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Five questions facing Tampa Bay Buccaneers in training camp

The past several months have brought widespread change to the Buccaneers. The coaching staff is new. So, too, is roughly a third of the team's projected starters. • But not everything is settled, even after months of offseason preparation and practice. Here, then, are five questions to be answered after training camp begins this week.

Do players have command of the new schemes?

One of the things complicating this offseason is the need for players to learn new offensive and defensive schemes being installed by the coaching staff.

For players such as quarterback Josh Freeman and middle linebacker Mason Foster — responsible for corralling their respective units — there must be mastery of the schemes. Coach Greg Schiano and his staff began this effort in April, but it's an arduous process that will continue into training camp.

And remember, though the Bucs added a number of veterans in the offseason, they are, for the most part, still a young team. Young players might not learn at the same pace as savvy vets, another reason this issue bears watching.

How does tight end Dallas Clark hold up?

The Bucs believe trading tight end Kellen Winslow to Seattle was in the organization's best interest. Given Winslow's apparent unwillingness to adhere to Schiano's tight structure, it's hard to second-guess the move.

That is, unless Winslow's replacement doesn't live up to expectations.

Veteran Dallas Clark, on paper, is a capable successor. But he hasn't done anything to dismiss concerns about his health. Clark, 33 and entering his 10th season, has 46 career touchdown receptions but has been frequently sidelined during the past two seasons. He missed five of his final seven games in 2011 and his last 10 in 2010.

In that span, Clark was slowed by a variety of issues, including a broken leg, a neck injury and a wrist injury.

Does that make him injury-prone or simply unlucky? Training camp, which figures to be rather physical under the tough-nosed Schiano, could provide the answer.

Who will be the starting running back?

LeGarrette Blount, below, has rushed for nearly 1,800 yards in his first two seasons, a resume many backs would gladly take.

But the Bucs didn't draft Doug Martin in the first round to play on special teams, either.

Schiano's stated desire to use an "every-down" back suggests Martin has the inside track — there are serious questions about Blount's ability to play on passing downs — but the coach has also said training camp and the preseason will ultimately decide who gets the majority of the carries.

"We have to see who performs," Schiano said in May. "You earn your touches. So, depending on how you practice and how you play in the preseason, that will determine how many touches you get by percentage."

Which receivers will make the roster?

One thing is certain about the wide receivers: Newcomer Vincent Jackson, left — with his $13 million 2012 salary — will be the No. 1 target. But beyond that, things are unpredictable.

Look for Mike Williams to remain relevant, likely as the No. 2 receiver. But there still are a number of other young receivers looking to make their mark. They're going to have to distinguish themselves to pull away from the pack.

Among the remaining receivers are Preston Parker, Arrelious Benn, Dezmon Briscoe, Sammie Stroughter, Tiquan Underwood and Ed Gant. It's going to be one of the most intriguing position battles of the preseason because players are not merely fighting for positions on the depth chart but also to make the roster.

How does veteran Ronde Barber look?

Ronde Barber is arguably a Hall-of-Fame worthy cornerback. But the Bucs are asking him to do something he has never attempted: play free safety.

Barber, 37, has incredible instincts and is one of the team's surest tacklers, but he is a year older and will play a position that is, perhaps, more physical than cornerback.

Given his diminutive size (5 feet 10, 184 pounds), it's fair to wonder how Barber will hold up physically. He has managed to play smartly all these years, avoiding major injuries. But does that become more difficult playing in the middle of the field where there's a high potential for full-speed collisions?

Another question: Can Barber continue to strike a balance between making smart decisions and making calculated gambles when he's literally the last line of defense?

. FAST FACTS

Buccaneers training camp

When: Rookies reported; full squad reports Thursday

Where: One Buc Place, Tampa

Public workouts

For information on attending, see Buccaneers.com:

Friday: 8:45 to 11:30 a.m.

Saturday: 8:45 to 11:30 a.m.

July 29: 8:45 to 11:30 a.m.

Aug. 1: 8:45 to 11:30 a.m.

Aug. 3: 8:45 to 11:30 a.m.

Aug. 4: 6:30 to 9 p.m. *

Aug. 6: 8:45 to 11:30 a.m.

Aug. 7: 8:45 to 11:30 a.m.

Aug. 12: 8:45 to 11:30 a.m.

* Intrasquad scrimmage at Raymond James Stadium; free parking, autograph sessions, $1 hot dogs and soft drinks, and fireworks

Preseason schedule

Aug. 10: at Dolphins, 7:30, Ch. 10

Aug. 17: Titans, 7:30, Ch. 10 *

Aug. 24: Patriots, 7:30, Ch. 10 *

Aug. 29: at Redskins, 7:30, Ch. 10

* Subject to blackout

Five questions facing Tampa Bay Buccaneers in training camp 07/21/12 [Last modified: Saturday, July 21, 2012 8:26pm]

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