Friday, December 15, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

5 story lines for Bucs preseason camp

Here are five story lines expected between now and the start of the regular season. We'll get some answers with the first practice, with others not resolved until final roster cuts in September.

1. Is anyone still injured?

The biggest concern might be G J.R. Sweezy, who hasn't practiced since he was signed in March, due to a still-undisclosed "procedure." He's expected to take over for the retired Logan Mankins at left guard, so having one of the Bucs' biggest additions healthy is important.

Coach Dirk Koetter said in June that no players had injuries expected to make them miss training camp. So has DE Jacquies Smith's shoulder fully recovered? And what about WR Louis Murphy, who had ACL surgery in November?

2. Which familiar names are battling to keep their jobs?

The team hasn't cut any players with expensive salaries, but it could if key veterans can't emerge from camp as starters.

If Gosder Cherilus is a backup to Demar Dotson at right tackle, does the team pay him $4.5 million if Kevin Pamphile is already a solid backup? Evan Smith, likely backing up Joe Hawley at center, has guard/center flexibility to better justify his $2.5 million salary as a backup. Other veterans in jeopardy include DE George Johnson ($2 million), TE Brandon Myers ($1.75 million) and S Major Wright ($1.75 million).

3. Which undrafted rookies can make it?

Dirk Koetter mentioned the team can upgrade some spots with waiver pickups after final cuts, but a handful of undrafted rookies have this preseason to convince the coach he doesn't need to.

Can Auburn's Peyton Barber, with only one season as a college starter, flash enough promise and establish some special teams value to beat out Mike James as No. 3 running back?

Can Cassanova McKinzy and/or Luke Rhodes find a spot in a young linebacker group that should already have rookie Devante Bond as a backup? Can T Leonard Wester grab the last offensive line job? Or Travis Britz at defensive tackle?

4. Who will emerge as backup receivers?

If Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson are locks, the other wide receivers are still, at best, penciled in for jobs.

Kenny Bell, who missed last season with a hamstring injury, looked strong and fully recovered in spring drills, and Adam Humphries, productive as an injury replacement last year, also looked good in noncontact practices.

Can Louis Murphy return from his knee surgery in time to claim a job? Is Russell Shepard's special teams value strong enough to keep him on the roster when he hasn't contributed much on offense? Can an unproven young player such as Donteea Dye, Lakewood High's Bernard Reedy or USF and Jefferson High alumnus Andre Davis grab a return job (or two) and keep a spot that way?

5. How will the cornerback competition shake out?

The team tried every combination of corners last season with little success as opponents completed 70 percent of their passes.

First-round pick Vernon Hargreaves (Florida and Wharton High) will be a major part, and veteran Brent Grimes is being paid like a starter, so the conversation has to start there. But how well can Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks — two former starters all but abandoned at times by then-coach Lovie Smith last season — bounce back as reliable contributors?

After those four, there's competition between Jude Adjei-Barimah, who played well in 2015 as an undrafted rookie, and Josh Robinson, who got a modest one-year prove-it contract in free agency.

Comments
Bucs’ Lavonte David misses practice with hamstring injury

Bucs’ Lavonte David misses practice with hamstring injury

TAMPA — The Bucs knew they might be playing without DT Gerald McCoy, who suffered a biceps injury early in Sunday’s loss to the Lions. But now they face the prospect of playing Monday against Atlanta without another of their defensive leaders, as LB ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
USF’s Nigel Harris eager for chance with hometown Bucs

USF’s Nigel Harris eager for chance with hometown Bucs

When Nigel Harris chose where to play college football, he wanted to stay home in Tampa at USF. And now, after playing for the Chargers and Giants as an NFL rookie, he's grateful for the chance to again prove himself in Tampa as the newest member of ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
NFL Week 15: Tampa Bay Times staff picks

NFL Week 15: Tampa Bay Times staff picks

Week 15 starts and ends with disappointment — a Thursday night meeting of two of the more disappointing teams (Denver at Indianapolis) and a Monday night game that once had held high hopes locally (Atlanta at Tampa Bay). Once.Here's our picks f...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Measuring Jameis Winston’s progress, and Dirk Koetter’s job security

Measuring Jameis Winston’s progress, and Dirk Koetter’s job security

TAMPA — It is one of the most honest moments of the season, captured in the first Hard Knocks episode. Jameis Winston is having a frank conversation with coach Dirk Koetter, seated behind his desk in his office at One Buc Place."I just want to have a...
Published: 12/14/17
Jones: If you were Jon Gruden, what would you do?

Jones: If you were Jon Gruden, what would you do?

What would you do?If you were Jon Gruden, what would you do?Well, you could go to Hooter’s and order a pitcher of beer and dozen wings. Then, Monday, you could go be inducted into the Bucs’ Ring of Honor.I’m talking about after that.Would you stay i...
Published: 12/14/17
Rick and Tom podcast: Dirk Koetter, Evan Longoria, Stanley Cup and more

Rick and Tom podcast: Dirk Koetter, Evan Longoria, Stanley Cup and more

Rick Stroud and Tom Jones answer a lightning round of questions.
Published: 12/14/17
Bucs’ Mike Evans gives the gift of perspective

Bucs’ Mike Evans gives the gift of perspective

TAMPA — So, this is Christmas.The Bucs are having an awful season. There is no way around it. Star receiver Mike Evans isn’t having a great year, either, not nearly as many catches or touchdowns as last season, when he was selected for the Pro Bowl.S...
Published: 12/13/17
Warren Sapp on sexual harassment allegations: ‘Ain’t no #MeToo’

Warren Sapp on sexual harassment allegations: ‘Ain’t no #MeToo’

Warren Sapp vehemently denied allegations that he sexually harassed a female employee when he worked at the NFL Network during a radio appearance this afternoon in Miami."Ain’t no #MeToo," the former Buc and Pro Football Hall of Famer said on the And...
Published: 12/13/17
Cannon Fodder podcast: Gerald McCoy still wants to play

Cannon Fodder podcast: Gerald McCoy still wants to play

Greg Auman has an update in his latest podcast while the Bucs have two days off during the long week.
Published: 12/13/17
Rick and Tom podcast: Should the Rays go full fire-sale mode?

Rick and Tom podcast: Should the Rays go full fire-sale mode?

As baseball’s hot stove starts heating up, should the Rays go full fire sale to build for the future?In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones discuss whether the Rays should trade guys like Evan Longoria, Chris Archer, Alex Colome and more,...
Published: 12/13/17