Photos from the Bucs' training camp practice at One Buccaneer Place.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Lovie Smith released his team's first depth chart of 2015 on Tuesday, but only because he had to. The Buccaneers needed something in print for everyone covering the team's preseason opener in Minnesota on Saturday.
READ: THINGS TO KNOW FROM PRACTICE
Smith knows a training camp depth chart only means so much before the players battling for jobs get a chance to prove themselves in actual games. Well, those games are about to begin, and pretty soon that depth chart will be far more meaningful. Smith and his coaching staff will know a lot more about the 90 men on their roster after Saturday's game, and they may have a better idea how they're going to pare that group down to 53.
"We haven't been able to really finish a lot of plays, so we see our guys tackle, really, for the first time; for our quarterbacks to throw the ball knowing they can get hit on the other side; running backs taking hits all the way down," said Smith of the value of actual games, as opposed to practice. "There's a lot we get just seeing guys finish plays. We have a tentative depth chart, but once you start going against other competition that's when it really starts to mean something. We have a rotation that we're going to use as far as playing time with our players. We want to give everybody an opportunity to prove what they can do early on."
During practice, players earn larger or smaller chunks of gameday playing time in which to prove themselves. That's what most of the first two weeks of training camp were about. On Thursday, however, the Bucs actually spent a little time planning for the Vikings and working through a list of plays they'll use Saturday. They intended to do that in the afternoon, but another powerful thunderstorm swept through the Bay area and the team ended up in a fast-paced workout in the early evening.
That switch, one of several the Bucs have had to make during this water-logged camp, didn't negatively affect the team's preparations for Saturday.
"That's a part of life, getting us ready for the season," said Smith. "You have to adjust. We don't miss anything. We just switch up when we have our meetings, we have meetings a little bit later after practice. We were still able to get everything in. You see, for our players, they've been living in Tampa for a long time, so they know the routine."
The Buccaneers' head coach touched on a couple other topics in regards to training camp and Saturday's game after the practice on Thursday, such as…
…the team the Bucs will be facing for their first live action of 2015:
"We're getting a little bit closer to the Vikings. This is an important practice for us, the first day that we gameplan a little – well, 'gameplan' – where we actually look at them and see how we match up against some of the plays that they ran. Tough game last year, tough loss for us last year against them. And they played well against the Steelers the first time. We get a chance to see where we really are after this first game."
…how long his starters would play on Saturday night:
"They're going to get a few reps, you know. I try not to talk an awful lot about how much, but as a general rule, over a quarter and then we start looking at plays after that."
…if the Bucs have had any issues with players lacking effort in this year's camp:
"No, it hasn't been, but it's partly what you're looking for sometimes. If it's a non-padded practice you just have to realize what kind of practice that would be and what we're trying to get accomplished. Our guys are showing up every day. Yesterday was a tough day for them. We stretched it about as much as you possibly could and they responded to it, so we feel like we're in great shape heading into the first game."
…if there are any injured players who won't go to Minnesota:
"No. Unless someone just can't travel, we travel everybody. We want the guys to get used to the away routine, whether they're going to play or not, so everybody will be going with us."
…if he senses excitement in the community about Jameis Winston's first game as a Buccaneer:
"Yes, there's a lot of excitement to see Jameis play for the first time, and our football team, hopefully, too. And with good reason. You had the first pick in the draft and there's a lot that comes with that, but there are a lot of other things that we're excited about also. It's a team sport, and our team has looked good. Four or five positions, I'm anxious to see exactly how they respond."