodies will be tested over an intense six weeks that covers training camp and the three-game preseason slate. They, too, will have goals, individual pursuits that will vary from man to man based on their situations, their skills and their experience. An undrafted rookie may be rightfully excited to earn a spot on the practice squad to start the season, a jumping off point for what could be a full NFL career. Meanwhile, a third-year player who has played in a reserve role for two seasons might be aiming for a leap into the starting lineup.

These are what we call 'Camp Goals,' and each summer we go down the roster in numerical order to examine what we think could be forefront each player's mind as he heads into training camp. We'll start with Yaya Diaby (#0) and end with Anthony Nelson (#98), in each case suggesting what the player's objectives for those six weeks will be. We kick things off today with the players ranging from jersey number 0 to number 9 (there are two number 9s, actually), a group that includes last year's rookie surprise, what could be a productive backfield duo and a returning hero.

#0 OLB Yaya Diaby: Diaby was the aforementioned rookie surprise, given that he led the Buccaneers with 7.5 sacks and paced all NFL rookies with 12 tackles for loss. The Tampa Bay brass selected Diaby in the third round out of Louisville in large part because they felt he would be an effective run-stopper right away; they weren't sure exactly how effective of a pass-rusher he would be out of the gate, however. In fact, last year's 'Camp Goals' for Diaby centered on his need to develop a more well-rounded pass-rushing toolkit. Now far more established in Year Two, Diaby will head into camp looking to continue that same process in order to show that last year's 7.5 sacks were not a ceiling but a jumping-off point.

#1 RB Rachaad White: White and the Bucs' running game as a whole showed improvement in the second half of the season, though the final results in that area were still well below what the team had hoped to generate. White did get within 10 yards of his first 1,000-yard rushing season, and since he was so strong in the passing game he finished fourth among all NFL running backs with 1,539 yards from scrimmage. Where White made strides as a runner was in more quickly identifying and hitting the hole. The Buccaneers would like to see White continue to develop in terms of running with a more physical style. That's not necessarily an easy thing to work on in a practice without live tackling, but the preseason games will provide some opportunity to show what he can do between the tackles.

#2 QB Kyle Trask: Trask had a more obvious goal last summer when he and Baker Mayfield entered camp in a head-to-head battle for the starting quarterback job. Mayfield eventually won the job, but Trask didn't lose it, performing well in his own right. Mayfield then stayed healthy throughout the season, so Trask only threw one pass after the preseason, and Mayfield signed a new multi-year deal in March to remain the Bucs' starter. As such, Trask isn't in competition to start this time around, but he will look to solidify his spot right behind Mayfield on the depth chart and hone his game so that he is ready if an opportunity does arrive during the final year of his rookie contract.

#3 S Jordan Whitehead: In his first stint with the Buccaneers, which began when he was drafted in the fourth round in 2018, Whitehead developed a reputation as a (very good) box safety, whose intimidation skills around the line of scrimmage were ahead of his coverage skills in centerfield. Whitehead learned this when he hit free agency, and he felt that perceived limitation was inaccurate. He then proceeded to prove his point in two seasons with the Jets, playing far more coverage snaps and showing that was a strong part of his game, too. He had six interceptions in those two seasons, as compared to five over his first four seasons in Tampa. Now Whitehead is back, to everyone's delight, and he should form one of the NFL's better safety duos with 2023 first-team All-Pro Antoine Winfield Jr. Given Whitehead's more well-rounded game, the Buccaneers will likely be far more ambitious in the different ways they deploy the Winfield-Whitehead duo. That will necessitate strong communication between those two and the rest of the secondary, and the Bucs expect Whitehead to be key to that going well. Training camp will give him a chance to fully grasp the defense in order to make that happen.

#4 K Chase McLaughlin: Last year, McLaughlin started camp in a head-to-head competition with Rodrigo Blankenship for the Bucs' placekicking job. McLaughlin won the job relatively quickly, with Blankenship waived on August 21, and then proceeded to have the most successful season by a kicker in franchise history. Not only did McLaughlin make 29 of his 31 field goal tries – his two misses were both blocked – but he showed off his range with seven connections on eight attempts from 50 yards and beyond. All of that earned McLaughlin a new multi-year contract in March, and he has no competition for his job in his second Bucs camp. The Bucs will be thrilled if McLaughlin has anything like the season he had in 2023, so the goal for the veteran kicker will be to exit camp comfortable and in a groove, ready to pick up where he left off last January.

