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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Training Camp Goals: 2023 Buccaneers, Numbers 0-9

From rookie Yaya Diaby and his effort to expand his pass-rush toolbox to Joe Tryon-Shoyinka working on more consistently finishing his backfield pressures, we start our 'Camp Goals' rundown with the players in jersey numbers 0-9


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will kick off their 2023 training camp later this month, with the first of 10 practices open to select groups on July 30. The players will then spend approximately six weeks preparing for the start of the regular season in September, absorbing the offensive and defensive playbooks and jockeying for position on the depth chart. At the same time, team architects will be deciding how to trim a 90-man camp roster down to the optimal 53 players before the season begins.

Those twin goals of roster construction and physical/mental preparation are shared by the team as a whole, but within that construct are 90 men, each with his own personal reality, and therefore his own personal set of goals. Mike Evans, for instance, probably doesn't have to worry too much about making the roster but might be focusing on one particular area of his game. A late-round draft pick may have his sights set on making a mark on special teams. Quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask know they are in a head-to-head competition for the starting job. And so on.

Call them 'Camp Goals,' and that's what we're going to be looking at over the next two weeks as training camp approaches. We'll go down the current 90-man roster in numerical order, from #0 (Yaya Diaby) to #98 (Anthony Nelson), and consider what each player's individual objectives may be for the six weeks of work that lie ahead. We'll do this with a range of 10 numbers each day, starting today with the players wearing jersey numbers 0-9. That group includes quite a few new players in 2023 thanks to a pair of rookie draft picks, three returning players with new numbers and one of the aforementioned quarterbacks battling to gain control of the offense.

#0 OLB Yaya Diaby: The Buccaneers did not – or have not yet – brought in any outside veteran help to bolster an edge-rush rotation that was running pretty thin due to injuries by the end of last season. They also did not re-sign rotational players Genard Avery and Carl Nassib. That means there are immediate opportunities for significant playing time for a handful of rookie candidates, and Diaby is likely first on that list. A third-round pick in this year's draft out of Louisville, Diaby has both first-step quickness and raw power to his game but will be looking to develop a more well-rounded set of pass-rushing moves. One-on-one OL-DL drills during training camp will be an excellent opportunity for him to work on that goal.

#1 RB Rachaad White (switching from #29): White started his rookie season as the second man in the Bucs' backfield pecking order, and while he assumed a starting role around midseason he remained in a nearly equal timeshare with Leonard Fournette. The Bucs released Fournette in March and have expressed confidence in White as the new lead man in the backfield, where he is likely to see a large uptick in his snaps. As such, the second-year back out of Arizona will be looking to prove that he can adeptly handle all the duties of a lead back, from running between the tackles to catching passes out of the backfield to picking up blitzers in pass protection.

#2 QB Kyle Trask: As noted above, Trask will compete with Mayfield for the right to follow the retired Tom Brady as the Buccaneers' starting quarterback. To win that job, Trask will need to show that he not only has the playbook down and can make all the necessary throws in Dave Canales' offense but also that he has an outspoken command of the huddle. A second-round draft pick in 2021, Trask has spent two seasons in a very quiet role of third quarterback behind Brady and Blaine Gabbert, with just one brief appearance in a regular season contest. Now he has a major opportunity to step forward, and part of that will be displaying the leadership inherent to being a starting quarterback.

#3 WR Russell Gage (switching from #17): In a wide receiver room that largely lacks experience behind the starting duo of Evans and Chris Godwin, Gage is the obvious first choice to join those two in the very prevalent three-wide sets. Gage was productive in that role in his first season with the Buccaneers after coming over from the Falcons last year, but he also struggled to stay on the field at times. He was slowed by a leg injury in last year's camp and missed all of the team's OTA and minicamp practices this offseason with another unspecified ailment. So for Gage the first goal is to get and remain healthy so that he can be fully integrated into the Bucs' new offense by the start of the regular season.

#4 K Chase McLaughlin: After the Buccaneers released veteran Ryan Succop in March and signed McLaughlin one week later, the former Colt appeared to have a career path to the Bucs' placekicking job in 2023. At the time, his only competition on the roster was first-year kicker Jake Verity, who has no regular-season NFL experience. However, the picture is a little muddier after the subsequent waiving of Verity and signing of Rodrigo Blankenship, who has competed with McLaughlin before in Indianapolis. For McLaughlin to fully nail down the job, he will likely need to demonstrate that he has impressive accuracy from long range, which was one of the major attractions for the Bucs in free agency. McLaughlin has made 17 of 21 field goal tries from 50 yards and beyond in his career and is coming off his best season so far.

#5 P Jake Camarda: Camarda, a fourth-round draft pick last year, is coming off an impressive rookie season in which he displayed a very powerful leg and recorded the fifth-best gross punting average in the league. The Buccaneers believe that Camarda can quickly establish himself as one of the best punters in the NFL, and Special Teams Coordinator Keith Armstrong shared some specific ways he can take his game to another level in 2022. Armstrong wants Camarda to improve his placement skills when punting towards both sidelines, and that's obviously something he can work on frequently in training camp. Succeeding in that goal will help the Bucs' coverage teams trap opposing returners and hopefully get Camarda's net average, which ranked 11th in the league in 2022, closer to where his gross average is.

#6 QB Baker Mayfield: While the Buccaneers wanted to give Trask his first real crack at winning the starting job, they felt it was critical to add an experienced veteran to compete with him for the job. With other options on the free agency market still available, the Buccaneers landed on Mayfield, which means they clearly think his skills will be a good fit in the new system being imported by Canales. That system is expected to include more plays that put the quarterback on the move, a sharp departure from the type of offense the team ran during three seasons with Brady at the helm. Mayfield's goal, presumably, will be to show the Bucs' coaching staff that he can indeed run the Canales offense efficiently, which would serve the overarching goal of winning the starting job.

#7 OLB Shaquil Barrett (switching from #58): Barrett is returning from an Achilles tendon tear suffered midway through last season, and he did not participate in offseason workouts. Teams generally do not voice specific timetables for players returning from major injuries, but obviously the team would be thrilled if Barrett is a full go for the start of the regular season. The goal for him, thus, is obvious: Get fully healthy and regain the form that allowed him to rack up 37.5 sacks across the 2019-21 campaigns.

#8 ILB SirVocea Dennis: As a fifth-round draft playing a position that has two clear starters in Lavonte David and Devin White, Dennis will first need to focus on special teams if he wants to earn significant playing time early. However, the coaching staff has indicated that, unlike the team's previous inside linebacker reserves, Dennis might be able to carve out some kind of minor role on defense. While the coaches have been cagey about just how they might get Dennis on the field along with David and White, the goal could be to utilize the pass-rushing skills that led to 15 sacks over the last three seasons at Pittsburgh.

#9 OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka: Tryon-Shoyinka saw his share of the defensive snaps rise from 49% as a rookie to 75% last year, as he started 16 of 17 games, but his sack total stayed the same, with 4.0 each year. The Buccaneers would like that number to rise in his third season after being taken with the last pick of the first round in 2021, and they believe it will. Tryon-Shoyinka has shown the ability to consistently get into the opposing backfield but his pressures have not translated into sacks often enough. In training camp this year, coaches will be working with the talented pass rusher on ways to more effectively finish his plays; one point of emphasis, for instance, will be not leaving his feet too early when he's closing in on the quarterback.

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