TAMPA — The NFL draft still is two weeks away but the Bucs' most important evaluation period may be over the next three days during their voluntary (wink, wink) minicamp. Bucs coach Lovie Smith has only seen his players on tape, not live on grass and certainly not trying to execute his offensive and defensive schemes. How those players perform will greatly impact the draft. "If you're on the roster right now, we've seen something in you we'd like to explore a little bit more," Smith said. Here are five things the Bucs hope to discover during minicamp:
Can Mike Glennon function well in Jeff Tedford's offense?
No player has more to prove this week than QB Mike Glennon.
The Bucs felt the need to sign Bears free agent Josh McCown to a two-year, $10 million contract and name him the starter. That's not a ringing endorsement for Glennon.
The Bucs question how well he can function in Tedford's new offense, which puts a premium on accuracy and requires some mobility. If Glennon impresses, the Bucs may feel comfortable waiting at least another year to draft a quarterback, particularly in the first few rounds. If not, he becomes trade bait on the second or third day of the draft.
"What we like is how he came in as a rookie in a tough situation, lots going on, and he stayed focused," Smith said. "Things that Mike needs to work on, he's been told his whole life: mobility, (being) a little bit more active in the pocket."
Do the Bucs need to make the offensive line a big priority in the draft?
The Bucs believe they have three solid offensive linemen — RT Demar Dotson, LT Anthony Collins and C Evan Dietrich-Smith. They can't be sure what — if anything — they will get from G Carl Nicks, who has played in nine games the past two seasons. Nicks won't participate in this minicamp.
No team has five great offensive linemen, but you'd like to have four. And it's hard to evaluate linemen without pads.
The Bucs could draft a tackle at No. 7 and have spent a lot of time with Texas A&M's Jake Matthews, Auburn's Greg Robinson, Michigan's Taylor Lewan and Notre Dame's Zack Martin. All could play guard for a season or so before moving outside to tackle.
How big is the lack of playmaking ability at receiver?
The Bucs have a glaring lack of speed on offense, particularly at receiver. Vincent Jackson still is very productive, but he no longer scares a defense as a deep threat.
The Bucs traded Mike Williams to Buffalo because of character issues. The players they've signed — Lavelle Hawkins, Louis Murphy — aren't really upgrades from Williams on the field. Skye Dawson, Chris Owusu and Russell Shepard return without a ton of upside.
"We have young players who have potential," Smith said. "I know that's a scary word. I think there's a deep group of receivers in the draft."
Most mock drafts have the Bucs taking Texas A&M WR Mike Evans at No. 7. Eight or nine receivers could go in the first round.
What's the future for defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers?
Clayborn, who had 5.5 sacks last season, will get the first shot to start at left end, Smith said. Free agent Michael Johnson is the starting right end.
But it's hard to know how Clayborn and Bowers will fit in new defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier's scheme, which emphasizes pass rush ability over everything else. Bowers has been a disappointment. He had one sack and seven tackles last season. But give defensive line coach Joe Cullen — a Rod Marinelli disciple — some time to work with Bowers and who knows what can happen? The Bucs will use a rotation of seven defensive linemen.
Is Johnthan Banks a Cover 2 corner?
The Bucs love Banks, last year's second round pick from Mississippi State. He showed flashes as a rookie. But as a Cover 2 corner, he has to be physical and willing to set the edge in the run game. His ball skills are a plus and he should be in position for more interceptions in a mix of zone and man coverage.
The Bucs signed defensive backs Mike Jenkins and D.J. Moore. One of them will emerge as the nickel cornerback. The other could push Banks and likely serve as his backup.