#5 P Jake Camarda: If Camarda retains his job as the Bucs' kickoff artist, one of his camp goals will be to perfect a new type of kick. He has already proved that he can produce touchbacks at a high rate, so the Bucs could lean on that skill if they want to avoid the inherent riskiness of the drastically-overhauled kickoff process. However, if they prefer to take their chances with opposing returners, Camarda will have to work on dropping his kicks into the landing zone (the goal line to the 20) to avoid more punitive touchbacks. Camarda routinely hit punts beyond 60 yards in 2023, including a 74-yarder that tied the team's all-time record, and he raised his gross punting average from 48.8 as a rookie to 50.1, but he hit a bit of a slump late in the season. Camarda, who undeniably has one of the strongest legs of any NFL punter, will try to prepare himself for a consistent 17-game season.

#6 QB Baker Mayfield: As noted earlier, Mayfield is not in a competition for the starting job this year, so he doesn't have that to worry about. However, he is learning a new offense and will have to be the main leader in that process for all his offensive teammates. One of the new things that coordinator Liam Coen is putting on Mayfield's plate is more play-call options in the huddle for him to choose from. The Bucs are confident he will be able to handle it, and thus more frequently get the offense into a good position based on what the defense shows, but it will still entail a lot of work on the quarterback's part. Mayfield attended the Bucs' entire offseason program, so he has a good head start on that process, but he surely has a long way to go over those six weeks in July and August to fully absorb the offense and the options given to him.

#7 RB Bucky Irving: Last year, White led all NFL running backs in the number of offensive snaps played, and while that led to a 1,500 yards-from-scrimmage season, it was a workload the coaching staff would like to reduce a little bit. Enter Irving, the fourth-round draft pick out of Oregon who the Bucs hope will be able to fill a significant role as a rookie, thereby lightening the load for White. Since White is such a talented pass-catcher, the Bucs weren't looking for strictly a third-down back as a complement to White; rather, they see Irving as a back who can play all three downs, succeeding both between the tackles and out in space as a pass-catcher. Thus, Irving will be looking to show two things in camp and the preseason: That he has the power to break arm tackles despite being somewhat undersized (5-10, 195) and that he is a reliable catcher of the football.

#8 ILB SirVocea Dennis: When the Bucs drafted Dennis in the fifth round in 2023, they suggested that they might develop some defensive personnel packages for him that would take advantage of his pass-rushing ability. As it turned out, Dennis only played 101 defensive snaps as a rookie, most of that coming in a Week 11 contest at Indianapolis when Lavonte David was out with an injury. This year, the Bucs do have an opening in their starting linebacker lineup after Devin White left for Philadelphia in free agency. K.J. Britt figures to have first crack at that job as more of a middle linebacker thumping type, but the Bucs may choose to utilize multiple linebackers to fill the open spot, depending on the opponent and their offensive tendencies from week to week. Dennis will come into camp looking to prove that the Bucs will benefit from having him on the field on defense in 2024.

#9(d) OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka: During the Coaches' Breakfast at the NFL Annual Meeting in March, Todd Bowles listed Tryon-Shoyinka as one of the four "chess pieces" he has among his defenders to move around the field and fill different roles. Tryon-Shoyinka is an edge rusher by trade but he can also line up inside or in coverage. Bowles values that type of versatility because it allows him to show the offense so many different looks and pass-rush angles. So there is definitely a sizeable role waiting for Tryon-Shoyinka in 2024, even after he ceded his starting spot to Yaya Diaby at midseason. For one thing, the Bucs have a new opening opposite Diaby after the release of Shaq Barrett in March; Tryon-Shoyinka will surely be after that as one of his camp goals. Also from an individual standpoint, he will be working on finishing his pressure opportunities and upping his sack total after recording marks of 4.0, 4.0 and 5.0 in that category in his first three seasons.

#9(o) WR Kameron Johnson: With the roster bloated to 91 players and positions being limited to certain jersey number ranges, the Bucs' equipment staff occasionally has to double up a couple players in the same number. The approach to shared numbers is to have one player each on offense and defense, so they will at least have different jersey colors on the practice field. Johnson, an undrafted rookie out of Barton College, is currently doubled up with Tryon-Shoyinka (that would change if both players made the 53-man roster). Johnson is the first player from Barton College ever to be signed by an NFL team, which would seem to make him one of the longer shots on the 91-man roster. However, he generated an early buzz on the practice field during OTAs and minicamp, much like another smaller receiver, Deven Thompkins, did two years ago. Bowles called Johnson "extremely athletic" and said he catches well and gets upfield very quickly. Johnson will come to camp hoping to ride a little momentum and angle for a spot on the active roster or the practice squad.

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