Tampa Bay Buccaneers players are in the back end of a roughly six-week period of down time between the end of June's minicamp and the beginning of training camp later this month. While one can imagine that they are enjoying this chance to spend time with friends and family and enjoy other pursuits, one can also imagine that their minds occasionally turn toward the work ahead. Camp is approaching quickly, and every player has his own set of goals to be accomplished during that formative time.
As such, we are taking these last couple weeks before camp to imagine what those individual goals might be, player by player. To do so, we've taken the 90-man camp roster (which actually currently stands at 89) and broken it down into 10 ranges of jersey numbers. Today, we're looking at those players jerseys 20-29, which is exclusively defensive backs and running backs.
#21 RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn: Over the past two seasons, since Vaughn was drafted by the Buccaneers in the third round in 2020, former Head Coach Bruce Arians repeatedly maintained that he had every confidence in the former Vanderbilt star as a runner. Assuming the rest of the coaching staff feels the same way, then Vaughn's path to more time in the backfield is honing his pass-blocking and pass-catching skills. With a new third-rounder added to the mix in Rachaad White, Vaughn would surely like to grab a significant role in the offense early before it becomes a White-Leonard Fournette show. Vaughn also nearly quadrupled his special teams snaps from 2020 to 2021, so more work in that area could get him additional playing time.
#22 S Keanu Neal: Neal went along with a switch to linebacker in Dallas last year but is eagerly moving back to his original position, so the overall goal for the seventh-year player is to regain the hard-hitting safety form that made him a Pro Bowler with Atlanta in 2017. More specifically, Neal will be working with the coaching staff and his fellow DBs to figure out how the team is going to deploy its safeties in an effort to make up for the departed Jordan Whitehead. If Antoine Winfield Jr. remains in a traditional free safety role, it could be a battle for the starting strong safety spot between Neal and Mike Edwards. More likely, the coaching staff will think of a variety of ways to utilize all the safeties and play to their strengths.
#23 CB Sean Murphy-Bunting: Cornerbacks Coach Kevin Ross said in May that his goal was to get Murphy-Bunting (and Jamel Dean) up to an all-pro level of play. Ross also said the cornerback unit as a whole has a goal of creating more takeaways. Both of those sound like excellent targets for Murphy-Bunting individually. After a star turn in the 2020 playoffs that included three interceptions, he did not record a pick in 2021, though he also missed about half of the season with an elbow injury. In terms of an immediate goal, Murphy-Bunting may be looking to prove he is the clear-cut best option in the slot, where he saw the majority of his playing time last year, as there are some other potential candidates in the likes of Mike Edwards and Logan Ryan.
#24 CB Carlton Davis: We don't have to rely on conjecture here. Back in June, Davis very clearly stated that he wanted to level up, taking moments in which he performs at an all-pro level for 80% of the play and making that 100%. In other words, he wants to turn more of his passes defensed – a category in which he has led the NFL over the past three seasons – into interception. That, Davis said, will lead to him "getting that notoriety I really deserve." Indeed, given the rest of his game, pumping up his pick total by a significant amount would likely lead to Pro Bowl and/or All-Pro nods for the first time in his career. That effort starts in training camp.
#25 RB Giovani Bernard: Last offseason, Bernard joined the reigning NFL champs, in the process leaving the soon-to-be AFC champs after eight productive years in Cincinnati. His role in the Bucs' offense, given its outrageous depth of talented skill-position players, was always destined to be a complementary one, but he probably envisioned getting more than 146 snaps, 58 rushing yards and 23 catches, all career lows. A lot of that had to do with missed time due to injury and Fournette's solid third-down work, but those two factors still exist in 2022. Bernard is clearly a team-first player and will surely embrace whatever role he gets, but as a competitor his goal heading into a second Buccaneers training camp is to show that he should be on the field more often.
#26 S Logan Ryan: Like Neal, Ryan will be working with the coaches and his secondary teammates to figure out how he will best be deployed in the defense. Since he has great versatility and a ton of NFL experience at several positions, including slot corner and free safety, the breadth of possibilities for his role in the defense is wide. Ryan also provides veteran leadership for a secondary that, while quite experienced, is still very young. That will likely be another goal for him in camp – figuring out how to impart his wisdom on his younger teammates.
#27 CB Zyon McCollum: Since the Buccaneers seem set at the top three cornerback positions and also have some slot options in the safety room, McCollum does not appear likely to grab a Day One starting assignment on defense. Of course, it's perfectly fine if that's his goal, and he could accelerate the timetable if his transition from Sam Houston State to the NFL goes smoothly. In the meantime, a worthwhile goal for the rookie fifth-rounder would be to win one of the two gunner jobs on special teams so that his impressive size-speed combination can be put to use from the very beginning of the season.
#28 CB Rashard Robinson: Robinson only played 25 defensive snaps for the Buccaneers in 2021, but he was on the field for 120 special teams plays in just seven games and he made a clear impact in that phase of the game. Robinson has had various stints of significant defensive action since he started his NFL career in San Francisco in 2016, with the 49ers his first two years and during a four-game run in Dallas in 2020, so he's not lacking in experience. Robinson's best bet to make the roster in Tampa again will be to continue to perform well on special teams in training camp, but as a personal goal he may be trying to get back on the field on defense more often.
#29 RB Rachaad White: White's rookie season will probably be viewed as a success if he carves out a productive role as a pass-catcher and gets some piece of the pie on running downs that don't feature Fournette. That would mean demonstrating in training camp that the receiving skills that led to lofty numbers at Arizona State will be just as impressive at the next level. In the long run, White will surely look to prove that he is also capable of being an every-down back like Fournette.