Let's hear it for the poise. As rookies last season, S Mark Barron, LB Lavonte David and RB Doug Martin not only combined to start 48 games, they took over many of them.
Martin, the 31st overall pick, had an all-time season for any age, rushing for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns and catching 49 passes for 472 yards and one score to be named to the NFC Pro Bowl team.
Barron, the seventh overall pick, won the season opener with a pass breakup in the fourth quarter and closed the year in similar fashion vs. Atlanta. David, a second-round pick (58th overall), might have been the biggest surprise, leading the club with 139 tackles, two sacks and an interception while calling the defense.
So what can the Bucs expect from the draft class of 2013?
One starter. Maybe two. A few significant role players, most likely. Of course, that excludes CB Darrelle Revis, acquired from the Jets for Tampa Bay's 13th overall pick this year and a conditional fourth in 2014.
"I try not to think too much of that. I want to let the competition play itself out," coach Greg Schiano said. "I think there are some guys in this draft class that can be in the starting units. It just so happened that last year we had a unique threesome that really … we had needs and they had talents and maturity. We will have to play it out and see. I do not really have a number that I think could, but I think some of them could."
Mississippi State CB Johnthan Banks will compete with Eric Wright for a starting job, and at minimum, should begin as the fifth defensive back when opponents go to three-receiver sets.
QB Mike Glennon, the third-round pick from North Carolina State, has no realistic chance of unseating Josh Freeman as the starter in training camp. Glennon's target should be the No. 2 spot.
The best opportunity to crack the starting lineup belongs to DT Akeem Spence, a fourth-round pick from Illinois. Tampa Bay signed Eagles free agent Derek Landri and has Gary Gipson back. Spence has the strength and quickness to earn the job left vacant by Roy Miller, who signed with the Jaguars.
But don't discount contributions from defensive ends William Gholston and Steven Means. Even Miami RB Mike James is penciled in by GM Mark Dominik for the backup spot behind Martin.
What has changed over the years in the NFL is how quickly college players can make an impact. Part of the reason is that the pro, college and even high school games more closely mirror each other than ever.
"I think technology has allowed that," Schiano said. "I think I have said that before in here when I was a younger college assistant coach if you could get some pro tape it was everything. You were 'it.' And you would watch it and study it and break it down. Now with technology I think it is like $121.99 you can get coaches' tape of every team in the league. So I think that helps the coaches be better, which in turn helps the players be more advanced.
"I think it trickles all the way down through high school. These kids are getting more coaching. They are getting more physical preparation with all these trainers and everything that is out there now. It is just different than it was 10 (or) five years ago."
BARBER DECISION: He has all the information. Ronde Barber should make a decision soon.
I don't have a crystal ball, read tea leaves or tarot cards. But this feels like so long.
The off-season workouts have begun. The draft and free agency has passed for the Bucs. Still no decision.
Since playing his 16th season, here's what has happened to Barber. His starting safety job is gone, taken by 49ers free agent Dashon Goldson. One cornerback spot was filled with the trade for Revis. Wright signed a one-year, restructured deal. Banks was drafted in the second round. One will start, the other likely becomes the fifth defensive back in nickel situations.
Some in the organization believe a resolution would've been announced last week, if not for Warren Sapp being selected for the Ring of Honor and the rookie minicamp. Stay tuned.